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Communicating your vaccine protocol
Changing guidelines, research findings, and product choices can create a muddle of confusion. Sort through it and offer clients the best protection for their pets.
It seems like every week there's a new development in the vaccine world—a new set of recommendations from an organization, a new study that proves or doesn't prove duration of immunity, a new product that claims to protect pets against a certain disease.
And Dr. Jim Guenther, MBA, CVPM, with Brakke Consulting in Asheville, N.C., says the current furor might only be the tip of the iceberg. "Just when we think we've got it sorted out, the protocol will change again," he says. "In light of all these changes—along with changes in pet households and lifestyles—we need to review patients' vaccination program every year."
Enlisting clients' involvement
The most important thing you can do as a veterinarian, Dr. Guenther says, is to take a long, hard look at various organizations' vaccination guidelines in light of the diseases that are threats in your area. Then create a set of recommendations for clients based on their pets' risk. "As a profession, we need to get a better handle on what's out there," Dr. Guenther says. "Then we need to educate our clients with good explanations."
A form such as the one pictured at right can assist in the process. By gathering input on a patient's background, home environment, and exposure to other animals and disease risks, you can customize your recommendations in cooperation with the pet owner. Ask clients to fill out the form initially, then review it with them every year.
"Your good clients are researching on the Internet, but there's a lot of disconnect between the articles they might be reading," Dr. Guenther says. "You need to tell them what you think is best for their pets based on your knowledge of the pet and the area—but you need to involve them in the process."
And, of course, you're just one link in the chain of education. Your team members need to know your protocol cold—and the reasons behind it—so they also can communicate it effectively to clients. "Team members are your chief educators," Dr. Guenther says.
Finding other advantages
Another benefit of asking clients to fill out a vaccine information form is that it can help protect you from liability, Dr. Guenther says. Despite your best efforts, clients may have their own ideas about what vaccinations they want or don't want for their pets. By documenting what you've recommended and obtaining clients' signatures indicating their understanding, you have evidence in case anything goes wrong with the pet and you're somehow
implicated. "You can't force your recommendations on someone, but you need to cover yourself," Dr. Guenther says. "This is a good way to do it."
And finally, the form can open the door to other important conversations. Discussing exposure to other animals naturally leads to talking about parasite control, for instance. "Enter this information into the computer and use it to generate all kinds of reminders," Dr. Guenther says.