Treat them like family
Dr. Kelli Ross,
Animal Hospital at Ethan's Green,
-13 years in small animal medicine
"I tend to find my clients take care of their pets like family members," Ross says. "When we find they aren't complying it is often because their lifestyles are too busy."
Ross says her office staff does a lot of reminder calls for their clients if they find they haven't scheduled an appointment for their pets by certain dates.
"For clients who aren't compliant because they forget to keep up-to-date on their dog's prescriptions, appointments or bringing in fecal samples, I give them tips on how to remember," Ross says.
And sometimes, Ross says, scare tactics work, especially with bringing in stool samples.
"I remind the client how an intestinal problem their pet has can transfer to them," Ross says. "Then they remember 'we have to get the dog tested for that worm that we could get.' "
Ross says compliance at the practice she and her husband own is good, but has slipped the last few years.
"Some people are resistant and some just forget," Ross says.
Dr. Marsha Anderson,
Ashford Veterinary Hospital,
-17 years in small animal medicine
"Compliance is better after the third recommendation," Anderson says. "Compliance is about 30-40 percent at the first mention and 60-70 percent at the third mention."
Anderson owns the private practice and employs two additional veterinarians. "Different clients are approached differently about what should be done," Anderson says. "Sometimes there is a financial restraint, and sometimes the severity of the problem doesn't seem high enough for a procedure or treatment to take place."
Client education is important. Clients who have come to the practice for years are generally more compliant than new clients.
Anderson's approach to patient compliance:
To improve patient compliance, every staff member should work to reinforce a message, like the need for updating vaccines. If a message is introduced by the recptionist and technician, by the time the veterinarian sees the client they have already heard a recommendation twice.
Dr. Joseph Gordon,
Oberlin Animal Hospital,
Raleigh, North Carolina,
-18 years in small animal medicine
"We have high compliance on recommendations made by doctors," Gordon says. "I attribute the compliance to confidence levels clients have in our doctors.
"We take the approach of ' if this were my pet' when making recommendations," Gordon says. "The client always wants to know what the veterinarian would do in the same situation."
He adds, "We emphasize good, quality recommendations and do not judge the client's decision."
Gordon's three practices employ six full-time veterinarians and one part-time DVM. Customer service sessions are conducted to detail office staff on products and what they do. This effort helps unify the message and improve client confidence in the facility. In the long run, it all improves compliance, Gordon adds.
Dr. Kris Otteman Brant,
Cat Adoption Team
-18 years in small animal medicine
"I see a large number of referrals from the community that are not compliant with veterinary recommendations for financial reasons," Otteman Brant says.
Misunderstanding treatment options on the client's end is a huge reason comnon-compliance can be high, Otteman Brant says
"When clients fully understand that even though 'option A' may be the best plan from the veterinarian's perspective, 'option B', may also work well," she says.
Otteman Brant says veterinarians should congratulate owners for adopting a pet and work with them and tell them how to take proper care of it.
"If veterinarians and staff work well with clients in preparing them on the trials of pet ownership, then understanding of what should be done increases and compliance will be good," Otteman Brant says.
Staff is as important in compliance as the veterinarian, Otteman Brant says, stating that repetition on what needs to be done is as necessary as the initial explanation.
"Even in poor economic areas, compliance will be higher if the client understands and believes what the veterinarian is telling them."
Editor's Note: DVM Newsmagazine asked veterinarians in private practice to share their ingredients to compliance success. The strategies might be different, but the outcomes reportedly work.