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Get exam room questions right with your veterinary clients
Ask clients the right questions and you'll get more chances to educate.
As team coordinator at my veterinary practice, I have a lot of experience talking to pet owners and teaching my team how to talk to them. And, for me, it's all about asking the right question. Clients tell me they have no idea what heartworm disease is or how it's transmitted because our staff never educated them. Our veterinary team members work hard to educate the owners, but maybe we didn't ask the right questions at the start.
So, when I go into the room to collect information from pet owners, I use a preplanned set of questions. I've learned to change the wording of these questions to get the most information out of them. For example, instead of asking a client, “Do you need heartworm prevention?” I first ask "Do you know the name of your heartworm preventive?" and then follow up with, "When did you last give that preventive to your pet?"
Owners answer the first question "yes" or "no." They may say no because they don't use heartworm prevention. The second question makes the pet parent think a little more and give the exam room assistant a chance to educate the client about heartworm preventives, dosages and how they work. We also use this tactic with flea and tick prevention to discuss flea- and tick-borne diseases.
Occasionally, a client tells us a significant other is the one giving the preventive-even though we have a record of overdue heartworm testing and long overdue refill history. In this case, I mention that we haven't sold them preventives in a while and make sure to educate them about potential diseases. My favorite saying is, “Educate and notate.” After I've done my part, I enter the conversation into the medical history.
I also make sure to ask specific questions about other issues that pet parents may have had on their mind before they came but forgotten since hitting the exam room. I don't just ask whether a pet parent has "any other concerns." I make sure to ask about eye and ear issues, skin issues, limping, decreases in activity or whether they've noticed any lumps or bumps. I also ask about daily medications, like supplements or allergy medication, to avoid drug interactions.
Asking the right questions questions in the right way creates opportunities for education and guarantees you and your veterinary team are doing your best to offer the highest quality of care.
Marcie Willis is team coordinator at Cooke Veterinary Medical Center in Chesapeake, Virginia.