New tricks for tired old senior diagnostic discussions

July 15, 2016
Roger Zinn, CVPM

Old. Geriatric. Senior! How do these words make you feel? It's time to reframe your senior diagnostic conversations with veterinary clients with these three steps with this advice from a dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contestant.

Stop having senior moments about senior diagnostics! (Image courtesy of Getty Images)No. 1: Stop using bad language. When my practice, Animal Center of the Village in Houston, launched our Comprehensive Age Related Evaluation (CARE) program, I asked my team how they felt about the words "old," "geriatric" and "senior." Every employee associated some type of negative connotation with these words. Age is a sensitive subject, even though most people claim it doesn't matter to them.

No. 2: Practice reframing and rephrasing. Try using phases such as, "I see that Fluffy is now entering our more mature years. And we have wonderful resources available now to help us track changes that could effect Fluffy's health. I would love the opportunity to discuss these with you so that we can create a plan that works both for you and for Fluffy's continual care." The key components: the statement is polite, nonthreatening and doesn't feel like a sales pitch. You're making a request to talk to them about this topic, showing you're here not only for the pet but for the client as well.

No. 3: Don't vomit numbers. Remember, you're advocating for the patient. Focus on what you know: the value of the diagnostics you're recommending. Then offer your estimate or medical care plan. You can move on to cost and options for payment once you've talked about the care you want to offer.

Bonus tip: Spread out the services and care you recommend. For example, if you move from annual to twice-a-year visits, you can spread the financial commitments across the year.

Roger Zinn, CVPM, is the hospital administrator of Animal Medical Center of the Village in Houston, Texas.