More frequent and better fecal tests and reminders help clients keep pets parasite free.
When client compliance with parasite treatment and prevention is a problem, it's often a practice's protocols and staff training that are to blame, says Jessica Lee, hospital administrator at Angel Veterinary Center in Flower Mound, Tex., and consultant with Pinnacle Integrated Veterinary Solutions. But compliance with parasite protocols doesn't have to be so tough. Try these tips to improve compliance and keep patients, clients, and your bottom line healthy.
When scheduling appointments and making reminder calls, Lee suggests that your receptionist stress the importance of bringing in a fecal sample. It's easier than struggling to obtain one from a nervous pet at the clinic. If the client forgets to bring one, he or she should be sent home with a prepaid fecal container. Lee found that clients usually return with a sample one or two days later, but it's also a good idea to ask receptionists to follow up with a call if they haven't brought the sample in a week.
At the wellness exam, the technician should determine whether the pet is at high risk for infection. If it is, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that the pet be scheduled for twice-yearly fecal exams. Lee says the technician should also explain the potential for zoonotic disease and emphasize the importance of preventive deworming. When clients fully understand the risks, compliance with a twice-yearly deworming protocol increases significantly.
Rechecking positive fecal exams after the pet has been treated is another source of missed revenue—and good medicine. Ask clients to prepay for a fecal exam recheck when they pick up the pet's medication. Write the date of the recheck on the container and call the client to remind them to bring in the sample.
Lee recommends sending fecal samples to outside labs. "When I considered the cost of labor as well as the potential for incorrect findings—and thus lost revenue—it was no more expensive to send them out," she says. After running comparison tests, she also found that the outside labs caught more parasites. She estimates the switch from in-house to outside labs garnered a 25 percent increase in deworming prescription sales to treat the parasites identified by the lab.
If you're skeptical, talk to your lab and ask if you can try out the service free for a month. Schedule as many fecal tests as possible in that month and run samples through both methods to compare results. Even if it means raising the price of the fecal exam a dollar or two, Lee says the benefits to your practice and clients are worth it.
None of these protocol changes will be effective if the entire team isn't educated about why more strict parasite prevention and diagnostics are crucial to client and patient health. Everyone from the receptionist to the doctor must send the same message about the importance of regular fecal exams, year-round parasite prevention, and the risk of zoonotic disease.
And make sure clients hear the message loud and clear. Lee knows of one client with small children who chose only to perform a fecal exam on one of her two dogs. The exam found the dog was full of roundworms. When the client returned to pick up the prescription to treat her dogs, she was upset. She felt no one had explained how crucial the testing and preventive medication were. "It was a matter of poor communication in the exam room," Lee says.
Make sure you and your team are doing enough to explain the dangers parasites present to families and their pets, and you'll be on your way to improving patient health and maintaining the profits to keep your clinic on top.