'Show, not tell' carries over from English class to veterinary practice


Learn from Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath's hospital picture sharing.

Remember when Mrs. Crabtree told you to spend less time in your short story telling her what's happening and more time showing her the action? Well, for some veterinary practices, what's good for junior high students is also good for veterinarians in the exam room.

Take the case of Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath, owner of Faithful Friends Veterinary Hospital in Grifton, North Carolina. She built this practice in a town of less than 3,000 on a commitment to team training, high-quality medicine and lots of visual aids to educate clients. But don't take our word for it. We'll show, not tell.

Scheduling and client education are made easier with big-screen monitors in every exam room. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath)When practice owner Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath built the new hospital, they went paperless but added important tools-large monitors and iPads-in exam rooms to show videos, share diagnostic results and show before and after photos.


Before procedure (top) and after procedure. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Heath)If a client could meet another satisfied client in the exam room to talk about a successful procedure, that would be great. Because that can't happen, stories of improved patient health and the pictures to prove it do the job. “I show them the digital radiograph with exactly the problem we're looking at,” Dr. Heath says. “I may pull up someone else's pet to show how diagnostics helped us catch chronic renal failure early. I want them to see how the animal trended [after changing the diet] back into normal range. I want to show why I'm asking clients to spend the money.” And pictures of success for that pet help too: “We do before and after pictures of all our dentals, dermatology cases. A client will say, ‘Well, doc, I don't know if this dog has really gotten better.' I can say, ‘This was the first time you came to see me…'”


Diagnostic results and trends collected in a smartphone app help Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath explain why testing is important for well and ill pets. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Heath)“I am not a betting girl,” Dr. Heath says. “I'm a girl that likes to see what's wrong with your pet.” That's why she spends the time to explain the importance of diagnostics to clients. She also shares data on diagnostic trends and other pet health information in the clinic with IDEXX's smartphone app VetConnect Plus and other visual tools: “It's a matter of being able to connect with the client on multiple levels. I can go over diagnostics and show the trends, not just the blood work from today. Everyone has a smartphone, so I also email it right to them.”


Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath shows a young pet owner fun with a stethoscope. Photos (minus kids like this one) get plastered on social media and sent to clients to show the practice's devotion to sharing the fun and commitment to pets. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Heath)Dr. Heath and her team ask clients to sign a photo release so they can share cute photos of their pets' visits to the practice. Nearly everyone agrees: “You get all these other people seeing us sharing the bond.”


Dr. Ivy Oakley Heath snaps a pic of a dog's foot pad to show to a client. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Heath)“Whatever the visual is and staying connected with your clients with social media, Instagram and Youtube-all of that equals better compliance,” Dr. Heath says. “All the little things and those small visuals, they develop trust.”


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