Test your senior program
If you could see into the future of each kitten and puppy, you'd know exactly how to protect them from the health issues they'll face over the next 10-or even 20-years. And that's the true benefit of senior wellness screenings: They offer a small window into a pet's health and help you identify and treat disease early.
If you could see into the future of each kitten and puppy, you'd know exactly how to protect them from the health issues they'll face over the next 10—or even 20—years. And that's the true benefit of senior wellness screenings: They offer a small window into a pet's health and help you identify and treat disease early.
Building a successful senior wellness program depends heavily on how good you are at marketing the value of your services. The team at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., promotes their senior wellness testing at their twice-a-year senior exams and for any senior pets undergoing dental cleaning. "To encourage the tests, we do the senior screenings as part of the pre-screen if the pets are getting their teeth cleaned," says Caitlin Rivers, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a veterinary assistant and technician supervisor at Metzger Animal Hospital.
Launch your campaign
The first step is to identify your senior patients—starting at age 6 to 8—using your computer software, says Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM, a consultant with VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. It's a good idea to kick off the discussion with a letter that introduces and explains the recommended tests and why they're important, she says.
Once you get clients in the door, keep your message strong. For example, Metzger Animal Hospital uses this protocol to make sure all team members encourage clients to opt for the right tests. During check-in, receptionists present a senior checklist that helps identify risk factors, such as changes in the pet's habits or appearance. Clients complete the form in the exam room while waiting for the technician. The technician uses the form as a springboard to discuss senior testing. For example, if clients note their pets are drinking and urinating more often, Rivers says she mentions testing for diabetes and kidney disease. If clients agree, the technician performs the necessary tests. If they hesitate, technicians encourage them to discuss their questions and concerns with the doctor. When the tests are complete, the doctor reviews the results with the client.
Senior tests at a glance
3 keys to success
Once you've set your protocol, you're ready to hone your powers of persuasion. These tips will help you lock in compliance.
1. Use your words wisely. "The way you explain your senior tests is the most important thing," says Firstline board member Mandy Finnell, RVT, a technician at Cherokee Animal Clinic in Overland Park, Kan. She suggests drawing a comparison to clients' own experiences with their doctors. For instance, you might say, "You or I go in to the doctor every year to make sure we're healthy. Fluffy also needs regular care to monitor her health."
"Clients need to feel that they choose senior testing because they're helping their pets, not because you're making them do it," Finnell says.
2. Create a consistent message. "Clients need to hear the same message from the receptionist, the assistant, the technician, the doctor—and sometimes the technician again," says Finnell. "The more clients hear the message, the more they understand the importance of testing."
This means your whole team needs to understand your message and your protocols. "If clients ask your groomers and kennel attendants about your senior program, you want your team members to be able to discuss the testing your hospital recommends," says Perry. "So be sure to include everyone in your wellness program meetings."
3. Give clients a sense of control. Explain common problems you uncover and the treatments you recommend. "Clients want to know that if you do find something, you can do something about it," Rivers says.
Remove the money barrier
Don't give up
Despite incentives and educational materials, sometimes clients aren't quick to jump on the senior-testing boat. Here are some objections and a strong response to each one.
- "I ran that last year." "You might say, 'Because Shadow ages about five years to our one, twice-a-year tests for her are like us going to the doctor once every two-and-a-half years—it's really not that often,'" Finnell says.
- "Holy cow! That sure costs a lot!" "Explain the value of the tests before you go into the cost," says Rivers. "And then if you do in-house lab work, go over the results with your clients before you present the bill. The sense of relief that everything is OK or that they could catch the problem will help them see the value."
- "You want me to do what?" Some clients struggle with collecting a urine sample for their pets. One solution: Sophia Decker, LVT, a technician at Animal Medical Clinic of South Boston in South Boston, Va., coaches clients on how to use a soup ladle to catch the urine. And if the clients still come in empty-handed? Offer a no-charge boarding stay to collect the sample, Finnell says.
Convincing clients to opt for senior testing may not be easy at first. "If you're starting a plan now, you'll find more resistance," says Rivers. "But as you groom people into it, they'll understand and respect the senior testing process.
"They'll be amazed at the problems lurking," she says. "Clients often wouldn't have known anything was wrong, but once you find and treat the problem, they can see a big difference."
And that's what communicating the importance of senior testing is all about. It's a chance to improve pets' lives and give your clients more time with their treasured companions.