"I tell veterinary clients, 'If you don't come back for a recheck, even if the animal looks good, then you've wasted my time, your time and your money.'" CVC educator James Noxon, DVM, DACVIM, helpfully but truthfully addresses the real elephant in the room when a dog has otitis and needs medicine at home.
Look pet owners in the eye and force them to be straight with you: Can you handle this otitis externa medication at home? (Getty Images)Are you the primary client-educating technician? You'll be interested to know that CVC educator and Iowa State University professor James Noxon, DVM, DACVIM, scored some laughs and a lot of furious note-taking from veterinarians and veterinary team members in attendance at his dermatology-focused session at a recent CVC when it came to how to maximize otitis treatment as well as client expectations about dermatology issues with ears.
Involve clients, set expectations and rock the recheck recommendation
The veterinary medical team needs to involve clients from the beginning.
"Clients need to know what the doctor is thinking, what the plan is, why that's the plan and what the goal for therapy is," Dr. Noxon says. "Because clients' goals are not always your goals. Their goal is the dermatology problem goes away and never comes back."
And you know that may not be realistic. First, you know you tackle the starting issues: a dirty ear, a lot of discharge, an active infection. He recommends client educators say something like: "There's a what, and there's a why. The what is what's happening right now. If we treat the what and fail to address the why, the what will come back. We'll have treatment failure, because we'll still have all that stuff on top that covers up the underlying issues.'"
Then it's on to future treatment: "Today we'll address the what, and you'll come back for an appointment in this much time. At that time, we'll start talking more about the why."
"The reality is, if they don't come back, everything you do to treat is wasted."
Dr. Noxon gives the information about possibly underlying causes, like allergies. They need to come back, he says. The recheck is crucial: "The reality is, if they don't come back and they don't address the underlying why, everything you do to treat is wasted. The problem will disappear, they'll think the problem's been solved."
Dr. Noxon is extremely up-front with some clients, those who think are no-nonsense, pragmatic pet owners: "I tell clients, 'If you don't come back for a recheck, even if the animal looks good, then you've wasted my time, your time and your money.'"
Maximize the value of your treatment
Now your pet owner is on board with tackling the "what" today. Remember to really clean the ears. Remove debris that causes irritation and that prevents the medicine from getting down where it needs to go. Removes debris, like pus, that can actively interfere with ingredients in your ear medicine.
"I'm all about getting a better head start to give our therapy a better chance to be effective," Dr. Noxon says. "Just sending pet owners home with a bottle of ear cleaner does not necessarily mean the ears are going to get clean."
A first thorough cleaning should be done at the practice: "If there's a plug in the way of the eardrum, I want that ear clean when I'm done."
Do not neglect a frank client conversation
For Dr. Noxon's final tip, one he employs each and every time he sends ear medicine home with a pet owner, check the audio clip below.
Want us to spill the beans right here?
"I always ask, 'Can you do this?' And then when they say, 'Yes,' while you're watching their eyes, you ask, 'Will you?'"
"I always ask, 'Can you do this?'" Dr. Noxon says. "And then when they say, 'Yes,' while you're watching their eyes, you ask, 'Will you?' Those are different things. If they won't, I'm not gonna be judgmental about that, but I need to find something else to do."
Seem rude? Not to Dr. Noxon: "Now if you think it's rude to ask a client that, I don't care. Because my reputation is gonna be based on whether they do what I asked them to do. If it fails, who do you think they blame?"
Listen to Noxon's tips below. And if you feel like you get burned too often by ear infections, sign up for our free Team Meeting in a Box here and educate yourself and the rest of your team.