© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and dvm360 | Veterinary News, Veterinarian Insights, Medicine, Pet Care. All rights reserved.
Working with clients to improve patient visits
Communication and collaboration with pet owners was the focus of a keynote address at the Fetch dvm360® Conference in Kansas City.
When entering an exam room, veterinary professionals always hope and strive for positive interactions. The ideal scenario is for veterinary professionals to enter the room with everyone in a good mood, the patient is examined and treated, and the client leaves, writing 5-star reviews for the staff and telling all their fellow pet parents to go to this specific clinic.
Interactions with patients and clients may be more challenging than the ideal scenario. Kicking off the first day of the Fetch dvm360® Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, with his keynote address, Christopher Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC, discussed potential communication roadblocks veterinary professionals can face with clients in the exam room and how to maneuver around them.
For example, clients might not have the money to pay for a recommended treatment, or the practice staff might not be qualified to provide the care the patient needs. Sometimes, clients don’t understand what’s happening with their pet’s situation. Pachel reminded attendees that when they are assessing a patient, they are working with the client to navigate the best course of action for their pet’s health.
“We're trying to help them understand what may be going on, either in health or illness. And maybe they just can't see it. Maybe they see something, but it's very different from what we see. Maybe we're asking questions to try to understand the pattern that exists, and they just don't have the information because they didn't know they should have been paying attention,” explained Pachel.
For Pachel, the more communication roadblocks he hit, the more doubts began to creep up. He said he began to question his place in the profession while inching toward burnout. With the help of his support system and others around him, Pachel decided to tackle the challenges he was facing, and began journaling. He would write down the patient, the scenario, what he felt, and what he found frustrating.
As time went on, Pachel began to realize that he was seeing areas where he would do the same thing, allowing communication patterns to come to life in his exam rooms. Through this epiphany, he also began to see solutions to issues and shared some of them with the attendees.
One scenario that came to light was the lack of expectations he was setting. “One of the first frustrations that I realized was that when I was getting really annoyed with a client: they're emailing too much, asking inappropriate questions, [and] pushing back with my team. What I started to recognize is that I was not doing a very good job of setting expectations. I was leaving things sort of open-ended making assumptions that my clients just knew how this works, that they automatically knew how to show up within my practice, but I had never told them,” Pachel said.
“So, starting out, [it’s] being able to say the plan for today, and this is my version of that,” he said. Starting a diagnostic assessment with a new client, Pachel would outline 2 things, and explain what happens next: “I'm going to gather some information so that I understand what's going on for you and your pet. I'm going to share some of my perspectives, and what I think is going on, and together, we're going to make a plan for moving forward. Does that work for you today? If yes, awesome. Let's get started.”
Not every exam is going to be rainbows and unicorns, Pachel noted. Veterinary professionals will continue to have clients that create roadblocks. However, Pachel said, he learned through self-reflection that sometimes communication is key to getting around client roadblocks. By understanding how your clients can receive information, veterinary professionals can move one step closer to having a “rainbows and unicorns” aspect like Pachel.
Pachel C. Difficult Conversations: Client Communication with Compassion and Efficacy. Presented at: Fetch dvm360® Conference; August 26-28, 2022; Kansas City, MO.