Dr. Karen Felsted: The Hidden Value of the Exam

When veterinarians surveyed in the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study were asked about communicating with pet owners about the examination process, 51% completely agreed with the statement that “I talk my clients through the exam, explaining what I am doing in detail.”  Another 37% somewhat agreed with that statement.

Comments made by pet owners in the Bayer study focus groups, however, told a different story.  Many did not know their veterinarian was doing a full nose to tail exam; instead they thought that when the doctor had his or her hands on the pet, they were merely stroking it or keeping it from jumping off the exam table.

One of the simplest things that can be done to educate clients about the physical exam process is to describe it as you go. For example, say things like “I’m listening to Fluffy’s heart — the rate is normal and I don’t hear any murmurs” and “I’m palpating Fluffy’s abdomen now — the kidneys are of normal size and I don’t feel any masses.”

If you are a veterinarian examining 15 pets a day, this may seem very boring after awhile but pet owners generally only get this information once a year max.  To them it is new and fresh information and critical to their understanding not only of the care the pet needs but the value that the veterinarian and his or her team provides to the pet and the pet owner.  This ongoing communication also strengthens the bond between the pet owner and the practice team.

This concept can actually be expanded to the rest of the team.  When an assistant walks into the exam room to leave the necessary vaccines, they should introduce themselves and say “These are the vaccinations Fluffy needs — Dr. Felsted will be in to see you in just a minute.”  When a technician takes the pet to the back to weigh it, they should explain what they are doing.  “I’m going to take Fluffy to the back to weigh him; we’ll be back in a minute.”  Even more important is to say something when Fluffy is brought back to the exam room; for example “Fluffy has gained 2.3 pounds; Dr. Felsted will talk with you about his weight and nutrition when she comes in.”

Do you think your clients appreciate the full physical exam done on their pet?  What do you do to make sure they do?

Dr. Karen Felsted

Read all of Dr. Felsted’s blogs here.

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