Dr. Karen Felsted: Say it in English

The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study made it very clear that veterinarians and their team members aren’t doing as good of a job in communicating with pet owners as we’d like to think we are.

For example, only 57 percent of pet owners completely agreed with the statement “My veterinarian communicates with me in language I understand” and only 44 percent completely agreed with the statement “My veterinarian clearly explains when I should bring my pet in.”

What this tells us is that we are asking clients to make decisions about things we recommend that are difficult to understand, scary because it involves a beloved family member and expensive and we can’t even explain clearly to them what we want them to do!

Without a doubt many veterinarians are genuinely trying hard to communicate with pet owners but it’s clear we need to improve how we do it.  First of all, it is critical that doctors & staff tell the same story.  It confuses clients to get different recommendations from different team members; pet owners expect us to be clear about what we think is best for their pet.  It also confuses technicians and other team members when they hear doctors give different recommendations for the same problem or preventive care situation.  And once team members are confused, we have lost the ability to use them well in the client education process.  If they don’t know what to say, they either won’t say anything or they will try to interpret what they’ve heard and may end up giving the wrong information.

Doctors and other team members also need to remember that people learn in different ways — some adults learn best by listening, some by reading and others by doing.  Communication with a client shouldn’t be limited to the exam room conversation; all of the common recommendations and information should also be included on the practice’s Web site, in handouts, in newsletters and email blasts and in any other web-based communication the practice engages in.  The same message should be conveyed in many different forms.

In the next edition, we’ll talk about some specific language that makes a difference in talking to pet owners.  What has worked for you?

Dr. Karen Felsted

Read all of Dr. Felsted’s blogs here.

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