Parasite prevention “failures”: when expectation doesn’t meet reality

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Parasite prevention “failures”: when expectation doesn’t meet reality

Client communication is an essential part of the prevention cycle.
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Jan 10, 2017

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For every parasite-related communication situation, prevention is preferable to treatment. If we can teach clients what to expect from parasite prevention products and avoid treatment failures from the start, everyone wins.

First, educate the team. Do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone—veterinarians, technicians, assistants, receptionists, animal care attendants and groomers— knows everything there is to know about each parasite you’re working to prevent, each preventive medication the hospital recommends and how they work.

Next, have a concrete plan to educate clients. Explain parasites and preventives and your recommendations over the phone when requested, during every wellness visit and in the paperwork to go home from every well pet visit.

Once your team is well-versed and you have a concrete plan in place, tailor the depth of education to each client’s interest.

Got it, Doc.

For some clients, that preventives are recommended is all they want to know. They appreciate the take-home notes from the visit, and may or may not reread them. They’ll make a decision and hopefully walk out with a year’s worth of preventive products.

For these clients, explain preventives and send home written recommendations.

Are you sure? Tell me more.

Some clients, either realizing that animal medicine is indeed fascinating, or needing convincing that what you recommend is best—perhaps both—will want to know more. Spend extra time with these clients in the exam room explaining the lifecycle of parasites and the mechanism of action of each product that is recommended. They too will be able to make an informed decision and own the decision they have made, also hopefully leaving with a year’s worth of preventive products.

For these clients, explain preventives, send home written recommendations and stick around to explain details and answer questions.

Tell me everything about everything!

And finally, a small sub-set of clients, the clients after my own heart, want to know everything there is to know about every parasite and every possible way to prevent them. These are the clients who reread the take-home notes from the visit and call with more questions.

For these clients, explain preventives, send home written recommendations, stick around to explain details and answer questions, and point them toward further resources, like your hospital’s own social media pages and websites and medically accurate websites that you like.

Most communication breakdowns will be avoided by educating clients before a problem exists. When these situations come up—and they will—the team will be ready to help clients and their pets.

Check out these preventive “failure” scenarios and communication tips to keep your clients and their pets happy.

Scenario one: The compliant client who doesn’t understand the preventive’s mechanism of action

When a compliant client has a dog with fleas (or another parasite), remind them that preventive medications protect against harmful infestations. Do whatever medical follow up is needed to keep a spare flea from causing illness, including requesting help from the company of the product the client is using.

Scenario two: The noncompliant client—the client isn’t using the preventive properly—or at all

Start with empathy. Your client most likely meant to be diligent and now the pet has heartworms or another parasite against which it should have been protected. The client probably feels guilty for allowing this to happen and will have to shoulder the long-term plan and expense of helping the pet return to full health. You will be instrumental in redirecting that guilt into positive energy the client can put toward helping the pet. Who among us has remembered every dose of every medication for every family member?

Not only can you redirect clients’ energy to dealing with this, you can walk them through it medically and emotionally.

Scenario three: The pet isn’t receiving a preventive suitable for its lifestyle

As a profession and as individual hospitals, we’re moving away from lifestyle recommendations of parasite preventions and toward safe, effective prevention of all parasites for all pets.

Perhaps we should recommend tick preventive for the exploring hunting dog more loudly than we do for the cat curled on the hearth, but if we are recommending year-round parasite preventives for every pet, our team and our clients will become accustomed to this high level of recommendations. It is up to clients, with our guidance, to determine how far they will go with our recommendations.

Dr. Shawn Finch grew up in Omaha, Neb., and received her veterinary degree from Iowa State in 1998. She is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and of the Nebraska Academy of Veterinary Medicine and serves on the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board. Her family includes her husband, their two daughters, Noodle the Poodle, Joy the puppy and Max the cat.