Establishing Preventive Care Protocols
It sounds simple. Wellness plans work best when they are based on a practice’s written standards of care for preventive medicine. But we realize that isn’t so simple. According to results from the VHMA Insider’s Insight report from June 2015, lack of standardization is extremely pervasive. The survey found that less than 70% of practices say they have written standards of care in the practice, and of those that do, only 40% feel their staff communicate their standards effectively to clients.
So, when a practice asks us, “What should we put in our plans?” we respond by asking whether their preventive care protocols are in writing. It’s not surprising that we get some pretty interesting responses (often ranging from a hearty laugh or a snort of derision, to more of a “don’t I wish!?” type of answer)! But the thing is, how can we possibly expect a pet owner to fully understand what optimal care is if we cannot agree upon it ourselves?
Consider that when asked why they had purchased a wellness plan for their pet, 35% of pet owners said the #1 reason for buying a wellness plan was for the peace of mind of knowing their pet is getting the optimal preventive care recommended. It wasn’t the discount. It wasn’t the monthly payments. This demonstrates just how important it is to be able to verbalize and provide in writing what those standards of care are in your practice. Your clients want to do what is best, but they don’t know what that is until you can tell them clearly, succinctly and uniformly, regardless of whether you have one doctor or 10 doctors.
Now we are going to push a bit more and suggest that even if you have written standards of care, you may want to revisit them and update them prior to rolling out wellness plans. The good news is that plans should be built around twice per year preventive care examinations, which means veterinarians and team members are going to have the opportunity for more facetime with pet owners to educate them on those things that they want to learn more about.
And what they want to learn about may be more than you think. Banfield’s State of Pet Health 2015 report shows a huge disconnect between what veterinarians and pet owners consider important with regards to preventive care. While veterinarians said that the focus of preventive care was vaccines, spay/neuter, and parasite control, pet owners said that they want preventive care to include information on diet, exercise, play and maximizing the emotional well-being of their pet.
Interestingly, this mirrors the AAHA-AVMA guidelines that state, on the basis of history and physical findings, the following assessments should be made during a preventive care exam for every patient, every time:
- Medical conditions
- Infectious and zoonotic diseases
- Parasite prevention and control
- Nutrition, diet, and exercise
- Dental care
- Genetics, breed and age
Bottom line: when doctors in the same practice approach preventive care differently, whether it be about vaccinations or weight management, it can be very confusing for the client, which is one of the main reasons they don’t understand the value of preventive care.
Agreed upon protocols
Written standards of care, with optimal agreement and understanding from the entire team, are one of the best ways to ensure success of your wellness plan program. Can we help? Absolutely! We will provide worksheets and questionnaires to get you started. If you are interested, we can even offer expert facilitation if you need outside help initiating these discussions amongst multiple doctors and reaching an agreement.
One of the most beneficial things for a practice that wellness plans bring to the table is an opportunity to formalize preventive care protocols and make sure everyone on the team knows what those protocols are and the reasons for them. With this done, the understanding, the flow and success of your wellness plan program, and your entire practice, is greatly increased.