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 that their staff communicates their standards effectively to clients.
So, when a practice asks us, “What should we put in our plans?” What we first ask them is whether or not they have their preventive care protocols 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’ #1 reason for buying a wellness plan for their pet was for the peace of mind knowing that 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 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 face time 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 wellbeing 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 their preventive care protocols and make sure everyone on the team know 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. Next week we will discuss building your optional services strategy, to best fit the needs of your clients and opportunities for the practice.