Compliance begins and ends with the veterinary team

Compliance begins and ends with the veterinary team

Millions of U.S. pets aren't receiving the best care and treatment available. Compliance is essential to a patient's health and well-being . . . the biggest obstacle to compliance is the veterinarian's own misconceptions about a pet owner's willingness to act.

- Dr. John Albers,

Executive Director, American

Animal Hospital Association

Client compliance . . . wouldn't you know this profession would use a phrase that blames the client, while the very expensive American Animal Hospital Association study specifically identifies the veterinarian as the primary culprit in the delivery of substandard care.

Where does it start? Most of us entered veterinary medicine because we cared about animals, and almost every staff member entered this profession because they care about animals. Pet owners have become stewards to their companion animals because they care about those animals, and access veterinary care because they want assurance of health as well as personal peace of mind.

Then veterinary school occurs. People who have lost contact, or do not understand anything about private general practice train the future veterinarians. They are specialists or specialists in the making, they want 45-minute appointments and are supported by the state in most cases (the recent Pfizer studies of 35,000 to 37,000 clients, three years in a row, showed 85 to 87 percent of clients want to be in-and-out of the general practice's consultation room in 20 minutes or less).

Most veterinary teaching hospitals have twice the expense as income, yet no one seems to care. A private practice could never operate with this ratio, yet this is the environment where students are "educated" about the business of veterinary medicine. Students are told, "You cannot afford to do this in practice" or "Only specialists can do this, so you must refer these cases." And we wonder why most veterinarians seem to discount as a matter of course? We just consulted with one New York practice doing $1.5 million a year, but they had no cash flow (liquidity); they had discounted $200,000 and not charged for $300,000 of work during the million dollar year. No one can give away one third of their earned dollars and expect to stay in business.

Understanding compliance Compliance is the doctor and staff having core values and standards of care that are inviolate. Compliance to core values and standards of care means they are inviolate, that all staff and all doctors say the same thing to clients, especially for wellness care and professional needs. Without a consistency between doctors, staff cannot be effective extenders.

Veterinary practices are no different than any other business, except most of us feel it is a calling rather than a job. There must be protocols and common expectations if the staff members are to become veterinary extenders. The staff cannot have trepidation when it comes to stating the wellness standards, pre-surgical protocols, or preventive medicine expectations.

Example questions to ask yourself include:

  • What animal, what species, what breed, what age, what sex, is it always safe to induce anesthesia without some form of blood screening?

  • When is it humane to leave an animal in pain?

  • What percentage of animals need to be on heartworm medication?

  • Which animals need to be screened for internal parasites, including the protozoa threats, and at what frequency?

  • Shouldn't clients who come in more often, and keep their pets dental conditions treated, be afforded a lower cost for a grade 1+ dentistry (about 20-30 minute procedure) than a client who has let it progress to a grade 3+ oral surgery (about a 60 minute procedure?

  • Sequential weights are a diagnostic aid, so shouldn't each have a body condition score (BCS) associated to them so we know what the previous provider stated?

  • Research shows that pets can live up to two years longer when on highly digestible premium diets, so shouldn't clients be told this? When an animal has a 10 percent weight change, is that significant?

  • Aren't the inpatient staff members accountable for patient safety and well-being when hospitalized?

  • The Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society states that 80 percent of all surgery patients deserve to be on fluids. What is the rate in your practice?

  • Are veterinarians allowed to what is not needed by the State/Province Practice Act?

Review the Veterinary Practice Consultants (VPC) Signature Series monograph, Standards of Patient Care in a Bond-Centered Practice, and/or the VPC Human-Animal Bond Scoring Pocket Card (that comes with the monograph, from, and determine what you really want to stand for in your practice and your community.