Now that you have decided what to include in your feline preventive medicine program, how do you implement your ideas? The
implementation process begins where everything else begins in a typical veterinary hospital - at the front desk.
Successful implementation of a feline preventive medicine program begins at the front desk. The receptionist introduces the
concept to the client.
Educating staff members is the key to any successful clinic program. The receptionists, technicians and kennel workers should
all be informed about basic hospital policy. Together, they form a client education team with the veterinarian as the leader
of the hospital team and principal educator.
Taking the first steps
Staff education is best accomplished when guidelines and hospital policies are specifically delineated. A clinic text of routine
protocols provides an easy reference for employees who are trying to hold volumes of information in their memory banks. Remember,
you had years of training to learn this information, so make it as easy as possible for your staff to learn about clinic health
care policies. Supply all employees with a clinic manual to ensure a completely educated team.
Start your manual with the basics and include the hours of clinic operation and a mission statement. A mission statement solidifies
a clinic's practice philosophy and should be prominently positioned in the manual. Display framed mission statements in exam
rooms and waiting rooms for clients to read. Clients need to know how you feel about veterinary practice and what your goals
are concerning good client/patient care.
The technician educates the client on the key elements of a preventive medicine plan using brochures and handouts to facilitate
understanding and compliance.
To gather the preventive medicine information for your manual, outline what you usually discuss with clients on the first
feline visit: nutrition, immunizations, parasite control, behavior and reproduction. Basically write down your examination
room spiel. Keep the text simple enough for lay staff to understand, but detailed enough that they are adequately informed.
The text should be a complete guide to general health care for cats. Begin with the basic requirements for life - food and
water. Cover proper nutrition for kittens, adults and senior cats. Prescription diets and the diseases that warrant their
use should be explained. List all of the diets you sell in your practice so that your staff may readily answer client questions.
With the numerous diets carried by most clinics, a chart may simplify the dietary dilemma and serve as a quick reference for
staff. If multiple brands are sold, list foods by reason for use.
Immunization programs should be summarized as well. Each illness and its associated vaccine should be explained. Include a
brief description of clinical signs so that your staff may inform clients of "what to look for." Diagram the ages that vaccines
are usually administered in an easy-to-read chart. Also include exclusion criteria stating when a vaccine should not be given,
i.e. during pregnancy.
Table 1: Topics for Staff Training Seminars
Include information on reproduction in your preventive medicine booklet. Staff members should be able to explain the estrous
cycle as well as the benefits of spaying and neutering. Make sure that staff members know your clinic's opinion on the optimum
age for spaying and neutering. Personnel should understand basic pre-operative laboratory workups, anesthetic protocols, recovery
procedures, pain management protocols and length of hospital stays for routine surgeries.
Many clinics laud the benefit of kitten wellness plans, which encourage client compliance and increase practice profit margins.
The kitten wellness plan should be outlined on a client handout that lists vaccinations recommended and suggested dates of
administration. A copy of the signed agreement may be included in the patient's medical record. The cost for the entire kitten
series of immunizations is totaled and a pre-determined percentage (15-20 percent) is deducted from the total when the client
signs up for the plan and pays for all immunizations in advance. Enrolling in the kitten wellness plan may also allow for
a discount on future ovariohysterectomies and castrations. The plan educates the client about the immunizations series and
reproduction guidelines at one time. Knowing in advance what is expected and paying for it up front increases client return
rate, renders healthier kittens, decreases pet overpopulation, and may very well increase the clinic's bottom line. It's a
winning proposal on all fronts.
Regular in-hospital seminars on topics such as clinical techniques, medical equipment, infectious diseases and parasites keep
staff up-to-date on important information and maintains enthusiasm for preventive medicine programs.
A list of parasites prevalent in your practice area should also be included in the employee's preventive medicine guide. Describe
the parasite, how it is acquired, how it affects the patient, how it is treated, and how it is prevented. Staff members should
be familiar with the parasite control medications used in the practice. With the plethora of internal and external parasite
products on the market, a list of products is helpful and again serves as a quick reference.
Survey your drug inventory and categorize parasite control products according to use, i.e. intestinal parasite medications,
heartworm preventives, flea control products. Make sure staff members are aware of potential adverse events and appropriate
ages for use. Most pharmaceutical companies provide good visual aids for staff education on parasites.
Routine diagnostics play an important role in keeping cats healthy. Technicians are the most knowledgeable regarding in-house
testing procedures, but all staff members should be able to discuss which tests are deemed routine at your practice. They
should know what tests are performed in conjunction with annual examinations (fecal exam, FeLV/FIV test, feline heartworm
tests). They should also know that certain tests are recommended as the cat ages. Develop a senior care program and include
the laboratory tests to be discussed during visits with feline patients more than 7 years of age, such as CBC, chemistry panel,
urinalysis, thyroid function tests, etc.