Implementing a feline preventive medicine program

Implementing a feline preventive medicine program

Entire staff needs regular training to produce successful outcomes
May 01, 2003

Successful implementation of a feline preventive medicine program begins at the front desk. The receptionist introduces the concept to the client.
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.

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.

The technician educates the client on the key elements of a preventive medicine plan using brochures and handouts to facilitate understanding and compliance.
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.

Outlining protocols 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.

Table 1: Topics for Staff Training Seminars
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.

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.

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.
Wellness plans 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.

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.