Simple changes can aid in achieving higher compliance for programs. The approach you take with clients can influence the outcome of whether or not they follow your recommendations

Simple changes can aid in achieving higher compliance for programs. The approach you take with clients can influence the outcome of whether or not they follow your recommendations

You go to your physician and she tells you that you are healthy. Although you already suspected as much, you are pleased to have her confirm it. She then goes on to tell you she has several suggestions for you. All of these, she says with a warm smile, will help you live a longer, better life, free from worry about your health.

Doctor's orders First, she recommends that you receive a vaccination. No, she hasn't seen any cases of this disease, but it is in neighboring areas, and if you contract this disease you will get very sick and may even die. You may have a vaccination reaction that could cause you to miss work for a few days and may necessitate a hospital visit if it becomes serious, but very few people have a reaction. She proceeds to tell you about several other health problems that you can prevent with oral medications and a skin cream. She leaves the room and you sit, in your fashionably printed paper gown and contemplate your heretofore easy-going life of health. Who knew? The nurse comes in to ask if you have any questions. She assures you that all of this will fit in with your lifestyle and will soon become a habit. You have to squirt one bitter tasting liquid in your mouth daily (and, yes, swallow it after letting it rest on your tongue for five seconds), come back tomorrow for a panel of blood tests, return in three weeks for a vaccination booster for this disease you have never heard of, and you have to start buying a special food that has the right assortment of nutraceuticals for people over the age of 37. You are delighted by only one thing: She tells you that eating one chocolate bar a week will prevent one of the diseases. Oh boy, you think, I love chocolate!

How do you feel as you leave your doctor's office? You originally may have felt proud of yourself for staying in such good shape. You work hard to be healthy, and you were happy to receive recognition for your good deeds. You thought you knew about most of the significant diseases you could contract in your area of the country and perhaps were dismayed to find there were some new ones you didn't know about. With the recent buzz about vaccination reactions (smallpox vaccines were a topic of discussion at work) the vaccine you just received is a worry to you. But, hey, that chocolate bar thing, that sounds too good to be true. You can do that. Although you promise yourself you will try to do the other recommended preventions, all you actually end up doing is enjoying a guilt-free chocolate bar every Friday evening.

Compliance Checklist
Getting on board It is a fact that most people do not follow up on their doctor's recommendations, whether for themselves or their pets. As the above scenario suggests, there are many reasons for this. They include emotions, knowledge (if you feel stupid for not knowing something, you are much less likely to be compliant), ease of administration, number of new things you have to incorporate into your already busy life, taste and general feeling of satisfaction (if you love chocolate, you will eat your chocolate bar and wish you had been instructed to eat one every day. If you dislike chocolate, you won't eat the bar, and will resent the fact that your favorite food, Pop-Tarts, wasn't the recommendation.)

So it should come as no surprise that many of our clients do not follow our recommendations for preventive therapeutics or diagnostics for their pets. Most of our clients probably try to follow our recommendations for heartworm prevention, vaccinations and nutrition but start fading in compliance as time goes on. You know how it is: You are on a diet and are losing weight. One day you eat a piece of cake that you know you shouldn't. You still lose weight. So the next week you eat cake and ice cream and maybe you still lose weight. This process continues until you start gaining weight. The lag time between continued weight loss and the start of weight gain is the place that you decide that you can get away with non-compliance. It is this space that we need to address with our clients.

n No one likes to be told they are wrong. Don't make your clients feel as if they made a mistake. They usually know they were advised to do something different than what they actually did. Instead, spend time finding out what would encourage each client to follow your recommendations. As in the first scenario, if you don't understand or have never heard of a disease, you're much less likely to perceive it as a threat that requires your vigilance and your money. In these cases, face the fact that you may not be successful in convincing a client that his or her pet needs a particular vaccine or preventive. Instead, ensure that you have adequately provided information to the client in both verbal and written form without overwhelming them. It may only be when a friend's dog develops heartworm, or contracts Lyme disease that the problem will become real enough to him or her to follow your recommendations. At this point, you want the client to not only remember that you suggested the preventive or the vaccination, but also to feel comfortable coming back to you for not only these, but for other treatments or to ask questions. If your client believes you will criticize them or think they are stupid for not following your suggestions, he or she will not return.