Recently, dvm360 asked the question that many veterinary teams ask: “Why is pet owner compliance so dang low?”
The reasons are many, and there are certainly some that will remain beyond the control of veterinary teams. Yet veterinary teams can address others where solutions are connected to client education.
Here are three reasons why pet owners don’t follow through with veterinary recommendations and treatments and how client education helps improve pet owner compliance and patient outcomes.
Belief That Treatment Is Unnecessary
According to Veterinary Medicine International, pet owners often don’t adhere to prescribed treatment plans in the belief “the treatment is not necessary.” To address the situation, Veterinary Medicine International writes, “It’s essential that the owner be allowed to clarify any doubts with the veterinarian that may arise during treatment and to receive constant support in the administration of the treatment.”
From an academic standpoint, the recommendations make perfect sense to help improve pet owner compliance. Yet practices face certain realities. They’re busy. Many are short-staffed. Managing phone calls and/or sending out post-appointment communications takes time, slows down workflow, and adds to staff stress. So, it may not be feasible for staff to handle post-appointment questions or proactively provide constant support on top of managing caseloads.
When veterinary teams provide pet owners with takeaway client education handouts that answer common pet health questions and explain the importance of following through with veterinary treatments, pet owners feel supported and empowered to do so. Noted by PLOS One in a 2021 research report, providing pet owners with relevant pet health information “allowed clients to feel that they were able to provide the best care they could for their pet.” At the same time, client education handouts reduce phone calls and communication work for practice staff (and thereby stress) and enable them to focus on appointments and pet care.
Pets Won’t Cooperate
It’s one thing to prescribe a treatment plan and explain its importance to a pet owner, but pets commonly have their own ideas about treatment plans. Some pets may spit pills out. Others may run and hide or show aggression when their Spidey senses tell them something’s afoot, and frustrated or anxious pet owners may forego treatment plans out of fear of harming or traumatizing their pets. Other pet owners may decide to administer a treatment at another time but not get around to it, or the experience may simply shake their confidence.
Providing pet owners with client education handouts about how to administer a treatment supports their confidence in following through. They remind a pet owner about treatment administration techniques or tips they may have forgotten. They effectively serve as if a member of your practice staff is standing in the room with them to help them out, and when pet owners feel informed, supported, and empowered, pet owner compliance generally improves.
Confusing Medical Jargon
Few pet owners have a veterinary medical education or background. As such, as noted by Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, in a recent article for Veterinary Practice News, confusing veterinary medical jargon can confuse pet owners and hinder pet owner compliance. “Easy-to-understand terms,” writes Myers, “move clients’ decisions forward, piloting them to accept your medical advice.”
Said another way: What may seem clear to you may go straight over a pet owner’s head simply because of the terminology, and this includes some client education resources to which you may direct clients to support pet owner compliance. Evidenced by a recent analysis of online pet health information published by Wiley, many pet health information sources exceed the health literacy levels of pet owners. The result, noted by Wiley: “Low health literacy hinders their ability to find, understand, and use reliable health information to assist them to manage their pet health conditions.”
The same holds true in the exam room, evidenced by PLOS One’s 2021 research report: “Participants in all pet owner focus groups agreed that they wanted their veterinarian to explain things in a way that they understood.” If you use veterinary medical terminology that pet owners don’t understand, they may be too embarrassed to admit they don’t know what you mean, which hinders pet owner compliance. Or they may believe they understand and incorrectly follow through with a treatment plan.
When you give pet owners simple-to-understand, jargon-free client education handouts that support veterinary recommendations in a language that pet owners understand, you answer questions that pet owners may have felt too embarrassed to ask. You ensure clear understanding of treatment plans, and you facilitate improved pet owner compliance.
“May” and “If” Speak to Solutions
Further underscoring the importance of client education in improved pet owner compliance, the authors of a 2021 Companion Animal article write, “Interventions may be doomed to fail if the owner does not have sufficient ability to administer medications as intended.”
The words “may” and “if” naturally speak to things that practices can do—available client education solutions that veterinary teams can easily put in place to improve both pet owner compliance and practice efficiency—and for veterinary practices across North America, that solution is the client education resource ClientEd.
Containing over 2,100 pet health handouts written and reviewed by animal health and communication experts, ClientEd is the veterinary industry’s largest and most trusted online client education resource because it’s unlike other resources.
Where some pet owners may forego administering treatments over frustration or fear, ClientEd supports confidence and pet owner compliance with how-to handouts covering how to give pills to cats and dogs, administering liquid medications, and more.
Where some pet health information can be lost on pet owners due to veterinary medical jargon, ClientEd handouts use easy-to-understand language with relevant images and medical illustrations to improve comprehension and compliance.
Widely accessible online to your entire veterinary team, ClientEd integrates into many popular practice management systems, and handouts can easily be emailed, printed, or shared online. Your practice can also brand and personalize handouts and add special instructions for home care.
ClientEd can also be integrated into your practice website as a 24/7 support resource for pet owners and comes standard with the Plus and Pro editions of WebDVM, custom veterinary websites.
In other words, whatever client education information your staff or clients need in support of better pet owner compliance, ClientEd provides that information as a complete client education solution that delivers quality for pet owners and efficiency for the veterinary team.