Exam-room communication: Truth in numbers

These statistics reveal hard facts about average client interactions.
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Mar 01, 2010

In a field know for its warm fuzzies toward animals and their owners, veterinarians fell way short in their use of empathy with clients in the 2008 JAVMA communication study. Only 7 percent of doctors used statements of empathy during any type of appointment! Here are a few more findings, surprising or not, from the study:

> Veterinarians appeared hurried during 20 percent of problem appointments.

> Clients appeared anxious during 26 percent of the problem appointments, and emotionally distressed during 14 percent.

> Appointments, wellness or otherwise, lasted an average of 13 minutes.

> Veterinarians dominated most conversations, contributing 62 percent of the medical dialogue statements—54 percent directed to the client and 8 percent to the patient.

> Clients who visited a veterinarian for a problem-specific appointment made significantly more visits to a veterinarian annually than did clients who had brought their animals for a wellness appointment.

> Veterinarians talked twice as much to the pet during wellness appointments as they did during problem appointments.

> Veterinarians made significantly more statements of reassurance during wellness appointments than during problem appointments.

> Doctors were significantly more likely to ask for the client's opinion during wellness appointments, but more likely to ask about the client's understanding during problem appointments.