Step up your stem cell education efforts
Stem cell therapy is still evolving as a veterinary procedure, and many pet owners have reservations. While the science behind stem cell therapy is not that complicated, the cost can leave clients running for the door, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Andy Rollo, associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich. "The biggest challenge I have is that some owners tune me out as soon as I say 'stem cell therapy' before I have a chance to tell them what's involved and what it might cost," he says.
So how can veterinarians help clients understand what stem cell therapy can offer and how to pay for it? Dr. Rollo starts by planting seeds early. When discussing treatment options for osteoarthritis management, Dr. Rollo mentions stem cell therapy after presenting more common options, like senior therapeutic diets and NSAIDs. Many times, clients will then ask Dr. Rollo about stem cell therapy at a later appointment. "From the look in the client's eyes, I can usually tell if it's something worth discussing further," he says.
Whatever you do, don't get too anxious, Dr. Rollo says. It took him more than two years after he became certified to see his first stem cell therapy case. And it took numerous discussions for him to convince the client that stem cell therapy was the right thing for his pet. "Our main role as veterinarians is to educate and inform clients," he says. "Stem cell therapy is another piece of information that we need to incorporate into our dialogue."There's nothing like the feeling of securing a new stem cell therapy case, Dr. Rollo says. "You'll build trust with clients when you can say, 'I have successfully treated a pet similar to yours,'" he says. Often, this will lead to referrals through word-of-mouth.
Above all, be persistent, Dr. Rollo says. "Clients used to turn down preanesthetic diagnostics and laugh at veterinarians when they suggested brushing pets' teeth," Dr. Rollo says. "But years later, who's laughing now?"