Back when you were in veterinary school, would a 50 percent have cut it? No way! That's a big fat "F"! What about a 75 percent?
Better. But there's definitely room for improvement. Consider this: AAHA conducted a landmark study in 2002 that revealed
significant compliance gaps in what doctors believe is the best wellness care and treatment for pets. The study examined six
key areas: heartworm testing and prevention, dental cleanings, therapeutic diets, senior screenings, core vaccines, and preanesthetic
testing. Results showed that when a veterinarian guessed that compliance was at about 75 percent in his or her practice, it
was actually closer to 50 percent.
Photo: Mark McDonald
As an educated, experienced veterinarian, you know what's best for your patients. Clients place their trust in you when it
comes to their pets' health and, ideally, they follow your recommendations. But the reality is that too often clients don't
comply. Why not?
Denise Tumblin, CPA
Sometimes they don't follow through because the rest of the veterinary team failed to reinforce your recommendation. If the
client hears one message from you, a different message from your technician, and a third message from another team member,
that client becomes thoroughly confused. Sometimes the client doesn't comply because of information overload. That person
got too much information and too many options to decide between. Without a clear, simple directive from you, the easiest thing
for a client to do is nothing at all.
The bottom line
Before we really dig into the subject of compliance and how to fill the gaps, let's look more closely at why these gaps exist
in the first place. In Benchmarks 2008: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, we set out to tackle this tricky subject. And the
results of our study reveal that there are still areas for growth. Part of the problem is that despite established medical
standards of care, internal compliance among doctors and team members following the standards is woefully low in some areas
(see "Internal Compliance" below for more). For example, 94 percent of study participants say all of the doctors in their
practices share a consistent philosophy regarding vaccination frequency. Yet internal compliance with the standard is low—28
percent of practices reported less than 80 percent compliance with their own canine vaccination standard, and 31 percent reported
less than 80 percent compliance with their feline standard. If all the doctors agree, why are they so inconsistent—and does
it even matter?
Of course, part of the standards of a hospital would be for the doctor to decide, patient by patient, when it's appropriate
to go outside the standard recommendation. But many inconsistencies occur because the practice doesn't have a well-established
method of communicating its standards of care to doctors and staff. Or the doctors may not discuss standards of care on a
regular basis. Therefore everyone assumes the doctors are practicing similarly—when they're not even close. These differences
may lead to shortcomings in patient healthcare and confusion among the doctors, team members, and clients. They also create
the potential for disagreements that can sour practice relationships.
What is a Well-Managed Practice?