As a curious practice owner, I've spent years asking people at social gatherings what they like and don't like about their
veterinarians. I get a lot of different answers, but one of the biggest reasons people say they switch doctors doesn't surprise
me at all: "I used to go to that veterinarian, but he always took my dog to the back and never really touched or talked to
my dog very much."
It's understandable why veterinarians do that. We like the back. We can visit with team members about our weekend. We can
find extra hands. And it's often easier to get things done there than in a crowded exam room. But someone important is missing:
I think we veterinarians are taking animals out of the exam room too frequently. Which means we're neglecting the people who
pay the bills.
THE DISAPPEARING EXAM ROOM
Now, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some cats and dogs can be safely examined and treated only while they're sedated—even
for nail trims. And then there's the occasional "shark," all pointy teeth and snapping. "It doesn't seem like he enjoys being
here today," you say as you manhandle the unhappy animal toward the door. But veterinarians and technicians do this way more
often than necessary—because it's easy.
It's gotten so that some clinics may as well eliminate their exam rooms altogether. The receptionist or veterinary assistant
takes the dog from the waiting area to the exam room or directly to the back. The doctor handles treatment out of view of
the client and then explains what was done in the exam room for a minute or two. Then the client-patient pair is ushered to
the front desk for payment. We're playing too much hide-and-seek with clients and not enough show-and-tell.
SHOW AND TELL
For maximum client compliance, veterinarians should show bottles of worms, offer views through the videoscope of bloody otitis
externa, and mix that $85 vaccine right there in the exam room. An occasional client may be grossed out, but pet owners who
see problems up close understand what you're doing and better perceive the importance of the at-home treatment and recheck
exam you recommend. My associates average an impressive 50 percent recheck rate. My colleague Dr. David Jackson in Fairfax,
Va., approaches 100 percent and attributes it to exam-room demonstration.
If you're worried about a squeamish pet owner, just ask: "Would you like to see this?" Most times, the client wants to learn
more. And people are willing to pay for what they see.
THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE VETERINARY MEDICINE
Some veterinarians may complain that this is too much like show business. It's not. People want us to address the needs of
their pets and do it in a way they understand. In addition, clients who observe the treatment being done in the back are more
likely to comply with the medical recommendations and be more forgiving the next time they have to wait to see the veterinarian
or veterinary technician.
You don't have to show and tell. You can hide your great work and necessary treatment in the back. You only need to show and
tell if you want double-digit growth.
Dr. Clark is Veterinary Economics' Practice Management Editor, and managing partner of Woodland West Animal Hospital, Woodland Pet Resort, and Woodland Trails
practice in Tulsa and Edmond, Okla. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org