Recommending a High Level Standard of Care

The present economic climate provides a challenge for veterinarians.  We strive to provide the absolute best medical care to our patients, and we also strive be sensitive about the affordability of that care.  Kristi Reimer, the editor of Veterinary Economics, wrote an excellent piece on the matter: Affordability vs. Excellence, Do Veterinarians Have to Choose? She asks, “Is there a way to maintain excellent medical standards, charge appropriately for them, and still be a compassionate veterinarian who’s accessible to the majority of Pet owners in the community?”

The answer is “Of course!”  We need to be offering the very best we have to every client and every patient at every visit.

The veterinary team and the pet’s family have the same goal of restoring or maintaining the health of the pet.  I believe we even have the same financial goals.  We want our clients in sound financial health so they are able to return again, and they want us in sound financial health so we are here when they need us.

Instead of offering “good/better/best” medical plans and “bargaining” with our client until we meet in the middle, consider offering the very best and using the treatment plan as an open dialogue.  Be transparent about what is absolutely mandatory and what is optional for your patient’s well-being and return to health and why each component is important.  You may be surprised with what your client will allow you to do when they understand why each portion of the treatment plan is important.  However, even a gazillionaire is not going to toss money at you for stuff they think you threw in just for the heck of it.

This is where your relationship with your client becomes important.  Clients who trust your integrity and medical expertise will know when you say something is mandatory or even ideal, that you really believe it and that you are probably right.

Sometimes, clients ask for help finding ways to afford the treatment their pets need.  We may have payment plan options, charity information or other helpful resources available.  However, keep in mind that our clients’ financial situations are none of our business unless they choose to make them our business.  We are no more equipped to guess about the level of care they can afford than we are to guess about the strength of the bond they have with their pet.  If we are focusing on the financial aspects of a case at the cost of focusing on patient care, we will convey that to the client whether we mean to or not.

Recommend the very best for your patient.  Explain to your client why the components of the treatment plan you propose are important.  You know your patient is getting the best care you have to offer, your client is well cared for and you are being fairly compensated.  Win-win-win situations are possible for the patient, the client and the veterinary team, and are worth striving for with every case.


This was first published on The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on December 1, 2009.

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4 Responses to “Recommending a High Level Standard of Care”

  1. As a dog owner, I couldn’t agree with you more. Getting an honest assessment…knowing what is mandatory/life saving, what would be nice-to-have, and when further treatment is no longer viable… is always good. As with “human doctors”, explaining the diagnosis and treatment choices is a great help and can be a great comfort as well.Lucky for us, we have a vet just like that!Is there really a lot of “bargaining” for treatments over where you are?

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Georgia Little Pea! I am glad you have your Vet – especially since I do not have a private jet yet!Sometimes…we will discuss treatment options, which is always a good idea. But I try not to let pet owners skip things that their pets really do need if I can help them to make it work – and it does.

  3. Well said! Value may not mean cheap, but it does mean getting more than what you pay for, and that usually means excellent service.

  4. admin says:

    Thanks Dr. Burcham! I really like your definition of value.

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