Today's Veterinary Business

OCT 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Page 41 of 67

40 Today's Veterinary Business Communication Socially Acceptable columnist Eric D. Garcia is an IT and digital consultant who works exclusively with veterinary practices and speaks at veterinary conferences around the world. Learn more at Next Steps OK, so you've deleted the generic pet pics and just under 200 memes. Now what? It's time to start thinking more holistically about your content and social media as a whole. Not only are illegally used stock images dangerous, they're flat out boring. Simply put, these images no longer make the cut when it comes to the ability of modern veterinary practices to connect with pet owners. Social media and marketing today are not simply about cookie-cutter images but instead about the per- sonal experience and connecting your practice in a deeper way. Your clients want to see you in your element, working with real pets and clients. That's where the true story is, and that's where the true value lies. As you start to reclaim your veterinary practice's message and imagery, it's time to implement best practices. You can't just start snapping shots with your new iPhone X. You must obtain explicit client permission if you want to show their pet in any photos or marketing materials. An easy way to do this is to collect a consent on your client reg- istration forms. For existing clients, you can get a signature during drop-off or, if the owner is present, before you take a photo. Don't forget that these photo- graphs, even when authorized in a consent form, must be taken on a clinic-owned device. I recommend that you purchase a camera, per- haps an iPod Touch or a clinic cell phone, for your practice. Hospitals should go the extra mile by prohib- iting the use of personal cameras for such purposes. This ensures that employees don't take home images of clients, which can cause a wide range of fallout, and that select- ed images are approved by the appropriate decision makers before being posted. The Big Payoff Another benefit of these policies is that offering to take photos of a pet is an easy way to boost client en- gagement, as the owners are often proud to show off their adorable kitten turned Instagram superstar. For pets that can't be photo- graphed on the spot, invite the owner to email a photo after the visit. The key here is to boost client engagement by crafting a narrative around your veterinary practice and clients. Each pet and owner has a story to tell, and ultimately this becomes a part of your practice. When pet owners visit your website or social media page, they're not looking for stock pho- tos. They want the full picture. That is, they want the real story behind who you are and what your veteri- nary practice believes in most. Communication SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE Social media and marketing today are not simply about cookie-cutter images but instead about the personal experience and connecting your practice in a deeper way. specific triggers within the exam room will be easier to identify at this point. This is when you should pause, plan and proceed with a different approach. If you are unsuc- cessful, the anxiety can change to fear and you might notice more changes in body lan- guage. If a fearful canine is standing in your exam room, she will have a stiff body posture and lean forward, her hair will be raised, her ears angled upward, her eyes dilated, enlarged and looking directly at you, her nose wrinkled, and her tail upward and stiff. She might draw back her lips, expose her teeth and growl. If the patient is lying on a nonskid mat on the floor or table, she might cower and her ears will be flat, her teeth exposed and her tail between the legs. Now What? Recognizing how cats and dogs demonstrate stress and anxiety, and eventually fear, is the first piece of the puzzle. The veterinary re- sponse involves how and when we approach our patient in the exam room and how and in what order we touch them. Our goal is to not add to any stimuli that could be considered confronta- tional or stressful. When first ap- proaching a patient, eye contact should be avoided and the ap- proach should be paral- lel to the patient. Physical contact is initiated on the least stressful part of the body, typically the shoulders or neck. The exception would be if the patient presented with shoul- der or neck pain. Once physical contact is made, the goal should be to continue the contact for the entirety of the exam. The exam continues from the least stressful aspects to the most, moving from the shoulders down the spine to the abdomen, then examining the caudal aspect and tail, moving to the feet, and then the face, eyes, ears and teeth. Equally important to the examination order is the style of touch and the control of the patient. Each time we must make sure we are reinforcing positive behavior through the use of high-reward treats or other actions. The patient should feel well-supported on either a non-skid mat or when wrapped in a warm towel. A dog or cat that struggles at any time for more than a few moments is signaling a high level of fear or anxiety. The team should pause and change plans. For cats specifically, allow the patient to hide if she desires, and do not scruff the neck. Many alternatives exist for low-stress handling techniques. Mastering body language rec- ognition, planning the order of the physical exam and knowing when to pause, reflect and change plans are the keys to being able to per- form a thorough exam, carry out diagnostics, and build rapport and trust with the client. This last point is absolutely crucial to the success of an animal hospital. Clients are more likely to agree to thorough diagnostics and be more compliant when they see a relaxed, happy family member. The patient will have enjoyed the visit and allowed all body parts to be manipulated. These clients are your best source of referrals and positive online reviews. A client who is relaxed because the patient is relaxed will be more attentive to recommendations and discussions. Your mastering of body language will help create the best experience for the entire family. Fearless columnist Dr. Natalie Marks is co-owner of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. She is Fear Free certified. Clients are more likely to agree to thorough diagnostics and be more compliant when they see a relaxed, happy family member. Continued from Page 38

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