Today's Veterinary Business

DEC-JAN 2017

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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35 December 2017/January 2018 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM reality is that this adage serves to redirect conversations about discrimination, marginalization and disparities to less controversial topics. An unwillingness to gather data that might reveal something concerning does not mean the concerning thing will not persist. Asking demographic questions is appropriate, and this data is a positive tool that can enhance your business and your role in the com- munity. With health data, you can examine whether outbreaks are localized to a ZIP code or a specific neighborhood. Imagine having a little more data that might reveal a health education language issue or another sociocultural dimension to the health issue. Your ability to identify this dimension and offer culturally competent solutions is good for everyone affected. This data can help your business identify specific needs, like multilingual practice staff to better service the popu- lation. The data also may reveal opportunities for community-spe- cific outreach about public health and pet ownership. These are all things that the veterinary profes- sion is known for, but consistent collection of demographic data can enhance your knowledge base and your ability to serve your clientele. There is overwhelming evi- dence in human medicine that phy- sicians treat minority, or otherwise underserved, patients differently by offering fewer treatment options, pain alleviation and one-on-one interactions. Clearly, veterinary medicine has a different patient center, but veterinary profession- als will certainly want to know if a quiet trend showed similar mar- ginalized patterns of care among clients. Such patterns result in dif- ferent health outcomes and, quite possibly, the search for new, more attentive and inclusive practices. What to Ask Once the decision has been made to ask a battery of demographic questions, the next step is deciding which questions to include on your client information forms. Standard questions will focus on race and ethnicity, gender and primary language, and questions may be framed as multiple choice. For race and ethnicity questions, you may find that providing the following options are sufficient: • African-American/black • Asian/Pacific Islander • Hispanic • Native American/Alaskan • Multiracial/multiethnic • White • Race not listed here At AAVMC, we recently updated our questions regarding gender and gender identity. We advocate the inclusion of a Diversity Toolbox columnist Dr. Lisa M. Greenhill is senior director for institutional research and diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. third, nonbinary gender ("A gender not listed here") as an option in addition to male and female. While the number of individuals who select the third option is small, the inclusion of the option represents two important values: • A commitment to inclusion because some individuals to not identify on the gender binary. Having a third option signals that this is a core value and a belief that their pres- ence is important enough to acknowledge and include in your data set. • The inclusion of these individ- uals in the data set creates a greater likelihood of general- izing your research findings. Inquiring about language skills will help you plan for the future of the practice. Numerous bi- or mul- tilingual veterinary practices exist. These practices are largely in areas where a need was identified early. As populations migrate, you may find an increase in limited En- glish proficiency (LEP) individuals in your client base. This will be no- ticeable anecdotally, yet data will provide the confirmation you need to make evidence-based decisions to seek out language skills on your own or in future practice hires. Hav- ing this evidence will aid decision making in the development of pro- motional materials and community outreach. Ultimately, the collection of this data is about enhancing the relationship between the veteri- nary practice and the client. Human health research shows that LEP is associated with health disparities, poor treatment compli- ance, increased medical errors and low client satisfaction. Your business is reliant on providing excellent veterinary medical care and cus- tomer service. Understanding how language proficiency plays a role in that care and service is critical in an increasingly diverse environment. Creating an Inclusive Business Adding or modifying just three questions to your client intake forms can help you make a huge step forward in creating and embracing a diverse and inclusive veterinary business. First, gathering information about race, gender and language provides your business with three additional data sources that can inform decision making. Second, this data can and should inform your relationships with your clients and can influence your patients' health outcomes. In my diversity work at AAVMC, I often tell students that clients trust veterinary medical knowledge. The place where things are most apt to break down are in the relationship between the veterinarian and the client. If the client does not think you really see them and respect them, then the relationship is potentially doomed and all that veterinary medical knowledge doesn't matter. Finally, although data collection is often meant to inform the gath- erer, including these questions on forms serves as a source of informa- tion to your clients. The inclusion of these questions signals that you see them as individuals, that you recog- nize providing veterinary medical care is about both the animal and the client, and that you want to create a business environment that embraces diversity. This is an easy, passive way of creating an inclusive business environment. Ultimately, the collection of this data is about enhancing the relationship between the veterinary practice and the client.

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