Today's Veterinary Business

APR 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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17 April/May 2018 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM manager with Ceva Animal Health, thinks that when heartworm prevention moved from daily to monthly administration, the profes- sion might have become overcon- fident that the disease would be defeated in our lifetime. Unfor- tunately, this approach ignored the vector and dealt only with the parasite as the threat. Dr. Wakem acknowledges that flea and tick control is not without compliance challenges of its own, but the owners get feedback when they become non-compliant; that is, their pets get fleas or ticks. Owners are much less likely to get immedi- ate feedback about non-compliance with heartworm prevention. " We probably could do a better job as a health care team than the once or twice a year, face-to- face visits that have become the standard of care [along with] an antigen or microfilariae test and re- filling medications," he said. "I'm not certain what better looks like, es- pecially for those households that have compliance challenges. It may include celebrating a negative test and what that means, open-ended questions and reflective listening to best understand which preven- tive scheme is in the best interests of the patient." Veterinary teams can do a better job discussing heartworms with clients. When pet owners are given too many choices, they are more likely to choose nothing because the decision becomes overwhelming. Cost is rarely the primary rea- son clients don't buy a heartworm preventive; however, they do need to see the value in buying it and giving it. A study con- ducted by the American Animal Hospital Association found that over 75 percent of pet owners will buy a veterinarian-recommended product, especially when they know a practitioner has taken into consideration their pet's specif- ic needs. To Dr. Wakem's point, perhaps if veterinarians and team members do a better job evalu- ating each client's lifestyle and each patient's environment, and then recommend the single, most appropriate preventive for the dog or cat, the client will be more likely to purchase and administer the medication appropriately. Phone Calls and Text Messages The vast majority of veterinary practice software sends a reminder when a patient is due for a refill of a heartworm preventive. Dr. Lund's staff calls clients to remind them it's time. This personal touch is another way team members can reinforce the importance of giving a monthly preventive or, in the case of moxidectin injections, sched- uling an appointment to come in every six months. For financially strapped clients who opt to buy a single dose of prevention every month, the phone calls can be even more important. These clients can least likely afford heartworm treatment for their pet, and the call remind- ing them to pick up the month's dose can be a lifesaver and another touchpoint in bonding the client to the practice. Jeff Herman, practice administrator at Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, is experimenting with sending monthly text messages to clients to remind them to administer their pet's prevention. Whether his tactic makes a difference is unclear at the moment, but clients appreciate receiving updates. Tech-savvy clients have lots of options. Many people can set a reminder on their phone or elec- tronic calendar. Christine Longo, DVM, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, does this for her pets. A host of apps for medication re- minders are available on the iTunes and Android platforms. Clients can choose the one that works best for them. A Merck app, My Pet Remind- ers, is specifically for animals. Other brands allow you to sign up online and receive a month- ly text or email as a reminder. Schertz, Texas, veterinarian Todd Phillips, DVM, recommends going one step further: Have the client sign up in the exam room. On your computer or tablet, navigate to the product website and let the client fill in her information. Dr. Phillips also suggests that clients link the administration of heartworm prevention to other monthly activities, such as paying the mortgage or attending a PTA meeting. For families with children looking for extra spending money, he might recommend that parents pay their kids to remember to give the heartworm preventive. It's cheaper than heartworm treat- ment, and kids are savvy enough to put a reminder on their phones or in an app. He also recommends using tried- and-true educational materials: • A jar filled with formalin and a heart infected with vessel-clogging parasites. • Testimonials from clients whose pets were treated for heartworms at your office. • CAPC parasite maps. • Rebate coupons or codes that can be provided at the time of purchase. Final Advice In the end, messaging must be consistent across the veterinary team, from customer service representatives to technicians to the veterinarians themselves. And the messaging must be repeated every time the patient comes in the door. So, remember: • Make technology your friend. Use apps or electronic noti- fications to remind clients to give heartworm prevention monthly and to come in every six months to get refills or a moxidectin injection. • Take advantage of resources from the American Heart- worm Society, the Compan- ion Animal Parasite Council and manufacturers. • Educate clients that mos- quitoes and heartworms are showing up in places where they were previously less common and that every state has reported heart- worm cases. • Reward good compliance by showing extra appreciation to clients who administer preventives appropriately and get timely refills. Dr. Lori Teller practices at Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston. For families with children looking for extra spending money, he might recommend that parents pay their kids to remember to give the heartworm preventive.

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