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A focus group study of veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of veterinarian-client communication in companion animal practice

Jason B. Coe DVM, PhD1, Cindy L. Adams MSW, PhD2, and Brenda N. Bonnett DVM, PhD3
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  • 1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 3 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Abstract

Objective—To compare veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of client expectations with respect to veterinarian-client communication and to identify related barriers and challenges to communication.

Design—Qualitative study based on focus group interviews.

Participants—6 pet owner focus groups (32 owners) and 4 veterinarian focus groups (24 companion animal veterinarians).

Procedures—Independent focus group sessions were conducted with standardized open-ended questions and follow-up probes. Content analysis was performed on transcripts of the focus group discussions.

Results—Five themes related to veterinarian-client communication were identified: educating clients (ie, explaining important information, providing information up front, and providing information in various forms), providing choices (ie, providing pet owners with a range of options, being respectful of owners' decisions, and working in partnership with owners), using 2-way communication (ie, using language clients understand, listening to what clients have to say, and asking the right questions), breakdowns in communication that affected the client's experience (ie, owners feeling misinformed, that they had not been given all options, and that their concerns had not been heard), and challenges veterinarians encountered when communicating with clients (ie, monetary concerns, client misinformation, involvement of > 1 client, and time limitations).

Conclusions—Results suggested that several factors are involved in providing effective veterinarian-client communication and that breakdowns in communication can have an adverse effect on the veterinarian-client relationship.

Abstract

Objective—To compare veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of client expectations with respect to veterinarian-client communication and to identify related barriers and challenges to communication.

Design—Qualitative study based on focus group interviews.

Participants—6 pet owner focus groups (32 owners) and 4 veterinarian focus groups (24 companion animal veterinarians).

Procedures—Independent focus group sessions were conducted with standardized open-ended questions and follow-up probes. Content analysis was performed on transcripts of the focus group discussions.

Results—Five themes related to veterinarian-client communication were identified: educating clients (ie, explaining important information, providing information up front, and providing information in various forms), providing choices (ie, providing pet owners with a range of options, being respectful of owners' decisions, and working in partnership with owners), using 2-way communication (ie, using language clients understand, listening to what clients have to say, and asking the right questions), breakdowns in communication that affected the client's experience (ie, owners feeling misinformed, that they had not been given all options, and that their concerns had not been heard), and challenges veterinarians encountered when communicating with clients (ie, monetary concerns, client misinformation, involvement of > 1 client, and time limitations).

Conclusions—Results suggested that several factors are involved in providing effective veterinarian-client communication and that breakdowns in communication can have an adverse effect on the veterinarian-client relationship.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Adams' present address is Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.

Supported by a grant from the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund.

Address correspondence to Dr. Coe.