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Objective—To compare veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of client expectations with respect to the monetary aspects of veterinary care and identify challenges encountered by veterinarians in dealing with pet owners' expectations.

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 the focus group discussions.

Results—Pet owners expected the care of their animal to take precedence over monetary aspects. They also expected veterinarians to initiate discussions of costs upfront but indicated that such discussions were uncommon. Veterinarians and pet owners differed in the way they related to discussions of veterinary costs. Veterinarians focused on tangibles, such as time and services. Pet owners focused on outcome as it related to their pet's health and well-being. Veterinarians reported that they sometimes felt undervalued for their efforts. A suspicion regarding the motivation behind veterinarians' recommendations surfaced among some participating pet owners.

Conclusions—Results suggested that the monetary aspects of veterinary care pose barriers and challenges for veterinarians and pet owners. By exploring clients' expectations, improving communication, educating clients, and making discussions of cost more common, veterinarians may be able to alleviate some of the monetary challenges involved in veterinarian-client-patient interactions.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Objective—To identify specific components of veterinarian- client-patient communication during clinical appointments in companion animal practice.

Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Sample Population—A random sample of 50 companion animal practitioners in southern Ontario and a convenience sample of 300 clients and their pets.

Procedure—For each practitioner, 6 clinical appointments (3 wellness appointments and 3 appointments related to a health problem) were videotaped, and the Roter interaction analysis system (RIAS) was used to analyze the resulting 300 videotapes. Statements made during each appointment were classified by means of a communication framework reflecting the 4 essential tasks of the appointment (ie, data gathering, education and counseling, relationship building, and activation and partnership).

Results—57% of the veterinarians contacted (50/87) and 99% of the clients contacted agreed to participate in the study. Mean duration of the appointments was 13 minutes. Typically, veterinarians contributed 62% of the total conversation and clients contributed 38%. Fifty-four percent of the veterinarian interaction was with the client, and 8% was with the pet. Data gathering constituted 9% of the veterinarian-to-client communication and was primarily accomplished through closed-ended questioning; 48% of veterinarian-to-client communication involved client education and counseling, 30% involved relationship building, and 7% involved activation and partnership (the remaining 6% constituted orientation).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that the RIAS was a reliable method of assessing the structure, process, and content of veterinarianclient-patient communication and that some veterinarians do not use all the tools needed for effective communication. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:222–229)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association