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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To determine prevalence and nature of cost discussions between veterinarians and pet owners during clinical appointments in companion animal practice.

Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Sample Population—20 veterinarians in companion animal practice in eastern Ontario and 350 clients and their pets.

Procedures—200 veterinarian-client-patient interactions were randomly selected from all videotaped interactions and analyzed with the Roter interaction analysis system. Additional proficiency codes and blocking functions were developed to capture the prevalence, nature, and context of cost discussions.

Results—58 of the 200 (29%) appointments that were analyzed included a discussion of cost. During 38 of these 58 (66%) appointments, the discussion involved costs associated with the veterinarian's time or with services provided by the veterinarian. Overall, reference to a written estimate was made during only 28 of the 200 (14%) appointments. Cost discussions were most common during appointments in which a decision related to diagnostic testing or dentistry was made. Appointments were significantly longer when a cost discussion was included than when it was not.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results of the present study suggested that discussions related to cost were relatively uncommon during clinical appointments in companion animal practice and that written estimates were infrequently used to aid these discussions. When discussions of cost did occur, veterinarians appeared to focus on explaining costs in terms of the veterinarian's time or services provided by the veterinarian, rather than on the medical information that could be obtained or the benefits to the future health or function of the pet.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

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

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.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To examine veterinarian solicitation of client concerns in companion animal practice.

Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Sample—20 veterinarians in companion animal practice in Eastern Ontario and 334 clients and their pets.

Procedures—Beginning segments of 334 appointments were coded for a veterinarian solicitation (open- or closed-ended question) used to elicit client concerns. Appointments including a solicitation were analyzed for completion of the client's response and its length. The association between veterinarian solicitations at the beginning and concerns arising at the closure of the interview was examined.

Results—123 (37%) of the coded appointments contained a veterinarian solicitation, of which 93 (76%) were open-ended and 30 (24%) were closed-ended solicitations. Client responses to a solicitation were interrupted in 68 of 123 (55%) appointments. Main reasons for incomplete client responses were veterinarian interruptions in the form of closed-ended questioning (39/68) and noninterrogative statements (18/68). Median length of time clients spoke before interruption was 11 seconds (range, 1 to 139 seconds; mean, 15.3 seconds; SD, 12.1 seconds). The odds of a new concern arising during the closing segment of an appointment were 4 times as great when the appointment did not contain a veterinarian solicitation at the beginning of the interview.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Not soliciting client concerns at the beginning of an interview increased the odds of a concern arising during the final moments of the interaction. This required the veterinarian to choose among extending the appointment to address the concern, ignoring the concern at a possible cost to client satisfaction, or deferring the concern to another visit.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To identify predictors of grief and client desires and needs as they relate to pet death.

Design—Cross-sectional mail survey.

Sample Population—177 clients, from 14 randomly selected veterinary practices, whose cat or dog died between 6 and 43 days prior to returning the completed questionnaire.

Procedure—Veterinary practices were contacted weekly to obtain the names of clients whose pets had died until approximately 200 clients were identified. Clients were contacted by telephone, and a questionnaire designed to measure grief associated with pet death was mailed to those willing to participate within 1 to 14 days of their pet's death. The questionnaire measured potential correlates and modifiers of grief and included three outcome measures: social/emotional and physical consequences, thought processes, and despair. Demographic data were also collected.

Results—Approximately 30% of participants experienced severe grief. The most prominent risk factors for grief included level of attachment, euthanasia, societal attitudes toward pet death, and professional support from the veterinary team.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Bivariate and multivariate analyses highlighted the impact owners' attitudes about euthanasia and professional intervention by the veterinary team had on reactions to pet death. Owners' perceptions of societal attitudes, also a predictor of grief, indicate that grief for pets is different than grief associated with other losses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1303–1309)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To identify communication patterns used by veterinarians 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. The Roter interaction analysis system was used to analyze the resulting 300 videotapes, and cluster analysis was used to identify veterinarian communication patterns.

Results—175 (58%) appointments were classified as having a biomedical communication pattern, and 125 (42%) were classified as having a biolifestyle-social communication pattern. None were classified as having a consumerist communication pattern. Twentythree (46%) veterinarians were classified as using a predominantly biomedical communication pattern, 19 (38%) were classified as using a mixed communication pattern, and 8 (16%) were classified as using a predominantly biolifestyle-social communication pattern. Pattern use was related to the type of appointment. Overall, 103 (69%) wellness appointments were classified as biolifestyle-social and 127 (85%) problem appointments were classified as biomedical. Appointments with a biomedical communication pattern (mean, 11.98 minutes) were significantly longer than appointments with a biolifestyle-social communication pattern (10.43 minutes). Median relationship-centered care score (ie, the ratio of client-centered talk to veterinarian-centered talk) was significantly higher during appointments with a biolifestyle-social communication pattern (1.10) than during appointments with a biomedical communication pattern (0.40).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that veterinarians in companion animal practice use 2 distinct patterns of communication. Communication pattern was associated with duration of visit, type of appointment, and relationship-centeredness. Recognition of these communication patterns has implications for veterinary training and client and patient outcomes.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objectives—To determine perceptions of veterinary technical and professional skills among veterinary students and recent graduates.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—281 students and 142 recent graduates from the Ontario Veterinary College.

Procedure—A survey was designed and administered to first- through fourth-year students and veterinarians who had graduated either 1 or 6 years before survey administration.

Results—Overall response rate was 70%. Learning about technical and professional skills was highly valued. Most participants felt they had not received instruction about professional skills, but those who had felt more competent about them. Perceptions of competence increased slightly with increased comfort discussing emotional veterinary issues with instructors. Neither gender nor increased age was related to increased feelings of competence. Almost all fourth-year students felt competent and comfortable about examining an animal with the client present, assessing suffering, diagnosing parvovirus infection, performing surgery, and working as group members. However, many did not feel competent or comfortable about delivering bad news, setting time limits yet providing quality service, helping clients with limited funds make treatment decisions, dealing with demanding people, and euthanasia. Feelings of competence and comfort were closely related but were not identical.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the interests of best preparing entry-level veterinarians, technical and professional skills need to be emphasized in a learning environment where students feel comfortable discussing emotional veterinary issues. A professional skills curriculum addressing underlying selfawareness, communication, and interpersonal issues, as well as procedural matters, would likely increase the proportion of fourth-year students who feel competent and comfortable about professional skills by the end of their undergraduate training. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:924–931)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To explore the relationship between veterinarian-client-patient interactions and client adherence to dental and surgery recommendations and to test the a priori hypotheses that appointment-specific client satisfaction and relationship-centered care are positively associated with client adherence.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample—A subsample of 19 companion-animal veterinarians and 83 clients from a larger observational study consisting of 20 randomly recruited veterinarians and a convenience sample of 350 clients from eastern Ontario.

Procedures—Videotaped veterinarian-client-patient interactions containing a dentistry recommendation, surgery recommendation, or both were selected for inclusion from the larger sample of interactions coded with the Roter interaction analysis system. Client adherence was measured by evaluating each patient's medical record approximately 6 months after the videotaped interaction. The clarity of the recommendation, appointment-specific client-satisfaction score, and relationship-centered care score were compared between adhering and nonadhering clients.

Results—Among the 83 veterinarian-client-patient interactions, 25 (30%) clients adhered to a dentistry recommendation, surgery recommendation, or both. The odds for adherence were 7 times as great for clients who received a clear recommendation, compared with clients who received an ambiguous recommendation from their veterinarian. Moreover, adhering clients were significantly more satisfied as measured after the interview. Interactions resulting in client adherence also had higher scores for relationship-centered care than did interactions leading to nonadherence.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinarian use of a relationship-centered care approach, characterized as a collaborative partnership between a veterinarian and a client with provision of clear recommendations and effective communication of the rationale for the recommendations, has positive implications for client adherence.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association