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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