To describe veterinarians’ communication of the companion animal physical exam (CAPE) to veterinary clients and to identify factors associated with the number of physical exam components communicated by veterinarians to clients.
18 CAPE components were studied in relation to veterinarians’ use of 7 communication-related parameters. A mixed linear regression model was used to assess veterinarian, patient, and appointment factors associated with the number of components conveyed by a veterinarian.
Veterinarians conveyed 1,566 of 2,794 (56.1%) of the components that they examined to clients, as having been examined. Of those components that were examined and conveyed by veterinarians, the impact of the finding was communicated for 496 of 1,566 (31.7%) of the components. Visual aids and take-home literature were each used in relation to an examined component during 15 of the 376 interactions (4%). A significant association was found between number of CAPE components conveyed and gender of the veterinarian (females conveyed 1.31 more), as well as the type of appointment (2.57 more were conveyed in wellness appointments and 1.37 more in problem appointments, compared to rechecks).
Findings identify an opportunity for veterinarians to further emphasize components of the CAPE, which may in turn increase clients’ perceived value of the CAPE due to understanding the benefits for their pet. This may be accomplished with the Talking Physical Exam, in which veterinarians discuss CAPE components findings with clients in real time, and the relevance of the findings to the patient’s health.
To establish the components of a best-practice, baseline companion animal physical exam (CAPE).
25 small animal veterinary internists and 20 small animal primary care veterinarians, all teaching the CAPE at veterinary colleges in the US, Canada, and Australia.
Using the Delphi Method of Consensus, 3 rounds of online questionnaires were sent to participants. The first round included demographic questions, questions about teaching the physical exam, and an open-ended question allowing participants to record details of how they conduct a CAPE. In the second round, participants were asked to rate components of the CAPE, which were derived from round 1, as “always examine,” “only examine as needed,” or “undecided.” Following round 2, any component not reaching 90% consensus (set a priori) for the response “always examine” was put forth in round 3, with a summary of comments from the round 2 participants for each remaining component.
35 components of a baseline CAPE were identified from round 1. The 25 components that reached 90% consensus by the end of round 3 were checking the oral cavity, nose, eyes, ears, heart, pulse rate, pulse quality, pulse synchrony, lungs, respiratory rate, lymph nodes, abdomen, weight, body condition score, mucous membranes, capillary refill time, general assessment, masses, haircoat, skin, hydration, penis and testicles or vulva, neck, limbs, and, in cats only, thyroid glands.
The findings establish an expert panel’s consensus on 25 components of a baseline, best-practice CAPE that can be used to help inform veterinary curricula, future research, and the practice of veterinarians.