4 tips for an effective discharge

4 tips for an effective discharge

When veterinary clients don't follow your instructions, their pets suffer. Use these steps to lock in the care pets need.
Jun 01, 2012

Client compliance. It's one of the most frustrating aspects of any veterinary practice. You tell clients to keep their pet's splint clean and dry, and they're back in two days with a wet bandage causing skin dermatitis. Or you send the patient home in an e-collar and the pet returns in a week with an open incision because the owners felt sorry for their pet and took it off. Making sure your clients understand the importance of patient compliance is key for two reasons: proper patient treatment and care and documentation that you shared a treatment or discharge plan with the client.

Consider these suggestions to shrink the communication void between the initial visit and patient discharge:

1. Offer written treatment or discharge instructions. With the advent of technology, creating a treatment plan or discharge instructions for the patient is easier than ever. Using canned Word documents allows you to quickly customize and print pet care plans for the owner. Be sure the document has all pertinent information the client may need to offer the appropriate home care that you recommend. Suggestions include:

  • Clinic name and number
  • Name of clinician
  • Name of owner and patient
  • Brief summary of exam and treatments performed
  • Medications sent home
  • Detailed home care, including feeding and water instructions, bandage care, atypical symptoms to watch for, activity level, and so on
  • Recheck information, such as if or when to return, and recommended treatments and cost, if relevant.

2. Review the instructions and medications with the pet owner. The technician or another well-trained team member will review the plan and medications dispensed in person. Not only does this double the likelihood that the pet owner will comply, it gives the technician or team member time to answer questions that may arise while discussing the instructions. Finally, don't forget to encourage pet owners to call you with any questions.

3. Keep a copy of the treatment or discharge instructions for your records. Put a copy of the instructions in the patient file. If the owner calls with a question specific to the plan, it's helpful as a reference. Also, in the event that legal action occurs, you can provide this document as part of the patient medical record.

4. Perform follow-up phone calls for critical care or surgery patients. Receptionists and technicians can use follow-up phone calls to make sure the patient's doing well and receiving medications properly and to lock in recheck appointments as needed. Then record these calls in the patient file. With the advances in technology, some clinics offer email addresses to encourage client communication. Just be sure to document all communication between your clinic and the client. This provides important documentation in the case of a lawsuit or in situations where the case doesn't go well and the client complains.

While these extra steps won't guarantee the owner will comply, taking a few extra minutes and making the visit a positive experience may help encourage greater client compliance and better patient care at home.

Rachael Simmons is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and head receptionist at Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Spokane, Wash.