5 ways to improve patient care

5 ways to improve patient care

We asked patient-care experts to name their top tips for enhancing every patient's well-being. Here's what they say you should do to boost your healthcare skills.
Apr 01, 2009

You love animals. This is probably the reason you got into the veterinary industry in the first place. But in the daily grind of upset clients or quarrelsome co-workers, you can lose sight of your mission: Bettering animals' lives. It's time to refocus on pets by taking a cue—five, in fact—from some patient-care pros.

Rework your records

After one too many staff members grumbled that they weren't sure how to proceed with a patient from reading its record, Annie Wian, patient care coordinator at Veterinary Medical Clinic in Tampa, Fla., pulled every file for an audit. If a record was missing a treatment plan, she'd return it to the correct source to complete.

"Was it time consuming? Yes. Was it effective? Most definitely," she says. Now, with a completed care plan in every file, Wian says her team can easily follow up on recommendations and make sure pets receive the care they need.

To keep records in tip-top shape, Wian does three things. She gets her staff on the same page, so to speak, with mandatory record-keeping CE lunches every six months. She puts a master sheet at the front of every patient's file to see problems, alerts, and chronic conditions at a glance. ( http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/firstline/Veterinary+team/Master-problem-sheets/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/590546?contextCategoryId=10572/ by searching for "master sheet.") And she and team members review the day's records to make sure they're complete before refiling them.

Do any of the above and the likelihood of recommendations falling by the wayside decreases, Wian says. "We're trying to provide the best medicine," she says. "Compliance is the best medicine."

Watch vitals like a hawk

Vigilant observation is essential when patients undergo anesthesia. But sadly, not all hospitals educate the entire staff on the importance of monitoring. While technicians may be the ones actually monitoring vitals during a procedure, all team members should understand what to look for and why.

Take temperature, for example. All team members need to be aware that a patient's body temperature drops under anesthesia. And if a pet's body temperature gets too low, its organs can't function properly, says Jessica Janowski, receptionist and patient care coordinator at Merrimack Veterinary Hospital in Merrimack, N.H. The heart rate slows and blood pressure drops, and if that gets too low, the kidneys can start to fail.

But what's too low? A normal core body temperature measured rectally for a dog or cat is around 101 degrees Fahrenheit, says Pamela Stevenson, CVPM, management consultant and owner of Veterinary Results Management in Durham, N.C. But don't rely on averages. You should always take a patient's temperature beforehand so you'll have a base number to work with, she says.

Regardless of how hot or cold a pet naturally runs, you want to maintain the body temperature as close to normal as possible. And you definitely don't want a patient's temperature to drop below 96 degrees Fahrenheit. For suggestions on how to keep patients warm during procedures, see "Tips to Prevent Hypothermia".