Focus on fecal compliance in veterinary practice

Focus on fecal compliance in veterinary practice

It's a messy topic littered with potential pitfalls. Prep for these potty talks with this advice to help your entire team lock in client compliance.
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Feb 01, 2012

If there's one thing we've learned in more than 20 years of association with veterinary medicine, it's this: There aren't many topics here that make for polite dinner table conversation. People don't want to know that the term melena means black, tarry stool—especially when they just named their baby daughter Melina. They aren't interested in hearing about the 32 yards of carpet yarn you helped remove from a pit bull's stomach last week. And they definitely don't enjoy hearing that their dog or cat, their pride and joy, could have worms. The real clincher to that conversation is when you tell them that to find out for sure, you need to examine their pet's poop.

Worms and poop: two sure-fire conversation-stoppers. But it's an important conversation, nonetheless. And since it's definitely not a conversation that most clients will ever initiate on their own, it's important for each team member to play a part in educating clients about intestinal parasites and the importance of fecal testing.

Managers: Poop happens

Chances are, most of your clients have had a fecal test recommended at least once or twice. And chances are, many of those same clients may have chosen to overlook that recommendation. But when your whole team gets involved in educating the client, and the client hears the same message consistently and repeatedly from multiple team members, you provide the knowledge clients need to make an informed decision. More often than not, with proper education, your clients may just start to comply.

People need to have information presented to them multiple times and in a variety of ways for it to become part of their memories and belief system. That's why it's so important for each team member to be involved in making fecal compliance successful. Each team member plays a vital role.

An effective fecal compliance program starts with the practice owner. Before you launch a program, the practice needs a fecal testing philosophy, and this should be based on the practice owner's recommendations. Should fecal testing be done once a year? Twice a year? With every new puppy and kitten? Should testing include Giardia?

Once you've defined the practice's fecal testing philosophy, it's time for the practice manager to develop protocols. Protocols will ensure you're delivering a clear message—and consistency is crucial. We confuse clients when the technician tells a client one thing and the doctor tells a client something else. And confused clients often take the easiest route—doing nothing. When you're developing your practice's program, consider these critical points:

  • How much does our team know? Because we all have diverse backgrounds and experience, some team members may not have a complete understanding of intestinal parasites, how they are spread, and the damage they can cause. Some technicians may not understand how to obtain a fecal sample. They may be too nervous to attempt it, or they may find it distasteful. A good fecal compliance program will include preliminary and ongoing staff education. By working together to improve our knowledge and skills, we are empowered.
  • Does our team know how to talk to clients about worms and poop? It's not just the average client who will be uncomfortable with those topics. Chances are, team members won't feel comfortable either, at first. To increase their confidence, practice managers should make sure their fecal compliance program includes communication training. Provide team members with talking points to cover every time they discuss fecal testing with clients. Some team members may even need a word-for-word script until they're comfortable enough to put things in their own words. Role-playing the conversations in advance will ensure they don't stumble over their words when they speak with clients.
  • How much do our clients know? Most likely, they don't know a lot about intestinal parasites. If you're the manager, you can provide direct education to clients in bite-sized pieces via the website, Facebook, direct emails, and in-clinic materials and displays. You can also set up practice management software to include reminders for fecal testing, along with wellness exams, which increase clients' opportunities to learn.
  • How is our program working? Once you've established a fecal compliance program, it's important to continue to monitor your success. When you introduce a new program, it's unfamiliar and strange. Team members will feel more comfortable doing things the "old" way—it's human nature to want to keep to the familiar. If you don't monitor and enforce the new program, it most likely won't achieve the desired results.