Golden years mean golden veterinary care
Age isn't a disease, but it is true that seniors are more likely to develop disease than juvenile or adult pets. General practices play an important role by providing preventive care designed for each life stage a pet experiences. Most pet parents realize that as their pets age, they're likely to develop more medical problems. But their responses to the aging process are sometimes frustrating. We cringe when an owner says, "Rover's getting older now, so what's the sense of doing anything at this point?" We can't stop the clock, but there is a reason the life spans of our canine and feline friends are increasing: better medical care that begins earlier in the pet's life.
Fortunately, most clients today are much more compliant with recommended care for their seniors than even five or 10 years ago. With that in mind, the success with providing senior care is really based on how seriously team members believe in and advocate for it. Emphasis on this care is both medically gratifying and financially rewarding. If your clinic hasn't made this a high priority, this is a great time to do so.
Ask yourself this: Does your clinic truly focus on senior pet care? Sure, most small animal clinics run age-appropriate diagnostics for sick pets. But do you encourage special testing and diagnostics for seniors that look and act healthy? We often talk about clients being compliant, but the first step is asking if your clinic is compliant with the standard protocols practiced at high-quality clinics.The good news is that it's not too late to start. Or if you have a program, then this is a good opportunity to improve client compliance. As our practices see revenue from product sales and vaccine visits declining, it becomes much more important and gratifying to focus on medical care. To build a successful program, it's key to avoid cutting corners. Use these steps to get started.
STEP 1: Educate yourself
Before you launch—or revamp—your program, use your practice software to determine the percentage of senior pets you serve. Most of us have an aging pet population. Nearly 50 percent of my patients are 7 years or older. The second question is, does senior screening often lead to early disease detection? Consult your reference lab for current data—they have plenty of it. In general, we found that about 20 percent of seniors have at least one abnormality that's worth tracking. If you now believe it's worth having a senior program in place, move on to step 2.
STEP 2: State your goal
Why are you launching a senior wellness program? For example, the goal of our senior program is to educate clients about age-appropriate preventive care for their senior pets and the significance or diagnostic tests to identify disease early.
STEP 3: Educate the team
If you want to focus on senior care, the whole team must speak "senior." Remember you can only be a good patient advocate if you really understand what you're promoting and why. If you're a manager, it's a good idea to host several one-hour meetings to briefly educate your team on common senior diseases, such as renal failure, diabetes, Cushing's disease, and hyperthyroidism, to name a few, and elaborate on how catching these early can lead to effective treatments. Create reading assignments to enhance what you're teaching and test everyone on it. The whole team should know the basics of common diseases. This is the best way to make sure every employee is an effective advocate.
STEP 4: Educate the pet parent
Create marketing and educational materials to help promote senior wellness care. Here are some elements of a program that you should keep in mind.