HISTORICALLY, the veterinary practice has been the most convenient resource for pet owners looking for advice about caring for their pet. Times are changing, however, and when it comes to communicating best practice for preventive treatments such as worming, practices really need to step up to the mark in the face of stiff competition from the internet and pet superstores. A vast resource of advice, opinion and multiple product options are only a mouse click away; and commercial organisations are increasingly using SQPs to answer pet healthcare questions which takes owners away from the practice environment. The risk is that owners accept this information in isolation without considering the bigger healthcare picture. It’s here where practices can really stand out by helping with ongoing education about best practice and bespoke worming regimes. Establishing a set of protocols for on-going preventive healthcare is the core element of good practice and one which has proven success. You can’t beat face-to-face, hands-on advice from veterinary professionals, but this advice is worth nothing if it is not effectively communicated to both existing and new clients. A clear set of worming protocols also provides a number of business benefits, which include increased buyin from clients, a greater compliance with a recommended worming schedule and ultimately bonded clients. Effective, broad-spectrum protocols can be achieved with relatively few products and carrying a smaller, well-defined product range also means decreased wastage and staff spending less time learning about multiple products, allowing them to focus more on the client/animal care.
Establishing a worming protocol
A practice audit to establish the state of the nation allows both management and practice staff to collectively evaluate the existing worming protocol, review core messages about preventive treatments and take action to clarify, communicate and implement. It establishes the process of regularly reviewing procedures to ensure that the practice is providing consistent advice to pet owners.
Staff worming protocol workshop
Education needs to start with practice staff. Developing and implementing a comprehensive training programme ensures that all staff are on-message and the advice they give to clients is consistent across the board. It is easier for staff to communicate worming best practice to clients when they understand it themselves, and staff who have been empowered with knowledge also inspire confidence amongst clients, leading to greater compliance.
Worming protocol: case study
Practice 1 (two partners, three assistants, four nurses and two receptionists)
A practice audit involved a situations analysis and carried out
client feedback activity, which revealed that staff training was somewhat patchy and client communication was inconsistent. The vets, nurses and receptionists were all giving out different advice, leading to confusion amongst both staff and clients.
The findings of the audit highlighted a need to provide consistent worming advice and treatment regimes. The practice took action with a worming protocol workshop, where all staff used a range of support tools to discuss and agree a tailored practice worming protocol. Points of discussion included the types of cats and dogs coming into the practice, the types of worms they were potentially at risk from, worming frequencies, and which treatments to use. As a result of the workshop, the
practice decided to appoint “practice champions” to motivate staff and drive change from within. A formal training process ensured that new staff members were quickly proficient, all staff felt included, clients received consistent advice (no matter who they spoke to) and the partners were confident that the team was observing good clinical practice.
Worming awareness months
An awareness campaign is another successful method used by practices to promote themselves to the local community. It encourages new clients to sign up and reminds existing and lapsed clients of the importance of seeking regular worming advice for their pets from their local practice and if they require more detailed advice or have other concerns, these can be addressed by a vet. Point-of-sale materials, outbound marketing, special offers and practice champion activity generates interest and questions from pet owners. The
increased compliance with practice worming guidelines ultimately led to healthier pets and an increase in practice profitability.
Worming awareness month: case study
Practice 2: (one partner, four assistants and five nurses/receptionists)
The practice was already actively ensuring that its clients were receiving the best possible advice. All staff received comprehensive parasite training, and the practice consistently offered owners worming advice at every visit. Reminders were sent out to all “active” clients and in-clinic material was displayed to promote regular worming. The aim was to increase compliance amongst existing clients and to promote worm awareness to new clients. The worming awareness month gave the practice the opportunity to review its existing situation and threw up a few interesting insights; for example, a sales analysis undertaken by the practice manager revealed that only 40% of boosters were going home with a wormer. Practice champions were elected and instigated the use of a number of compliance tools, including an online reminder system and loyalty cards. During the month, all cats and dogs attending for vaccinations had their worming regimes reviewed and most went home with a four pack of tablets rather than the single tablet that was previously prescribed. The campaign resulted in a marked increase in both online reminder signups, and in the numbers of vaccinations and wormer sales. Pet owners appreciated the level of advice and support and staff were motivated to continue sharing consistent worming advice. The
campaign mixed good clinical practice with business benefits, resulting in a happy outcome for partners, staff and clients alike.
A well-thought-out worming awareness strategy results in a winwin situation for all involved. Knowledgeable and motivated staff inspire confidence in clients who appreciate clear worming advice. The practice wins with increased profitability achieved by providing excellent preventive healthcare consistent with expert guidelines.1 Further information about worming protocols and awareness months is available from local Novartis Animal Health territory managers.
- ESCCAP, Worm Control in Dogs and Cats, Second Edition, Sept. 2010.