In pursuit of the optimal healthcare experience - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

In pursuit of the optimal healthcare experience

Veterinary Practice talks to Richard
Nap, a Dutch vet
who runs VetCoach,
in advance of his
presentation at this
year’s VET Festival

What do you find most interesting about this increasingly important area of patient and client wellness?

The most important aspect for veterinarians and their staff to realise is that the primary interest of the owners of the pets who consult them is not the level of scientific knowledge
accumulated in the heads of the staff of the clinic and the level of technology to support it. Owners are motivated by emotional reasons and are looking for veterinary teams that can provide services that connect and respond to these emotional needs. Pets are part of the family and their well-being is of high importance to their human fellow family members. The science is secondary to the emotions.

What do you see as the greatest challenges that face every practice, including employees and their patients and families?

To make the switch from being primarily scientific and technically-oriented to being emotionallyoriented when it comes to owners and their pets. A now old but very true statement goes, “Owners don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The highly successful “Fear Free” approach that was launched in the USA by Dr Marty Becker (of which I am an advisory group member) proves the importance and even economic or business relevance of this approach for veterinary clinics in the future. Dr Becker preaches to “first talk to the heart before talking to the head” when communicating with owners. The DVM degree is the entry level for every veterinary practitioner. The real success will be determined by how successfully she/he connects with owners and responds to individual needs under different circumstances.

You aim to promote the “optimal healthcare experience”. Why is it so important?

Each owner is different and each pet and owner is a unique combination under a unique set of circumstances. An OHCE refers to the fact that for each patient the veterinary team should try to find the optimal outcome tailored to the needs of the individual patient and its owner within the ethical and legal boundaries. The options should be presented and explained and the owners should be allowed to make an informed decision. This might not be the top solution according to the latest scientific developments, but it does suit the owners. The veterinarian is responsible for making the best possible diagnostic and therapeutic solutions available either in their practice or by referral. The owners are responsible for making the decisions regarding the healthcare of their pets and, not unimportantly, for paying for the selected options. It is therefore very important that the veterinarian starts with listening to the owners to find out the motivation of the visit and the personal circumstances of the owner and the pet.

Do you have any evidence to demonstrate that an optimal healthcare experience does enhance business results?

An OHCE results in happy clients. Happy clients come back. Over a five-year period the clinics practising Fear Free protocols in the USA have grown 20% while the overall market was flat. Owners love it and it makes perfect scientific and business sense and it fits well with what I have come to understand myself during my career and from the career learning input by hundreds of colleagues in my VetCoach project.

What are you hoping delegates will take away from your lectures?

I hope the delegates understand that their veterinary degree offers them a starting capacity. Their success in practice as well as their continued joy working in the profession is determined by their capacity to connect emotionally with owners and their pets. Unfortunately, many young colleagues become disappointed and stressed, resulting in them leaving our wonderful profession or worse, without ever having practised in an environment where the OHCE is put first and pets and their owners are happy to come back. The veterinary team has to work hard on making the owners feel good when they leave the clinic.

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