Technology has changed how we practice veterinary medicine. Gone are the days of the paternalistic relationship between vet and client, where the client will simply go along with whatever the vet deems necessary for the pet.
Clients are becoming more knowledgeable and, as vets, we’re often faced with a situation where a client comes in armed with a “Dr Google” diagnosis.
As practitioners, this can be challenging and confronting – maybe because our egos tell us it is an insult to our hard-earned years of training and experience. If this is the case, I think our perspective needs to change.
Working in an emergency clinic, we regularly talk to clients with questions about something they have read on the internet. I confess I used to feel threatened by this. However, I wasn’t comfortable feeling this way, so I decided to change my perspective on the matter.
Here are some ways to turn the old nemesis, Dr Google, into a friend – or, at the very least, call a truce:
- Make it a point to acknowledge your clients for their initiative and interest in their pet’s health. You are not simply paying lip service, here – the reason these clients have searched for information about their pet’s health is because they care.
- These clients are generally dedicated to their pet’s health and welfare; they are the ones who are often committed to doing what needs to be done, as long as they understand why and how – and that’s where you come in. Client education is a big part of our jobs.
- They are pre-armed with knowledge, therefore saving time in the consult room, so you can spend less time describing what the adrenal glands do, for example, and more about why and how they can malfunction.
- If what they have read is inaccurate, take the opportunity to gain rapport by giving them the correct information or directing them to reputable sites, such as VeterinaryPartner.com – this demonstrates to clients you are still the most reliable source for information about their pet’s health.
Due to the ubiquity of information (and misinformation) about veterinary medicine available on the internet, there is an even stronger reason for us, as vets, to keep up with the latest advancements in veterinary medicine.
Always try to remember, ultimately, the reason your clients have come to see you having already done some research on the internet is because they are genuinely concerned about their pet – so try to see this as something positive, rather than negative.
By changing your perspective, you’ll soon find you no longer dread a consult with clients who have brought Dr Google along.
- Tip of the Week author Gerardo Poli is the author of The MiniVet Guide to Companion Animal Medicine.