Something I have noticed in the past few years (and mentioned in my last post) is that people are leaving sick animals longer before bringing them to the vet. I wonder if other colleagues have noticed a change too?
In the early noughties the norm in canine and feline practice used to be a day or two of illness before a client would come in to get their pet checked over. The trick then was telling what needed intervention and what just needed support while it resolved itself.
Nowadays, having an animal sick for three days seems to be the norm – and frequently, for example, dogs vomiting for five or more days are presenting (well at least it’s easier to tell what needs your help and what doesn’t).
However, I don’t think costs and budgets are the only reasons behind this.
As is obvious to everyone in this job, we’ve been replaced by Doctor Google and the mighty World Wide Web in the first few days of illness. Some people even think they can diagnose their animal’s ailment and come in to demand a particular drug.
What is perhaps worse is that this information is easy to access and free. It may mostly be irrelevant, wrong, or just pseudoscientific woo written by self-professed experts with a theory, but you need to be a vet to tell what is what.
What adds psychological weight to what they read is that it’s all written down, and for some reason people seem to put more trust in written words than spoken. Another odd quirk I can’t explain is that some people believe free advice over that which is paid for, which is a strange thing!
When the web was a fraction of its current size it was possible to be fairly familiar with the more popular sites and forums and be able to direct clients to those if they wanted to read around things mentioned in the consult room. That’s not possible now, and there is an awful lot of complete rubbish out there.
What I think many practices need to do is stop their focus on “look at our facilities” on their websites and try to answer common questions, like “what causes vomiting?” and write short but accurate information, and advice on dealing with it, even giving some tips like how to assess hydration and so on.
In-house written articles on common and less common conditions would be a good idea too; like how to get rid of fleas, what you as a vet consulting need to do to diagnose a coughing dog, and what’s involved in each step.
There are sources of ready-written articles available under common licence to republish, but you should tailor them to your audience yourself.
I think as a profession we’re getting swamped by the cacophony of the internet. We should be out there telling owners what they need to know and focusing our business on what they can’t get for free off the net.
Used wisely your website can attract people to your practice as an authority on their pet’s health and welfare, and supplement what you tell them in the consult allowing them to read more at their leisure.
Try to get owners back “on side” and using your website to look things up. They can either get the information from you, or from Joe Bloggs with a website and a faddy belief.
Otherwise Dr Google will answer their questions, and he’s got some weird ideas!