How Vets and Physicians Are Similar

The District Vet

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Similarities Between My Doctor and a Veterinarian
I had some medical issues recently which involved a visit to my primary-care doctor, a radiologist, an oncologist and a surgeon. I was fully on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship as I was the patient. The experience gave me perspective and helped cement my views of what makes for the best possible medical experience. This translates fully to what we at an independent veterinary practice strive to do for every client and patient. 

Let’s begin by me praising my physician’s office and how his care of me translates to what we do in our veterinary hospitals. The practice, with several doctors, is an independent office. When I walk into the office, they are aware of who I am, why I am there, and know my medical history. I do not need to tell them over and over that I am a veterinarian. All of my records are in one spot. They are friendly, confirm my appointment, and review my demographics to be certain there is no change in my address or other pertinent information. The waiting room is clean, modern and has interesting reading materials. The office is also keen on keeping patients aware of wait times or delays. They appreciate my time. 

I have seen the same doctor for 12 years. The staff has remained consistent as well, with little turnover. In the office, the assistant assesses why I am at the appointment and swiftly passes the information to the doctor. The doctor does what a doctor does: gathers a history, performs an examination, discusses findings and formulates a plan.

Throughout the exam, the doctor describes what he is doing, and as important, why. We then discuss any lab samples that he wants to run, their costs and the benefits of such testing. We formulate a plan and he then refers me to specialists to continue care. 

I genuinely feel that my physician’s office values me as a client and as a person. I have no fear walking through their doors, even when I knew that I had a serious medical issue. Why? Because I trusted that they had my best interests in mind. It all centers upon trust.

Your veterinary practice should be much the same as my experience above.

We at District Vet want to give your pet the same treatment as my physician’s office. When you walk in the door, you are not a stranger. We have gathered your pet’s previous medical records and have read them. We know or quickly learn you and your pet’s preferences and medical concerns. You should not be treated as a stranger every time you are seen. 

There are stark differences between District Vet and my physician’s office versus corporate practices. And these can adversely affect quality of care and the patient experience. In smaller, private practices we take a vested interest in each patient, while corporate practice functions via sheer numbers. It is so important to have an established relationship with a primary-care provider. This person/practice has all the patient’s records in one system and is able to track trends and establish a relatable trust with the patient. It makes discussions of cost easier and provides a relationship with which to openly discuss goals and concerns.

Non-corporate practices also have much more freedom in practicing medicine than corporate establishments. In many corporate practices, the clinicians are given set protocols and are encouraged to only prescribe specific brands of medicines or products. In many cases, the clinician is financially punished for breaking these protocols, even if it is in the best interest of the patient. Outside referrals may be discouraged, as they take revenue away from the practice.

We see this in both human and veterinary medicine. With veterinary medicine, back-room negotiations by the home office decide which brand of flea tick/heartworm preventive or antibiotics is to be used. Isn’t this a decision you would rather have your veterinarian, not an accountant, make for your pet? 

Another aspect, touched above, is rapid put-through of patients. Corporate practices want you to sign up for their “plan.” The problem is that the plan is not tailored to your pet and is restrictive in what it includes. There are hidden fees and, worst of all, many practices are rewarded by the number of plans they sell, not by the medicine they produce. It may be great financially for the corporate practice, but it is simply not an ideal care model for your pet.  

Like my physician’s office, we pride ourselves on providing consistent, patient-centered quality of care. Our doctors are not shuffled around the country at a whim, and our staff always says, “You saw Dr. X at your last visit, would you like to see Dr. X again this time?” We know that your cat is a bit anxious when seen. We know that you are allergic to peanut butter. We know your kids’ names. We value you and your pets as individuals. We work hard to establish a deep trust with you. This is what you should seek in a healthcare provider for yourself and your pets.  

And for those concerned: I’m back on my feet and doing well. Thanks for the support. 

 

Dan Teich, DVM, is medical director of the District Veterinary Hospital.