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Karyn Gavzer’s 5 Top Tips for Talking with Clients about Lab Results & Diagnoses

May 19, 2014

Sharing bad news or even simple laboratory test results can be challenging because pet owners do not have the same medical training and background that veterinarians do.  Here are my 5 Top Tips to help you share results more effectively with clients:

 

1. Use a visual when explaining lab work and highlight irregular findings, e.g., “These are the kidney values (circle or check the ones you are talking about) and they are higher/lower than we like to see.”  Tell them the normal range – which clients always want to know — and tell them what their pet’s abnormal values mean and what the next steps are.

 

2. When giving clients a diagnosis, always be empathetic e.g., “This might come as a shock/be a little scary to hear …” then assess the client’s emotional state once they’ve heard the diagnosis. There may be emotional issues (such as guilt that they should have somehow known) that will need to be addressed before the client can hear the treatment recommendation and agree to the plan.

 

3. Once the diagnosis is given, ALWAYS ask the client what they know about it before you start explaining what the need to know. This is important because if the client already knows what you want to tell them, you’ve got something to work with; if they have misinformation, you will find out and can address it.

 

4. If money is the only barrier to care, offer a plan to help, such as 3rd party financing; but before you assume it is a money issue, check to see if something else is concerning them e.g., they believe that their pet will suffer or die.

 

5. Make sure the plan is customized and will work for the client. For instance, how can a busy mom with kids at home keep her dog quiet to recuperate? How can the owner in a multi-pet household ensure that just that one pet eats the prescription diet and nothing else?

 

I hope these tips will help you see your world from the client’s perspective and have better conversations when you are sharing laboratory results or a diagnosis with them!

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