What can this election cycle teach us about today’s veterinary care?

Well, let’s consider it.

First of all, people can get angry, very quickly when things don’t go as they’ve planned. With social networking, collecting angry people is as easy as: 1, 2, 3. In the same vein, one pissed off client can spam a veterinarian’s reputation easily, tarnishing years of goodwill. Selecting clients, like medical professionals (politicians?), can be just as important as hiring staff.

What makes client’s angry? Oftentimes in veterinary medicine it’s being quoted one price and them finding out it’s actually something different. I’ve seen this regardless of price. Clients amazingly will get just as angry over an invalidated $2 coupon for flea prevention as they would for a surprise root canal performed by a board-certified veterinary dentist with 20 years of experience. How do we squelch this unnecessary angst?

Well, with politics we need to come to grips with the reality that running for office is different from governing where compromise is the rule. In veterinary medicine, we plan for the unexpected by purchasing health insurance, because a simple ‘walk in the park’ can become a hospital visit, and maybe an overnight stay!

Regardless of what we put on bumper stickers, we abhor change. We only change when we find something more convenient, cost is never the over-riding factor. People, especially Americans, will pay for convenience. Pizza delivery, anyone?

Pizza delivery - the ultimate impulse buy!

In response to change, veterinarians are going to have to become more nimble. Having weekend hours on Saturday only from 10 – 2 pm is great for the practitioner who wants (needs?) a life, but it’s inconvenient for the pet parent worried about his dog with bloody diarrhea. All practitioners need to have an on-call colleague or a house-call veterinarian who will respond to impromptu ’emergencies.’ Think about it, regardless of the inferior quality of today’s pizza, how many made-to-order, sit down only pizza places have you seen lately?

Everyone hates negative ads, but, polls report: they work! In every major city, there is at least one veterinary hospital that everyone loves to rail against, however, everyone knows it’s there and most rest comfortably knowing it’s there.

People don’t like to read, they want someone to tell them what to think and how to respond. No matter who you are, there is only a finite amount of time in the day. Isn’t it easier to listen to the person who looks and thinks like you?

We like our veterinary hospitals: right around the corner, down the street, and in the neighborhood. We like practitioners that live near us, have children that go to similar schools, and attend our places of worship. These individuals, we believe, have similar values, and that makes us feel good. Isn’t this how we select our politicians?

Having all that in place, like a like-minded politician, infers a certain quality of care? Right?

No. So, it’s important for you to have an open mind and take some responsibility for you and your pet’s well being. Plus, it’s good, at times, to listen to more than one opinion: let’s see what the other side has to say!

Ol’ Doc Grady might be a wonderful man, with great bedside manner, and a pillar of the community. However, just because he’s seen a thousand and one fatty tumors in his day doesn’t mean the lump on your Labrador’s side is a simple lipoma. Always insist on a biopsy, or better yet, excise the mass, with wide margins, and submit it to histopathology for analysis. Way too many dogs have had Mast Cell Tumors, hemangiopericytomas and other cancerous lesions misdiagnosed as ‘fatty’ tumors or lipomas because someone, you trust, simply decided that that’s what they always look or ‘feel’ like.

When faced with too many choices, we look for answers in institutions or documents that reflect our sensibilities. Even though the Constitution was written by individuals who lived when America only had 3.7 million citizens (compared to 308 million today), we’ve imbued these men with a foresight disproportionate to their skill set.

Many people when faced with too many choices turn to ‘talking heads,’ pundits, or ‘the Internet.’ Even though, much of the information there is dubious, out-dated or skeptical at best.

I can go on and on. So, let’s stop here. What does this ultimately have to do with veterinary care?

Be your own medical advocate. Most of us spend more time researching the latest flat screen television than our health, our nutrition, or our medical advice, let alone monitoring our pet’s needs.

Research your pet’s medical concerns, in advance. Find out the prevailing cost for a torn ACL or displaced knee repair, in advance of the consultation or treatment, so your anger isn’t misplaced towards the practitioner. Your pet’s insurance company is a good place to start.

Share with your practitioner your concerns regarding their hours, and understanding that they need ‘down’ time just as much as you do, ask what measures do they have in place for ‘medical’ emergencies. Who should you call? Where should you go? Who should you ask for? Should you mention your practitioner’s name? Will that make a difference?

Just like politicians can’t just cater to your whims, regardless of your expectations and their promises, a good politician is aware they have to balance your needs with the thousands of individuals with different interests and expectations, which sadly might be in total opposition to yours.

Recognize your veterinarian, is human, wants to do well, and wants to stay employed and in business; just like our politicians. Do your part to help them do there’s. And save your anger for . . . the Orioles!

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