Compliance, whether starting a new workout routine or giving Tapazole to your cat twice a day, is all about reducing friction to create a path of least resistance. Most people will find excuses to fail so removing as many barriers as possible will increase your chances of compliance. Since our patients can’t talk or make their own choices, driving compliance in veterinary medicine is all about educating and enabling the pet owner to make good choices. So, let’s take a look at how to raise our game with by adding a new twist to our traditional methods.
1. Communicate with Storytelling
Verbal communication at time of visit is a critical part of the game plan. But the reality is that people only retain about 20% of a conversation and even lower in stressful situations. So, the moment you need them to hear the most, they hear the least. Consider this new approach: educate with storytelling. Research shows that messages delivered with a story are 22 times more memorable than just delivering facts.1 Instead of telling your client how efficacious the parasite prevention is and how the organism is killed, try telling a story about one of your clients that had firsthand experience with their pet and the disease. People can relate and remember a story much easier than basic facts.
“I definitely want you to get Fido on heartworm prevention. I recently had to treat this cute little Dachshund named Elvis that moved here from Texas after the hurricane and got adopted from our shelter and had heartworms. And since heart worms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and they can fly 7 miles, it is important that you give the medication every single month, so Fido won’t try to pull an Elvis on us.”
2. Get on the Smartphone
Assume that no one remembers anything after you walk out of the exam room. Your job is to arm your client with enough information that they can confidently explain the plan to their family and since 80% of our clients have a smartphone, digital strategies can be very helpful. A new way to share information to reach clients effectively is by having a mobile app for your practice so that you can send a push notification summary of the visit or bullet point action items to the client’s smartphone. Members in the household can all share the same account in a practice app so everyone will have the information you sent over instead of getting lost in the classic game of “telephone.”
3. Embrace Technology for Reminding
People are over scheduled and drowning in responsibilities, so it is important that we find ways to give our clients tools to remember to give their medication, bring their pet back in for a follow-up test, or recheck exam.
Email reminders have lost their effectiveness for several reasons. Email is a saturated platform that has been overused to where many clients have either abandoned their emails in hopes to get away from spam or don’t read the majority of the ones in their inbox. The average person gets 29 emails per day and you are very likely lost in the crowd.
One of my favorite things to do in the exam room is to ask the client if they have a smartphone. Then I just tell Siri all of the directions that I want my client to remember and she will put the reminders in the client’s calendar for me. I like to think of Siri as my personal pet assistant for my clients.
Another huge advantage is to have a mobile app built for your practice that connects to your practice management software so when the pet is due for an upcoming visit or lab work, the app will trigger a push notification to wake up the device and show the client. This is particularly strong messaging because it is coming from practice branded with your logo and hospital name.
Push notifications have a view rate of 70–90% (compared to email at 24.7%) which helps assure that clients will not only receive but will also notice your message.
4. Set the Client Up for Success
One of the main ways to reduce friction is to make sure the client has all the resources they need to get the job done. If this means giving medication, be sure to offer the pill pockets. If the job is to collect a stool sample, be sure to give the collection container ahead of time. Just look at this study by VetSuccess and Elanco,2 compliance skyrocketed when the fecal container was mailed to the client ahead of time.
Any new program is going to require some shift in behavior until it becomes a habit. Habits form faster when there is a direct payoff or consequence for the action. For example, if a client misses giving their arthritic dog a dose of Rimadyl and then the dog can barely get up the next day, the habit of compliance will most likely form faster. Alternatively, if the chore is to give heartworm medication each month, to prevent something you can’t see, touch or hear, the habit is harder to develop making the requirement for education even bigger. Consider compliance a multimodal plan of attack and don’t be afraid to try new strategies and think outside of the box. When your clients succeed, everyone wins but especially your patient!