Communicating with Patients Who Research Online

Communicating with Patients Who Research Online

Dec 20th 2018

A formal, professional diagnosis is the first step in resolving major pet health issues, but all too often clients will turn to the Internet to try and figure out what’s going on before they visit their vet. While it is a problem, it’s possible to turn this into a positive experience for everyone involved. Here are some ways you can take control of your patients’ health while building stronger relationships with their owners. 

Why Clients Self-Diagnose

There are some good reasons why clients will search the internet before they talk to a veterinarian:

  • They don’t realize the seriousness of the problem. Indicators of a major health issue may seem minor, leading the client to believe they can resolve it themselves.
  • They don’t want to spend money.
  • They have other priorities. Taking off from work when you’re sick can be hard, and it’s even harder to justify when it’s a pet.
  • They don’t want to admit a problem. Sometimes, clients can see illness as a sign that they’re failing to take proper care of their pet.

It’s easy to get frustrated with clients who come up with bizarre reasons their pets are having health issues, but it pays to remember that their intentions are good.

Adapting Your Marketing to Voice Searches

More and more, people are using smartphones and smart devices to search the web, asking Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant for help with their pets. Instead of typing in a phrase like “vet office cats,” the user says, “Are there any vet clinics near me that specialize in cat care?” Making sure your site shows up in these searches requires a different approach when marketing your clinic online.

When marketing your clinic online, think of questions pet owners in your area are likely to ask. For example, “Is it safe for my dog to swim in (local body of water?)” or “Are there vaccination requirements for boarding my pet in (location?)”

Talking to Self-Diagnosing Clients

You may have to deal with clients who think they know the answer to their pet’s problems, no matter how ridiculous, but you must remember that at the end of the day, they’re still worried about their pet. Simply writing off their attempt at a diagnosis is likely to sour the client/physician relationship. Instead, look at it as a partnership where you guide them toward the correct path of care.

Acknowledge their efforts in trying to find out why their pet is sick. Making light of their diagnosis, no matter how ridiculous, will make it seem like you aren’t listening to them or don’t care about their pet. Phrase your response to sound something like this:

“It makes sense that you would think that your pet has (client diagnosis) because some of the symptoms are similar, but in this case the cause is really (actual diagnosis.)”

If they insist on a specific medication for their pet:

“I could prescribe this for your pet, but it won’t address their health problem and could actually be harmful. Let’s focus on my recommended treatment for a couple weeks and see how it goes.”

Point Clients to Useful Resources

The easiest way to head off issues with internet-based diagnoses is to give your clients useful resources:

  • Make a quick reference sheet to go with your new patient packet. Be sure to address common signs of serious health problems so they’ll be more inclined to contact your clinic.
  • If there’s a major medical issue in your area, mail your clients a personalized card with the important information.
  • Don’t forget that your own website can be a useful tool for disseminating information. You can mail out basic information that can lead to more in-depth discussions online.
  • Point owners to official sources about disease breakouts like heartworm and algae.

Remember that any time you’re sending out cards or bills, you have an opportunity to suggest reputable sources of information and encourage office visits.

We Can Help You Keep Your Clients on Track

Positive Impressions LLC specializes in customizable veterinary products that help your clinic stand out and keep you connected to your clients. From reminder cards to memorial products, we have what you need to be part of your patients’ lives. Make sure to visit our website for the latest specials.

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