study on communication between veterinarians and animal owners

Fokus Tiergesundheit – Study of veterinarian-client-communication

Besides professional expertise good communication between client and veterinarian is one of the most important factors for building up a confident and firm veterinarian-client-relationship.

To avoid the loss of important information that is necessary in order to ensure the success of therapy, smooth exchange of information between both veterinarian and client has to be ensured.

In a range of human medicine research studies it could be shown that a good physician-patient-relationship results in higher patient satisfaction, a better understanding of disease and therapy, higher treatment adherence, reduction of malpractice complaints and better health outcomes. It seems that those results can be transferred to veterinary medicine.

Over the past decades the idea of “shared decision-making” (SDM) as a relationship-centered model of the physician-patient-relationship has rapidly been gaining significance in human medicine. SDM is based on the following principles (Charles et al. 1990):

  • Shared decision-making involves at least two participants – the physician and patient
  • Both parties take steps to participate in the process of treatment decision-making
  • Information sharing is a prerequisite to shared decision-making
  • A treatment decision is made and both parties agree to the decision

“Fokus Tiergesundheit” investigates whether and to what extent the idea of shared decision-making applies in veterinary practice and how the communication during a visit is perceived by both parties the clients and the veterinarians. A survey of German clients will be conducted from 15th of August to 30th of October 2016 to clarify i.a. the following issues:

  • How do the veterinarians gather information referring to the pet’s medical history?
  • How extensively are the clients informed about advantages, disadvantages and risks of different diagnostics and therapies by the veterinarians?
  • Do the veterinarians foster the principles of shared decision-making during the consultations?
  • Are the clients confident with the taken decisions?
  • Do the clients feel well-informed about their pet´s health issues?

In a subsequent survey of German veterinarians the project investigates whether there are discrepancies between the clients´ and the veterinarians´ perception of their communication.