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Focus on Referral Issues

This article in the recent issue of Trends Magazine, highlights many of the issues that prompted me to found Veterinary Answers. AAHA held forums to promote better relationships between general practitioners and specialists. The forums were held in Denver, CO; Orange County & Fremont, CA; Houston, TX; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; and Washington, DC and were attended by 121 specialists & 74 general practitioners. Unfortunately, specialists were overrepresented. But I think the results are pertinent.

Please add your perspective on these issues, too.

The Referring Veterinarian’s Perspective

  • They would like “mutual respect and a non-judgmental attitude” in communications with specialists.
  • They prefer that their calls be returned during business hours.
  • They would like to have a specialist give due to consideration to consultations and advice on cases that cannot be referred.

The Specialist’s Perspective

  • Because of busy schedules, they return most calls after hours.
  • Most specialists return consult calls last.
  • Specialists are hesitant to discuss advice when a case is not going to be referred.
  • They are also hesitant to give advice on cases they have not seen for a long time.

I have been on both sides here. It is so frustrating to have a difficult case that cannot be referred, yet you and owner desperately want to help the animal. I have also been the busy specialist who didn’t see her less urgent messages until she could finally sit down at her desk at 8:30 in the evening, long after most veterinarians (hopefully) have gone home. I can’t tell you how many consults I gave on the fly to a vet who needed help. I gave the best advice I could while juggling several issues at once (an occasionally with an ultrasound probe in my hand). It wasn’t fair to anyone. My advice wasn’t as well reasoned as it should have been, I probably sounded stressed, and the veterinarian at the other end of the phone did not receive any documentation of our conversation. While doing referral work, most of my time was spent talking with owners and RDVMs about hospitalized cases, doing ultrasound, and SOAPing patients. Everything else developed a low priority so that my patients could receive the best care. Something had to give, and unfortunately, it was often the referring veterinarians who paid the price.

Veterinary Answers gives calling veterinarians their undivided attention. Every call is followed with a written report that is faxed or emailed to the veterinarian to document the conversation. We work together with veterinarians to advance the level of care they give all of their patients. We understand the limitations veterinarians face, from owner financial constraints to limited resources. Together, we will work with you to help your patients despite these obstacles.

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