A focus group study of veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of veterinarian-client communication in companion animal practice

Jason B Coe, Cindy L Adams, Brenda N Bonnett
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2008 October 1, 233 (7): 1072-80

OBJECTIVE: To compare veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of client expectations with respect to veterinarian-client communication and to identify related barriers and challenges to communication.

DESIGN: Qualitative study based on focus group interviews.

PARTICIPANTS: 6 pet owner focus groups (32 owners) and 4 veterinarian focus groups (24 companion animal veterinarians).

PROCEDURES: Independent focus group sessions were conducted with standardized open-ended questions and follow-up probes. Content analysis was performed on transcripts of the focus group discussions.

RESULTS: Five themes related to veterinarian-client communication were identified: educating clients (ie, explaining important information, providing information up front, and providing information in various forms), providing choices (ie, providing pet owners with a range of options, being respectful of owners' decisions, and working in partnership with owners), using 2-way communication (ie, using language clients understand, listening to what clients have to say, and asking the right questions), breakdowns in communication that affected the client's experience (ie, owners feeling misinformed, that they had not been given all options, and that their concerns had not been heard), and challenges veterinarians encountered when communicating with clients (ie, monetary concerns, client misinformation, involvement of > 1 client, and time limitations).

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggested that several factors are involved in providing effective veterinarian-client communication and that breakdowns in communication can have an adverse effect on the veterinarian-client relationship.


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