Objective: To examine veterinarian solicitation of client concerns in companion animal practice.
Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study. SAMPLE-20 veterinarians in companion animal practice in Eastern Ontario and 334 clients and their pets.
Procedures: Beginning segments of 334 appointments were coded for a veterinarian solicitation (open- or closed-ended question) used to elicit client concerns. Appointments including a solicitation were analyzed for completion of the client's response and its length. The association between veterinarian solicitations at the beginning and concerns arising at the closure of the interview was examined.
Results: 123 (37%) of the coded appointments contained a veterinarian solicitation, of which 93 (76%) were open-ended and 30 (24%) were closed-ended solicitations. Client responses to a solicitation were interrupted in 68 of 123 (55%) appointments. Main reasons for incomplete client responses were veterinarian interruptions in the form of closed-ended questioning (39/68) and noninterrogative statements (18/68). Median length of time clients spoke before interruption was 11 seconds (range, 1 to 139 seconds; mean, 15.3 seconds; SD, 12.1 seconds). The odds of a new concern arising during the closing segment of an appointment were 4 times as great when the appointment did not contain a veterinarian solicitation at the beginning of the interview.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Not soliciting client concerns at the beginning of an interview increased the odds of a concern arising during the final moments of the interaction. This required the veterinarian to choose among extending the appointment to address the concern, ignoring the concern at a possible cost to client satisfaction, or deferring the concern to another visit.