This blog is written by SynergyVets
When vets require the services of a specialist for providing ongoing treatment or therapy to one of their patients, such as a veterinary physiotherapist, it is mutually beneficial for both parties if they already have a strong working relationship with a practice that they trust.
This allows the best possible level of care to be provided to the patient and also means that specialists such as rehabilitation therapists and physiotherapists can establish successful businesses.
Below, we outline some of the things that both veterinary practices and vet rehabilitation specialists need to bear in mind when forming meaningful relationships with one another.
Find a professional you trust
For both the veterinarian and the specialist, it is important to make referral arrangements with someone they can trust. It may take time to build that relationship, so both parties will want to do their research and make sure they are happy to establish a working partnership with the other.
Establish a seamless referral process
The referral process needs to run smoothly in order to be effective. Therefore, both parties should set up a system that allows them to put the referral through in an official capacity.
Before the referral takes place, the veterinarian needs to get confirmation from the client that they are happy for the animal to be referred and for their personal data to be passed on. The veterinary surgeon then needs to consider all relevant factors, such as the location of the service, the urgency of treatment and the circumstances of the owner, including the availability and limitations of insurance.
Veterinary surgeons should be prepared to justify their referral decisions and should record the reasons for their decisions in their initial documentation, along with providing full notes on the case. There will likely be further documentation that needs to be filled in, so the vet needs to have this readily available.
It is important to establish the best referral system for both the vet physio and the vet that adheres to the local law requirements, as some countries, such as the UK, have very strict referral laws. Importantly, both the referring veterinary surgeon and the referral veterinary surgeon have a responsibility to ensure that the client has an understanding of the likely cost arising from the referral.
When it comes to offering incentives for referrals, both parties must be careful as the primary responsibility needs to be animal health and welfare. Incentives should not be considered if the veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse would not otherwise enter into that arrangement.
Once you have established the ongoing relationship, it will be a two-way street to keep it strong. The vet practice needs to know that they can rely on the specialist to respond promptly and let them know that they can take the patient into their care.
Equally, the specialist wants to feel valued by the vet by regularly introducing them to patients that they feel will benefit from their specialist training.
Create an open dialogue
Both veterinary surgeons and veterinary rehabilitation therapists lead very busy lives, so another important step will be to work on methods of communication.
Learn about how the other party wants to be contacted and the best hours to reach them, and put a process in place for when they are not available, such as leaving a voicemail with details and a request to respond via email if more convenient.
What you don’t want is a situation where one party is constantly phoning the other but there is no follow-up involved!
Hand over up-to-date and informative medical records
It can be frustrating for specialists to be referred a patient but not be given the full details of their medical record, or to receive it in a format that is confusing.
When vets refer their patients for specialist care, they need to ensure that they provide all of the important information so that the animal can get the best possible treatment. A medical case summary is important here, as it gives the specialist the information they need to proceed.
It is therefore important for specialists such as physiotherapists to make clear what they require from the vet in terms of medical records when taking on the case. Once a relationship is established, this should become clear anyway!
On a similar note, once a veterinarian has referred their patient to the care of a physiotherapist or rehabilitation therapist, that should not be the end of the matter. They will want to receive progress reports on the animal and how they are responding to the treatment, as this will have an impact on the picture of their overall health, which the vet is still responsible for.
Manage client expectations
A final but important note is that managing client expectations should be a priority for both parties. If a vet is going to recommend referring their client to a specialist, they need to make clear what this will involve, including any costs and alternative treatments.
Therefore, the specialist will need to provide a clear brief to the vet in advance of taking on the case to ensure that the client is happy and no difficulties arise.
These are just some of the factors to consider when establishing meaningful referral relationships in the veterinary world. Overall, having these mutually beneficial relationships in place can only have a positive impact on both parties, as well as on the health of the patients!
SynergyVets is a dedicated veterinary recruitment agency, with almost 30 years of collective experience supporting the profession with locum and permanent personnel.