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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Finding good care
  This is Part 2 of the top things I've learned in more than 40 years of practice.
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   In September, I started a short list of some key lessons that, in my opinion, I think you should know and perhaps consider in relation to pet care. These lessons come from four decades of veterinary practice and teaching.
   The key points: get health insurance for your pets, avoid the cost cutter veterinary clinics, avoid strange vets and odd treatments, and avoid corporate-owned places that are stuck in the back of a giant pet store. I also said you should find good care and often get a second opinion. This last one is important, and it deserves more discussion about how to choose your veterinary hospital and team.
   Since Iíve focused my practice on end-of-life care, I see the long-term history and the results of the treatment decisions of most of the veterinarians in our area. Iíve been surprised and sometimes alarmed at what I find. All too often, the level of medicine delivered just does not stand up to good standards of care; and sometimes it fails miserably. I donít know why this is true but other veterinarians have noticed it also. I understand how hard it is for people to make quality judgments about a professional. We automatically trust someone who has a doctorís degree and has ďhung out a shingle.Ē From my experience, this doesnít determine the quality of decision making and treatment one will receive.
   When I choose a physician, I first go to the clinicís website and look at the doctorís resume and history. I donít want my doctor to be too young or ready to retire. I also want to see that the whole team is competent and happy. It is interesting how you can tell these things by simply reading their website and the reviews other people have written.
   Typically, reviews are either great or one-star slams from people who need to vent. Review all of them. If they have a legitimate complaint and there are many of these complaints, Iíll shy away. But if I see more than 100 happy five-star reviews, Iíll go a step further. I find Google and Yelp reviews important as well.
   Then, Iíll make an informational call and see how Iím treated on the phone. If the receptionist has the personality of a brick wall or is too rushed to talk with me, Iíll shy away. Iíll tell you that 98 percent of doctors or managers have never called into their clinic to listen or work through their annoying phone-tree options, but they should. Life is too short to deal with grumpy people. Friendly and compassionate people are a sign of how the overall clinic is run.
   Next, you want a nice, clean professional facility where it looks like they have invested time and money to establish a place that will be there for decades. Iím not a fan of the shopping center type clinics, as they can just fold up one day and be gone. You want to see that the doctors and managers have taken the time to stay up-to-date with both smart and friendly personnel and the latest equipment. Today, a veterinary clinic needs to have digital X-ray, dental X-ray, in-house laboratory equipment, an ultrasound machine and a spotless facility with an appropriate surgery suite.
   Next, make sure that both the staff and the doctors will give you the most valuable thing they can ó time. They should be unhurried during the time of your visit. Clinics vary from 15-to-30-minute appointments. It is surprising how fast that time goes, so to get the most from a visit, be concise and write down things you want to say ó and mostly listen.
   What about the cost?
   A nice facility with a communicative and competent technical and professional staff is a plus. Yes, you will likely pay more. However, Iíve seen so many cases where tests had to be repeated, treatments were not right, time was lost and suffering happened because the clinic did not diagnose the problems correctly or the wrong treatment was given from the beginning. Iíve even had pet lovers call me for an in-home euthanasia because they received substandard care and their pet is about to die Ė- that is sad. So the cost of good care is much less because diagnosis and treatment were correct the first time. Good care can even be lifesaving!
   No one in veterinary medicine is gouging clients, but they certainly can be cutting costs and causing damage. Iíd rather pay for excellent care once than pay and pay again because things are not done right the first time. I should mention this again, please get your pets insured. A small monthly fee seems insignificant when a $3,000 surgery is paid for by the insurance company.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian in Colorado Springs and also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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