Finding the right veterinary hospital in your area with a health care team that's right for you is an important task. It's best not to wait until an emergency strikes, but to search out a clinic while your pet is healthy and you have the time to fully investigate the practice and ask all the questions you need answered to make your most informed and comfortable choice.
To identify potential veterinary clinics:
- Ask family, friends and neighbours to refer you to a clinic where they have had a good experience with quality client service and patient care.
- Make an appointment to visit the most promising practice and meet the veterinarians and staff. Ask ahead of time if you can tour the facility and come with your list of questions.
- If you are not entirely comfortable with the experience, make appointments to view a second and third clinic in the same manner. This gives you a frame of reference with which to compare your first choice clinic.
- Recognize that your needs as a client may be different from others. The clinic that is a perfect fit for one may not be for another.
Some questions to consider when evaluating a potential practice:
- Do you sense a caring, empathetic, professional environment and a kind attitude towards patients?
- Do you feel rushed, or is plenty of time spent addressing your concerns?
- Are things explained in language you can understand?
- Are the facilities clean and modern? Does the practice invest in quality equipment?
- How does the practice handle after hours emergencies?
- What non-routine services do they offer (e.g. orthopedic surgery, acupuncture, chemotherapy, etc.)?
- Are handouts, discharges or educational brochures available?
- Are appointment times adhered to or are wait times long? (Emergencies DO sometimes occur and client patience is needed on those days!)
- Does clinic policy synchronize well with issues of importance to you (house call availability, hours of operation, vaccination and heartworm protocols, etc.)?
- Is the location reasonably convenient for you?
- What are the payment policies of the practice? Are detailed quotes and invoices provided?
One of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing a veterinarian is to select based on price. A client will often phone a number of practices, ask them to quote on a procedure or service and select the practice offering the cheapest quote. Note that price does not equal quality or value. It is hard to compare prices between practices because different services are bundled within package quotes and different depths of service are offered between practices.
It is important to remember that practices are businesses and overhead, staff wages, inventory and equipment costs are considerable. In addition, some practices invest considerably more than others in high quality contemporary equipment (digital x-ray, laser therapy, advanced anesthesia monitoring systems and others) that improve their ability to diagnose, treat and protect the patients in their care. Charging reasonable fees also helps a practice to thrive and provide optimal patient care by being able to hire the best staff and support their continuing education. All these factors result in their being able to provide you, the client, with the best service possible. In veterinary medicine, as in many other industries, you truly do “get what you pay for”!