You probably see patients with skin issues daily in your clinic, and you likely successfully treat most with tried and true medications and strategies. But, are you also successfully managing patients with difficult-to-control allergies, recurrent ear infections, or suspected autoimmune disease? These patients would most likely benefit from early dermatology referral and collaborative care, rather than repeated, unsuccessful treatment attempts.

The American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) and the Collaborative Care Coalition have conducted multiple surveys and studies looking into the benefits of collaborative care, and have found that earlier referral often improves patient outcomes and client confidence, not only in the specialist, but also the general practitioner. The VESPECON team shares the top benefits of early dermatology referral.

#1: Better patient outcomes

We all want our patients to get better, and many of us feel that we’ve failed if we can’t resolve a pet’s condition. Knowing when to reach out for help and offer clients a specialist consultation or referral is key to improving patient outcomes. One study that looked at chronic otitis in dogs proves this point—researchers found that dogs co-managed by a primary care veterinarian and dermatologist fared better than those managed under primary care alone. 

Key study points included:

  • Patients treated by their primary veterinarian alone had more otitis recurrences and longer episodes than those treated under collaborative care.
  • The study found that 18% of clients found a new primary veterinarian, because they were not offered referral sooner
  • The authors recommend referral for dogs with otitis that recurs in 30 days or multiple times in six months.

#2: Boost client satisfaction

An ACVD survey revealed that clients had more confidence in their primary veterinarian when referral was offered for their pet’s skin issue. Clients who wait too long for a referral can reach a frustration tipping point, and around 15% will leave the practice for a second opinion. Other key survey findings included:

  • 80% of clients are satisfied with their pet’s outcome under a veterinary dermatologist’s care
  • 87% trusted their dermatologist’s diagnosis
  • 58% felt more satisfied and confident with their primary veterinarian after referral
  • 82% would have trusted their primary veterinarian more if they had  referred sooner
  • 39% knew prior to referral that veterinary dermatologists existed

Clients want the best possible care for their pet, and they want options. Referral builds confidence in clients and your practice, because clients see their pet improve, and happy clients will stay with your practice longer and bring you word-of-mouth referrals.

#3: Save clients money

The client frustration tipping point occurs after three visits if their pet’s condition is not resolved, or when the cost reaches around $900 of their hard-earned money. Not only will clients who are offered a referral prior to their third visit feel better about you and your practice, but they will appreciate the money you will save them in the long run. And, you will still bring revenue into your own practice.

The ACVD survey showed that referring sooner could save clients 25% in overall care costs, because their pet’s condition was resolved in fewer visits and controlled for longer. If clients express financial concerns while discussing referral, sharing this statistic will help them understand the benefit. And, although you may feel that your practice is losing business, your client will continue to come back, and some pets will live longer with better-managed care.

VESPECON can facilitate dermatology referral

If you struggle to maintain close relationships with your local dermatologists, or none are nearby, VESPECON can help. We offer virtual telemedicine consulting services with a board-certified specialist team, including dermatologists. Our services allow you to offer clients a higher care level, collaborate with a specialist, and improve patient outcomes, while managing your cases in-house. Also, the more often you consult with us, the more skills and knowledge you’ll gain from our experts.

If your patient needs an in-person referral for procedures such as video otoscopy, a deep ear flush, or a skin allergy test, we can coordinate referral to the closest or best-matched specialist in your area. Contact us to learn more about VESPECON and how we can make your life easier, or visit our website to get started. Stay tuned for another blog post later this month spotlighting one of our consulting dermatologists, Dr. Joya Griffin!