Despite the availability of veterinary specialty services, many general practitioners are still hesitant to refer cases, often because they feel they will have failed as a veterinarian if they cannot solve their patient’s problem, fear losing practice or production revenue, or assume clients cannot or do not want to hear about more expensive options. 

In fact, these barriers to referral can prevent you from achieving your true potential, and your patients from the best outcomes. At VESPECON, we believe that collaboration is key to successful patient management, and we are working to tear down the barriers to collaborative care. Here are a few reasons why referral can be a powerful tool, and why asking for a specialist’s help when you don’t know all the answers is OK.

You are not James Herriot

In years past, veterinarians were expected to attend to all creatures great and small, but this idyllic James Herriot model is no longer realistic, and our veterinary age is increasingly specialized and compartmentalized. Let’s be real—this model was never sustainable. One person, all animals, all needs? The jaw-dropping advances in veterinary medicine, such as hemodialysis, cataract surgery, and cardiac catheterization procedures, have made specialization necessary, and primary veterinarians can no longer handle every case that walks through the doors. 

This doesn’t mean that primary veterinarians are obsolete—in fact, the opposite is true. The primary veterinarian, who serves as client and pet advocate, coordinates necessary care, decides when referral is the best option, and develops close, personal veterinary-client-patient relationships (VCPRs), is more important than ever. You are the one your clients trust, and the one they turn to for advice in navigating the complex world of veterinary care for their beloved pet.

The truth about veterinary referrals

As your clients’ trusted resource for all things pet, you have an obligation to offer a spectrum of care options, and help them decide what best suits their family’s needs. If you are dealing with a chronic, recurrent, or complex condition that you feel would fare better with referral, you are also obligated to offer this option. Still, many veterinarians are hesitant to refer, for conscious and unconscious reasons. 

Here is the truth about common perceived referral barriers, and why you shouldn’t hesitate to seek a specialist’s advice:

  • Client cost concerns — While initial specialist fees can sometimes shock the client, they will often still choose this option because they want the best for their pet. Studies show that veterinarians often believe finances are the largest referral barrier, but client surveys show that cost is lower on the list—most clients defer or decline referral because they don’t feel it’s needed. This highlights an education gap, because studies show that specialists can resolve an issue in fewer visits and save the client money.
  • Potential financial losses — If you’re worried that the practice may lose revenue if you refer a case, you might be surprised to learn that pets co-managed by a specialist and their primary veterinarian fare better and live longer—resulting in more revenue over the pet’s lifespan. Specialists also limit their care scope, sending patients back to you for ongoing follow-up whenever possible. When you refer, clients trust you and are more loyal.
  • Personal failure — You should not see choosing to refer or consulting with a specialist as a failure—rather, this step shows you have the patient’s best interest in mind, and that you recognize you need help. Referral is a step toward personal growth and continued learning, because you will learn from each case and acquire new skills for future pets.

How VESPECON puts specialists at your fingertips

When you have a situation that you can handle in-house, but have questions or concerns that a specialist could address, telemedicine is a great option. This “intermediate” step can also help clients who cannot afford a referral, cannot travel, or simply want first to exhaust all other options. Plus, each consultation will make you a better veterinarian.

VESPECON is a telemedicine platform that will connect you, via video chat, to the expert advice you need. Our board-certified specialists will guide you through case management from start to finish, and we can help you coordinate any necessary in-person referrals. We are here for you, at your fingertips, whenever you need help, and we can elevate the care you provide your patients.

Now more than ever, clients are demanding higher-level pet care. As a general practitioner, you are no longer expected to know everything about everything, and trying to achieve this impossible task does not serve you or your patients well. If you’re ready to learn from VESPECON’s experts and elevate your patient care, contact us or sign up on our website.