Addison’s Disease: Partnering with Clients for the Long Term

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Whether a patient presents with an acute Addisonian crisis or a long, chronic ailment, hypoadrenocorticism can be terrifying for owners and may overwhelm inexperienced team members. This critical time can be challenging; however, excellent communication builds the foundation for a long-term partnership with the client.

Team Responsibility 

Team members, including receptionists, must be knowledgeable about Addison’s disease to help clients identify unstable pets that may not be in clear distress. Awareness and early detection are critical to patient outcome.

Veterinary nurses must confirm clients’ understanding of recommended diagnostics, as laboratory results are critical for managing this disease. Clients may otherwise be reluctant to agree to the cost of testing, placing the patient at greater risk.

Every team member must provide consistent client messaging. Because Addison’s disease is a complex condition, practice managers can simplify this process by encouraging doctors to create a consistent initial protocol. Individual treatment plans sometimes vary because of unique patients, but by encouraging doctors to start from a consistent baseline diagnostic and treatment plan, practice managers can make discussion of this condition simpler for staff.

Every patient should have medical progress examinations booked before leaving the hospital. These include initial and follow-up diagnostics needed while monitoring treatment. In addition, set reminders within the practice management software for the client to receive via text message, email, phone call, or post.

Addressing Client Concerns About Cost

  • Educate clients about the disease vs selling the treatment plan. Compliance comes with education.
  • Understand that a worried client will respond emotionally. Allow the client to digest the information, then answer questions and repeat the message the following day.
    • Have financial options available for these unexpected medical crises.
  • When appropriate team members discuss costs with clients, they should be transparent and have these client discussions sooner rather than later.
  • Develop financial plans broken into phases to help the client better understand each phase.

The Client as a Partner

To help ensure long-term compliance and achieve a better prognosis, be sure the team is aware of these communication goals:

1

Survive the crisis: Clients must understand the crisis is just the first phase of treatment. Educate about the disease and how treatment helps the patient improve and move to the second phase. Discuss costs associated with urgent vs chronic treatment in separate financial plans to give the client an expectation of future costs (subject to change with patient response).

2

Educate the Client: After the patient has responded to treatment, create an educational plan outlining the patient’s future (include monitoring signs at home). Enhance understanding through videos, 3D animations, and diagnostic results comparisons (visually). Provide an accurate, updated financial plan (including a monthly cost prediction) to help their pet remain healthy. Include both diagnostics and medications.

3

Develop expectations: A partnership includes responsibilities on both sides. Outline the practice’s responsibilities, such as reminding clients about forward booked appointments and proactively refilling medications. Remind the client that proactive monitoring and treatment help prevent a potentially expensive crisis in the future.

Take-Home Points for Client Communication

  • Addison’s disease requires life-long treatment.
  • Patients can have a normal, comfortable life when treated and monitored as recommended.
  • Not adhering to recommendations of medication, clinical signs observations, and diagnostics may result in a life-threatening crisis

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