Veterinary Informed Consent | VetCheck

Steps to achieving informed consent in the veterinary practice.

STEP 1: Set Client Expectations

This is an essential first step to reaching informed consent. Informed consent is essential. It not only forms part of a veterinary practitioner's professional conduct, it also ensures the clients are fully educated and onboard with the treatment plan. It is also legal protection for both the veterinary practice and the client. Informed consent is not about presenting consent forms to their clients to sign. It's about ensuring your clients have all the information to make an informed decision about their pet's health.

The following information is essential to reach client understanding:

  • Treatment options regardless of costs
  • Treatment recommendations
  • Expected outcomes
  • Risks and complications
  • Availability of specialists or second opinions
  • Type, extent and cost of follow up or ongoing care
  • Overall cost estimates

Giving your clients comprehensive details on their pet's health condition and their options forms good veterinary practice. It can also help alleviate some of the client misconceptions that we see in veterinary practice:

  • Pets shouldn’t die if the veterinarian puts in their best efforts
  • Vet bills should not have to be paid if the pet dies
  • Skin allergies and ear problems should not recur after treatment
  • An expensive dental procedure should cure my pet's dental problem
  • Poor surgery outcomes are a result of poor surgery
  • Negative treatment outcomes are a result of poor veterinary management

Complaints occur when the client’s expectations have not been met or the expectations have not been set from the start. The explanation of risks and complications should be given as a verbal and written explanation.

RELATED ARTICLE: 10 steps to help reduce complaints

Tips for written client communications

  • Easy to read
  • Use minimal veterinary terms
  • Be no longer than a page
  • Cover key home care instructions (feeding, restrictions, medications etc)
  • Detail what to look out for or what to expect.

What to expect, pre-treatment information sheets or booking confirmation

VetCheck “what to expect” pre-treatment information sheets help you to communicate key information to your clients and can be shared at the time of the veterinary recommendation or to confirm a treatment booking.

The VetCheck templates also help support your verbal recommendations with information regarding:

  • Explanation of the proposed treatment
  • Purpose or goals of treatment
  • Type of treatment or procedures available
  • Options for referral
  • Likely duration of treatment
  • Prognosis of treatment based on latest research papers
  • Risks
  • Advantages or disadvantages of treatment
  • Common or expected side effects of treatment

The VetCheck templates can also be edited and personalised to include important information such as:

  • Date of treatment or surgery or admission
  • Time of admission
  • Fasting requirements
  • Special instructions

STEP 2: Capture the informed consent via digital consent forms

Once informed consent has been established, the consent form needs to capture these details to help with enforceability:

  • Hospital details
  • Pet owner details
  • Pet details
  • Procedure & cost estimate
  • Acknowledgement of risks and benefits
  • Acknowledgement that they have had an opportunity to ask questions and received satisfactory responses
  • Client signature and date

The VetCheck digital consent forms can be edited to suit your practice's needs and help support your team in capturing informed consent.

RELATED ARTICLE: Digital practice forms

VetCheck infographic on Informed Consent

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