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Communication a Priority for Hospital’s External Advisory Committee

We’re consulting with very experienced, very successful Illinois veterinarians for advice on becoming a more efficient and friendlier service,” says Dr. Ann Johnson, interim head of the department of veterinary clinical medicine, in describing the newly appointed external advisory committee for the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital. “It’s going to be a great group to work with.”
The idea of an outside advisory group has been in the air at VMTH for some time. This summer nine members from a variety of practice and geographic areas were selected, and the group’s first meeting was held October 13. 

“One of the focuses of the first meeting was ways to improve communications with referring veterinarians,” reports Dr. Johnson. “As a referral center, we serve two sets of clients—the animal owner and the referring veterinarian—and we have to do an excellent job for both.” Dr. Johnson says that more than half of the hospital’s patients come through referrals.

Having a mission to teach and conduct research as well as to provide clinical service, the hospital faces challenges not found at other referral practices. As students change clinical rotations and clinicians cycle on and off clinical duty, patients may receive care from several people, complicating communication with clients and referring veterinarians. 

One of the suggestions was to increase the training that students, interns, and residents receive on building good relationships with referring practitioners. Better use of fax and email communications with referring practices and eventually making patient information available to referring veterinarians via  Internet technology are other strategies. 

Advisory committee member Dr. George Richards frequently refers his clients to the teaching hospital. “The aura of the University can be overwhelming, and the cost can be a shock,” he says. “I explain to my clients that they are going to see a lot of ‘ologists.’ When they know what to expect, clients really like the care they get at the university.” 

The committee was pleased to learn that printed materials designed to familiarize animal owners with hospital clinicians and service areas are already in the works.

“Practitioners appreciate the fact that the hospital is listening and seeking input from practitioners who are out in the ‘real world’ day in and day out,” says Dr. Richards.  “At a meeting like this, there’s a tendency to focus on problems. When you take the overall view, though, I think most veterinarians are proud and happy to refer clients to Urbana because it’s a really good place to get treatment. It’s a good program, but we can find ways to make it better.”

VMTH External Advisory Committee

The advisory committee will meet twice a year, and members will serve three-year terms. The members are Illinois graduates, except as noted.
Dr. Greg Ekdale (ISU ’76), Highland Hospital for Animals, Bloomington
Dr. Marla Minuskin (’85), Family Pet Animal Hospital, Chicago
Dr. Jay Nadler (’82), Peotone Animal Hospital, Inc.
Dr. Gordon Rhine (’72), Central Hospital for Animals, Carterville
Dr. George Richards, Jr. (’67), Vermillion Veterinary Ventures, Danville
Dr. Dave Tanaglia (’78), Animal Medical Clinic, Rockford
Dr. Dick Velders (MSU ’63), Burr Ridge Veterinary Clinic
Dr. Kenneth Walker (’64), Walker Standardbred Farm, Sherman
Dr. William Wright (’66), Capitol Illini Vet Service, Ltd., Springfield

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