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Asking About Pets Enhances Patient Communication and Care: A Pilot Study.

Authors
  • Hodgson, Kate1
  • Darling, Marcia2
  • Freeman, Douglas3
  • Monavvari, Alan4
  • 1 1 University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 2 2 Medical Writer, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 3 Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 4 4 Markham Stouffville Hospital, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Inquiry : a journal of medical care organization, provision and financing
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2017
Volume
54
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/0046958017734030
PMID: 28984509
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

This research explored whether asking patients about their pets would enable better environmental/social history taking, and improve patient communication/care. Primary health care providers (PHPs) were surveyed about prevalence of patients living with pets, the health impact of pets, and influences on patient communication. Following an educational intervention, they committed to asking patients about their pets. A follow-up survey was conducted electronically. PHPs were recruited at a continuing medical education (CME) conference and at CME workshops. All 225 participants were PHPs. At the conference, participants were educated one-on-one about the clinical relevance of pets in the family. CME sessions were large or small group teaching. Baseline and final surveys measured awareness of pets in patients' families, assessment of determinants of health, impact on rapport with patients, and patient care. A sign test assessed difference in scores using repeated-measures analysis. Binomial outcomes were assessed using Fisher's exact test. Comments were themed. Ninety-four PHPs (42%) completed the study. Pet-related discussions opened communication with patients. Two-thirds of participants identified positive effects on practice and on relationships with patients. PHPs were able to leverage the health benefits of pets (zooeyia) and mitigate zoonotic risk. Asking patients about pets in the family reveals clinically relevant information, improves communication, and strengthens the therapeutic alliance.

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