February 15, 2008


 NCVEI offers tools to aid communications, teaching hospitals

Posted Feb. 1, 2008


Two new learning resources from the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues will allow veterinarians to hone communication skills and veterinary teaching hospitals to compare practice management and economic data.

During the North American Veterinary Conference, the NCVEI introduced a series of online lessons covering communications for veterinarians and veterinary staff.

Dr. Lawrence E. Heider, who serves as NCVEI interim chief executive officer, said the commission always has aimed to promote nontechnical skills and knowledge that can help veterinarians succeed in business.

"How we communicate determines, to a great degree, our success or failure," Dr. Heider said, in an interview before the NAVC.

The AVMA has sponsored the NCVEI communications tools. The commission developed the new online lessons largely in consultation with experts in the communications field, including from the University of Cincinnati.

The initial stage of the communications project featured a Web survey for assessing communication style. The latest release includes five lessons that will provide an overview of basic communications concepts along with information about empathy, open-ended questioning, reflective listening, and nonverbal communication. Videos show examples of communication and miscommunication at a veterinary clinic.

Kerric Tratt, an NCVEI consultant, said the plan is to make the communications lessons more interactive in the future. He hopes to add an assessment of knowledge, for example, and links to other communications training programs.

The NCVEI also is developing a new area of its Web site for veterinary teaching hospitals. The commission hopes to launch benchmarking tools for teaching hospitals during the meeting of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in mid-March.

Dr. Heider said the tools have met with enthusiasm from hospital directors and chairs of clinical science departments. He said, "The purpose is to provide information on best business practices and to allow teaching hospital administrators to compare how they're doing with others and some benchmark standards."

Bill Cummings, another NCVEI consultant, said the hospital benchmarking tools will be somewhat similar to existing Web tools that allow private practices to compare their economic data with averages and from year to year. The new tools will ask questions specific to teaching hospitals, though.

While comparison data for hospital economics are already available, existing data don't adjust for college size or adhere to a standard format. The NCVEI plans to finish the new benchmarking tools before creating an online repository that will allow hospitals to share best business practices.

More than 14,000 practices, representing nearly 39,000 veterinarians, had taken advantage of NCVEI Web resources by the end of 2007. The most popular tools allow veterinarians to evaluate fees and salaries. Resources are available for veterinarians by species focus—companion animals, horses, beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, small ruminants, and mixed animal practice—and for support staff. The tools are free to AVMA members and members of the American Animal Hospital Association.

The NCVEI's first chairman, Dr. James E. Nave, and the commission's former and founding CEO, Howard Rubin, received recognition during the recent AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference. Dr. Heider served as NCVEI chairman briefly, before the commission's board elected Dr. Ralph Richardson as the new chairman. The search committee for a new CEO began reviewing resumes Jan. 15.

The NCVEI has been collecting economic data for 2007 since the beginning of this year. The Web site is www.ncvei.org.