Mars, Banfield, AVMA, others collaborate to improve communication between veterinary teams and clients

An industrywide initiative unveiled at Banfield Pet Hospital’s 21st annual Pet Healthcare Industry Summit aims to foster and strengthen healthy communication between veterinary teams and pet owners.

Additionally, Banfield is partnering with the AVMA to build on existing AVMA member resources for managing veterinary practices’ online reputations and expand access to them to the entire profession, free of charge.

Mars Veterinary Health, a division of Mars Petcare that counts Banfield among its practices, announced the two initiatives on Sept. 29 during the summit as a way of leveraging the size and scale of Mars Veterinary Health and its practices to help create a more sustainable and thriving veterinary profession.

21st annual Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit panelists
Panelists Drs. Justine Lee, co-founder and CEO of VETgirl; Lori Teller, AVMA president and clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; Quincy Hawley, co-founder of Get MotiVETed Wellbeing Solutions; and Sonja Olson, veterinary wellness educator at BluePearl, speak about mental health and other topics at the 21st annual Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit, held Sept. 29 in Vancouver, Washington. (Courtesy of Banfield)

Veterinary teams are facing challenges and pressures and are increasingly finding themselves on the receiving end of client frustration, both in person and online, according to the Banfield announcement about the initiatives.

“Veterinary teams and clients are connected by a shared love of pets and passion for ensuring they receive the best possible care,” said Doug Drew, president of Mars Veterinary Health, in the announcement. He said the goal is “to continue to strengthen the relationship between veterinary teams and clients by addressing the pain points that exist for pet owners.”

He continued, “These new resources will allow us to go upstream to address some of the most pressing issues impacting the profession so that we can continue to deliver on our purpose: A better world for pets.”

Industry working group

A working group of leading veterinary industry organizations will convene over the coming months with the objective of creating a list of shared expectations and responsibilities that the profession and pet owners alike can use to further a mutual understanding and respect toward one another.

The core members of the working group are Mars Veterinary Health and its practices: Banfield, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, and VCA Animal Hospitals; the AVMA; the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges; the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America; Not One More Vet; the Veterinary Hope Foundation; and the Veterinary Medical Association Executives.

The list of shared expectations and responsibilities is expected to be released in early 2023 and will be developed with input from industry leaders, veterinary professionals, and pet owners. The goal is to foster an environment where each veterinary interaction is rooted in culturally responsive care and grounded in a supportive, safe, and inclusive environment for all.

Reputation management toolkit

Hospital teams across the profession continue to see a need for additional resources to help address the difficulties of managing their online reputations.

To that end, Banfield is investing in expanding the AVMA member toolkit for managing hospitals’ online reputations, which will become available in 2023 to all veterinary professionals at no cost.

The toolkit will include resources to help veterinary professionals prevent reputationally and psychologically damaging events that typically first occur online but can have real, in-person consequences; respond effectively when these events happen; support the physical safety of practices; and recover a practice’s reputation in the aftermath of an escalated event.

These resources will also offer support to veterinary professionals and teams as they navigate cyberbullying, which is defined by the Cyberbullying Research Center as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”

According to a recent AVMA survey, nearly one in three veterinary professionals has been a victim or knows colleagues who were victims of cyberbullying. Further, 43% of cyberbullying victims considered changing jobs or careers because of the events, and 63% said the biggest impact of these events was on mental health. When asked how the profession can better provide support, 70% of survey respondents called for expansion of existing resources to mitigate cyberbullying.

“Reputationally damaging events, which can include cyberbullying, have a critical and lasting impact on veterinary teams and their mental health,” said AVMA President Lori Teller in the Sept. 29 announcement. “Addressing this industry-wide issue requires a dedicated, collaborative effort.”

She continued, “We are proud to embark on these new initiatives with leaders across the profession to help create and expand resources to ensure veterinary teams and practices have the tools they need to effectively address challenging situations.”

The AVMA’s resources on online reputation management and cyberbullying include best practices, tools, and advice on monitoring your reputation and when and how to respond to criticism.

A version of this article appears in the November 2022 print issue of JAVMA.