Are you feeling frustrated trying to address the health care needs for your animal(s)?
Have you got caught up in trying yet another product or paying yet another animal health practitioner to try and help your animal?
Effective management of acute and chronic conditions and maintaining the general health and well-being of your animal may be compromised when you have a fragmented approach to defining and selecting what you want from the vast myriad of animal health products and services available today. You may be inadvertently duplicating components or conversely, you may be overlooking other critical factors.
The lack of a good interface and /or coordination between the various elements of your animal’s health care may have you finding it difficult to navigate among the various service providers with the result of you feeling that there is no one person, or one product, that can help your animal, even you.
Although closer care coordination, or integration of health care, offers your animal significant benefits it is hard for most animal health care professionals to provide. To date, only a few health care practitioners, animal or human, around the world have found ways to integrate care effectively and thereby offer the coordinated management, oversight and advice that is required (Waddington & Egger, 2008). The terms integration or integrative in the animal health care community have been primarily shaped by views and expectations of individual animal health service providers and has, for the most part, been limited to describing the integration of medical treatment options by the provider for the specific treatment of disease, and too often focused on single episodes of treatment.
Integrated health care, often referred to as interprofessional health care, is an approach characterized by a high degree of collaboration and communication among health professionals (World Health Organisation, 2016). Integration means coordinating decision making and action to be taken to achieve a set of common goals. With you as the constant in your animal’s life and the ultimate care giver, you can use the key principals of this approach to coordinate the best collaborative approach to making effective decisions about health and well-being of your animal.
“How?” I hear you ask. That’s where the rest of this article comes into play. Read on!
I help animal owners just like you to learn from my experience and provide you with best practices to plan and coordinate the health care of your animal. My goal is to give you actionable advice, practical tools, resources to enable you to have oversight of your animal’s health care and work collaboratively with animal health care professionals to decide upon goals and objectives that you understand and can make decisions about.
The benefits of an integrated health care approach extends from you and your animal to service providers. Coordinated care:
- Improves quality of care.
- Reduces frustration in being able to achieve effective health care.
- Enhances access to services.
- Lowers overall health care costs.
WHERE DOES IT APPLY?
Integrated health care delivery can benefit individuals in settings across the lifespan:
- Primary care.
- Specialized medical situations (e.g., rehabilitation, weight or anxiety management).
- Long-term well-being and quality of life.
- Selection and coordination of animal health care professional service
Different approaches have been used to integrate care, but they share this trait: they design all stages of care delivery around what is best for individual. Much of animal health care products and services today are treatment-centric, as opposed to individual-centric. Whilst treatment-centric approaches may be effective in a simple case, it does run the risk of excluding potential drivers of a health condition, such as successive antibiotic treatments for an ear infection not considering the escape artist tendencies motivated by unresolved anxiety and swimming the creek to get to a neighbour’s house, or creating a health risk when multiple treatments duplicate effects, such as three separate sources of iodine unknowingly being added to a diet creating an enlarged thyroid.
Five steps to taking charge of your animal’s health
Integration is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, to initiate an integrated-healthcare program you must be clear about why and what is to be accomplished. A dose of realism is essential to the mix to focus you on where the healthcare program can have the greatest impact. Even the organisations that do best at providing integrated care did not attempt initially to integrate every aspect of health and social care!
The five questions below can help you identify where you can have the biggest impact and what is needed to do to achieve that impact. There are no “right” answers to these questions; decisions should be based on the needs of you and your animal and the health context of your animal. In all five cases, a range of answers is possible.
- What are the health care goals for my animal?
The answer to this question can be narrow, expansive, or somewhere in between. It does require a little more than what I often hear from new clients “I just want the best for Fred”. Integrative health care goals are broad and don’t have a specific time frame attached to them. The treatment options selected provide the milestones that serve as a marker to look at whether they are meeting the goals effectively and whether treatment progression is warranted. If your animal is already under the care of a vet, a vet herbalist or another animal care professional, sit down with them and ask them to talk to you about the health care goals they are working towards with the treatment they have in place. Health care goals look like: “Maintain and promote health and wellbeing for Harry that supports healthy aging by providing age specific nutrition, exercise and rest”.
- What do I integrated?
Successfully integrating the health care for your animal does not mean that everything has to be integrated into one package, or necessarily delivered in one place, by one animal health care professional. It does mean arranging products and services so that they are not disjointed and are easy for you to navigate. At the very core of any health care plan is your capacity to achieve the basic needs of water, food, exercise and rest, for your animal, as defined by your animal. For example, for your young foal, food and rest is adequately managed by the mare and you have curtailed exercise appropriate to age by the size of the paddock and the ‘auntie’ mares co-located in the paddock who are also provided the initial herd behaviour management training. As the foal is progressing well no other health care aspects need to be integrated to meet your health care goals for the foal.
- How many people should be included?
Often it’s just you interacting with your animal and making decisions on how to meet your animal’s needs. At other times you may need some additional support from other animal health care professionals. The key here is to know what you know and decide if there is something you are missing in being able to meet the health care goals of your animal. Choosing to collaborate is premised on the assumption that the achievement of desired outcomes would not be possible everyone involved in meeting the needs for your animal was acting independently. There is also an inherent acceptance that all involved will accept the shared health care objectives, contribute to the goals and shared decision-making, maintain professional independence and the implicit understanding that you, as the owner, are the overall coordinator and decision maker for all aspects of your animal’s health care. The true role of integrated health care professionals is to empower you to achieve the needs of your animal.
- Which products and services should be included?
The answers to the two previous questions determine which treatment options facilitated by what products and services need to be involved. For example, if the health care goal was to maintain Harry’s optimum joint health for agility competition as a two year old, your trainer might be the only additional professional needed to ensure Harry develops the proper biomechanics to undertake agility. You would select nutrition and energy and rest and recovery options to meet the same goal. If Harry was a 6 year old border collie and recovering from injury with the aim to return to agility, your integration plan might also include a veterinary herbalist to address injury recovery with rehabilitation exercises and herbal and nutritional medicine.
- How do I coordinate everyone and everything?
By doing steps 1-4 you have created a plan that you can use as a guide to monitor the progress in meeting your goals. I’ve already put together a great FREE resource on monitoring the health of your animal which you can grab that >>here.
Step 5 is very simple when coordination is just to ask two questions of those offering the service or product. Yes! You ask the practitioner or seller to give you the answers to these questions:
- How does this meet the health care goals for my animal? And
- Will this augment, replace or duplicate what I already have in place?
I know it all looks straight forward on the screen, but life does sometimes throw those curve balls in. If you’re having a little trouble seeing the wood for the trees in completing step one for your animal or deciding whether you have covered all the bases, perhaps one too many times. I’d love to help you clear a path to better health care for your animal. I have a few select appointments each moth set aside for strategising, planning or to walk you through the 5 steps with what you already have in place. Its FREE!! To book an appointment now, click >>here.
Waddington, C. & Egger, D., 2008. Technical Brief No: 1. Integrated Health Services – What and Why?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.who.int/healthsystems/technical_brief_final.pdf
[Accessed 23 Jun 2018].
World Health Organisation, 2016. Integrated care models: an overview. [Online]
Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/322475/Integrated-care-models-overview.pdf
[Accessed 22 Jun 2018].