In conversation with . . . Dr. Richard Nap

DVM, PhD Dipl. ECVS and Dipl. ECVCN
DIRECTOR, VETCOACH, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Richard is a Dutch Veterinarian (Utrecht 1979) based in Buenos Aires and Punta del Este. Richard’s career reflects a wide range of international veterinary experience. He worked in private practice, at the University (Utrecht) as well as in industry (Associate Director at Iams Pet Food, Procter & Gamble). His private non-profit VetCoach project shares professional career learnings with graduating vet students and young vets (www.vetcoach.info and www.facebook.com/vetcoachproject).

VetCoach has published over 15,000 books in eight editions worldwide. VetCoach books are endorsed by WVA, WSAVA and FECAVA as well as by national veterinary associations and Universities. The new VetTeamCoach (VTC) book for veterinary staff was launched at NAVC Congress in Orlando USA 2015 with support from NAVTA, WVA and WSAVA. Together with Dr Philippe Moreau he published the successful book on practice management “Essentials of Veterinary Practice” that sold over 10,000 copies in English, Spanish and French.

Dr Nap has published many articles in international peer-reviewed journals in the area of Orthopaedics, Companion Animal Nutrition and Practice Management. He is an invited speaker in many national and international Congresses, Symposia and meetings around the world including WSAVA, BSAVA, NAVC, SEVC, ESVOT, ECVS and ECVCN and participated at the WSAVA 2016 congress in Colombia.

His passion is to transfer business principles and learnings from industry to veterinary professionals in order to better serve patients and their owners and provide an Optimal Healthcare Experience. He has worked with national and International teams of Animal Health Industry partners and is a guest professor in the annual course on practice management at the USAL University in Pilar Buenos Aires.

 

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself

I am a Dutch veterinarian, who graduated from the Veterinary Faculty of Utrecht University, The Netherlands in 1979 with distinction. I have practiced with large and small animals both in private and University settings. After post-graduate positions at the University Departments of Large Animal Husbandry and Surgery and a 4-year term at a regional referral hospital, I moved on to the Department of Companion Animals for further training in the Unit of Orthopedic Medicine and Surgery. I finished my PhD on “The Influences of Nutrition on the Growth and Development of the Skeleton in Dogs” at Utrecht University 1993. In the same year, I became a board certified specialist (Diplomate) at the European College of Veterinary Surgeon after passing the first exams organised in Cambridge, UK by the recently launched ECVS College.

Two years later, I became a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition. In 1994, I joined an international pet food company to manage and later head their European Academic Affairs team. In 2005 I left the company that in the meantime had been acquired by Procter & Gamble and started working as a private consultant, a role that I hold until today. I have been fortunate and had opportunities to meet colleagues around the world and present at veterinary international and national congresses and universities all over Europe, from Helsinki, Finland to Cape Town, South Africa, from the USA and Canada to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as Mexico and many South American countries.

I recently presented at the WSAVA Congress in Cartagena Colombia in Spanish for a crowd of over 300 colleagues talking about the Optimal Health Care Experience (OHCE) and many aspects of practice management. I have also published two books. One on practice management with Dr. Philippe Moreau “Essentials of Veterinary Practice” that sold over 12.000 copies in 3 language editions and the other book as part of my nonprofit project to support veterinary students and young veterinarians around the world “VetCoach”. There are 8 editions of the VetCoach book and over 15.000 copies have been produced for distribution world-wide. The project also published one edition of the VetTeamCoach book (2400 copies) aimed to support veterinary staff in the US market. The project is endorsed by WVA, WSAVA, FECAVA and several national veterinary organizations.

What do you find most interesting about this increasingly important area of patient and client wellness?

The most important aspect for veterinarians and their staff to realise is that the primary interest of the owners of the pets who consult them is not the level of scientific knowledge accumulated in the heads of the staff of the clinic and the level of technology to support it. Owners are motivated by emotional reasons and are looking for veterinary teams that can provide services that connect and respond to these emotional needs. Pets are part of the family and their well-being and wellness is of high importance to their human fellow family members. The science is secondary to the emotions.

What do you see are the greatest challenges that face every practice, including employees and their patients and families?

To make the personal and practice business switch from being primarily scientific and technically oriented to being emotionally oriented when it comes to owners and their pets. Veterinary business is an emotional business. A now old but very true statement goes “Owners don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. The highly successful “Fear Free” approach that was launched in the USA by Dr. Marty Becker (of which I am an advisory group member) proves the importance and even economic or business relevance of this approach for veterinary clinics in the future. Dr Marty Becker preaches to “first talk to the heart before talking to the head” when communicating with owners. The DVM degree is the entry level for every veterinary practitioner. The real success will be determined by how successful she / he connects with owners and responds to individual needs under different circumstances and delivers the OHCE together with the team.

How do you suggest practices manage these challenges in an ever-changing world?

By having an open mind and listening to their clients and at the same time keeping their eyes and mind open for what happens elsewhere. In other practices, in other countries and in other industries. This aspect is also important to consider when recruiting new staff to join the team. There are many examples in the service industries around the world that offer veterinarians opportunities to almost copy and paste successes to improve the quality of their health care product.

What do you mean exactly by an Optimal Healthcare Experience? Why is it so important?

Each owner is different and each pet and owner is a unique combination under a unique set of circumstances. An OHCE refers to the fact that for each patient the veterinary team should try to find the optimal outcome tailored to the needs of the individual patient and its owner within the ethical and legal boundaries. The options should be presented and explained and the owners should be allowed to make an informed decision. This might not be the top solution according to the latest scientific developments but it does suit the owners. The veterinarian is responsible for making the best possible diagnostic and therapeutic solutions available either in their practice or by referral. The owners are responsible for making the decisions regarding the healthcare of their pets and, not unimportant, for paying for the selected options. It is therefore very important that the veterinarian starts with listening very well to the owners to find out the motivation of the visit and the personal circumstances of the owner and the pet.

Do you happen to have any evidence to demonstrate that an Optimal Healthcare Experience does enhance business results?

An OHCE results in happy clients. Happy clients come back. That is no rocket science and this happens in all industries. Over a 5-year period the clinics practicing Fear Free protocols in the USA have grown 20% while the overall market was flat. For obvious reasons I am a fan of Fear Free approach. Owners love it and it makes perfect scientific and business sense and it fits well with what I have become to understand myself during my career and from the career learning input by hundreds of colleagues in my VetCoach project for the VetCoach and VetTeamCoach books.

What exemplifies excellence in an Optimal Healthcare Experience?

An OHCE has been delivered by the team when the owner is happy when he or she leaves the clinic and feels that his or her concerns have been optimally addressed. The best (optimal) outcome of each visit is when the emotional and technical (scientific) aspects of the consultations are in optimal balance. An OHCE can be delivered at every level of the veterinary practice. In a one (wo-) man practice as well as in a many-doctor specialist center.

Are there variances in being able to deliver an Optimal Healthcare Experience across the world?

No. The principle is the same because the OHCE delivers a level of care that is tailored to the needs and opportunities of the market and the individual owner, pet and set of circumstances. On a scientific or technical level, the outcome for the same problem (diagnosis) might be very different, while the owner is happy with the way they and their pet were treated (taken care of) by the veterinary team.

What attracts you to coming to lecture at VET Festival 2017?

I am happy to have the opportunity to speak about this topic that to me is of utmost importance for veterinarians and their teams. It has been my personal learning and experience when meeting with veterinarians and students around the world that we think that our diplomas and equipment makes us a good veterinarian. The truth is that the owners do not care about my double Diplomate status, PhD thesis, published literature and books until they know they can trust me and we have made an emotional connection. Understanding and developing the importance of this connection will be good for our patients, for their owners, for our profession and for ourselves because it has the potential to significantly increase our job satisfaction.

What are you hoping that delegates will take away from your lectures? Why is it so important for them to attend?

I hope the delegates understand that their DVM veterinary degree offers them a starting capacity. Their success in practice as well as their continued joy working in the profession is determined by their capacity to connect emotionally with owners and their pets. Unfortunately, many young colleagues become disappointed and stressed in our profession resulting in them leaving our wonderful profession or worse, without ever having practiced in an environment where the OHCE is put first and pets and their owners are happy to come and to come back. The veterinary team has to work hard on making the owners feel good when they leave the clinic. It is not about what they think of you and your team when they leave the clinic. It is about how you made them feel.

Richard Nap (pictured above with his dog Nala) will be speaking at VET Festival 2017 on Saturday 10th June in the Wellness & Team Building stream, in partnership with Centaur Services, at Loseley Park in Surrey.

 

Animal Therapy Magazine