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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00056

Being nice is not enough - Exploring relationship-centered care in veterinary medicine with structural equation modelling

  • 1Institut für Veterinär-Epidemiologie und Biometrie, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

During the last years, the philosophy of relationship-centered care gained increasing attention in veterinary medicine. Relationship-centered care is based on a joint venture between pet owner and veterinarians and therefore offers the opportunity to satisfy the pet owners’ need for participation in medical decision-making and to provide the best care for the patient. Although research on relationship-centered care in the veterinary consultation is still limited, the available findings suggest that the characteristics of relationship-centered care reflect the pet owners’ expectations on satisfactory veterinary care.
In this study a quantitative survey was conducted among German pet owners that collected information regarding their perception of the veterinarians’ communication during the last appointments. Questionnaires were available online and paper-based. Data were analyzed using exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modeling using SAS.
First aim of the study was to explore structural equation modelling (SEM) as an opportunity to evaluate quantitative data in the field of research on relationship-centered care. Further, SEM was used to evaluate associations between the implementation of different characteristics of relationship-centered care in the veterinary practice (empathic communication, partnership-building) and latent outcome variables regarding the pet owners (pet owners’ need for further information, consultation of competing health care providers).
N = 1270 valid questionnaires were completed. Participants owned small companion animals (55.6%), horses (7.6%) or both (36.9%) within the last two years. Results of SEM suggest that partnership-centered and empathic communication decreased the pet owners’ needs for further information (e.g. from online sources) and their need to consult alternative health providers (e.g. homeopaths). Especially addressing the pet owners’ worries and fears, discussing pros and cons of diagnostic and therapeutic options as well as providing the required amount of information were shown to be large influence factors within the model.
Therefore, veterinarians are recommended to implement the concept of partnership-centered care in their daily practice, for it may increase pet owners’ loyalty and satisfaction. Results may motivate future research in this field. Further development of the proposed model assumptions may enable valuable progress in the field of quantitative research on relationship-centered care.

Keywords: Veterinary Medicine, Partnership building, Relationship centered care, Veterinary-pet owner-communication, Empathy, shared decision making, Structural equation modelling (SEM)

Received: 20 Aug 2018; Accepted: 07 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Emily Patterson-Kane, American Veterinary Medical Association, United States

Reviewed by:

Cindy L. Adams, University of Calgary, Canada
Waldemar Karwowski, University of Central Florida, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Küper and Merle. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Roswitha Merle, Institut für Veterinär-Epidemiologie und Biometrie, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany,