HABRI-Funded Study Shows Importance of the Human-Animal Bond for MDs
Washington, D.C. (October 16, 2017) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The University of Toronto, Markham Stouffville Hospital, and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan announced the publication of a study exploring whether Primary Healthcare Professionals asking their patients about the pets in the family would positively impact communication to gather clinically relevant information and improve patient care.
“Results of our survey show that asking about pets in the family is an easy and effective way to build trust with a patient, strengthening the patient-provider therapeutic alliance,” said Kate Hodgson, DVM, MHSc, CCMEP, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. “When healthcare providers learn about the pets in patients’ lives, they are also developing an understanding about specific aspects of their patients’ environment and social history that can improve the delivery of healthcare.”
“Having an exam-room conversation about companion animals helps healthcare providers learn important information about patients’ lifestyle and home life which can positively influence the way they evaluate and treat their patients,” said Alan Monavvari, MD, Chief of Family Medicine, MHSc, CCFP, CHE, CPHQ, at Markham Stouffville Hospital.
Dr. Hodgson and Dr. Monavvari, along with co-authors Marcia Darling, BSc and Dr. Douglas Freeman, DVM, PhD, DipACT, analyzed results of a baseline and follow-up survey of 225 healthcare professionals asking about prevalence of patients living with pets, the health impact of pets, and influences on patient communication. Results revealed that patients are more open to talking to their healthcare providers about their pets, revealing clinically relevant information about how they live. Baseline and final surveys measured awareness of pets in patients’ families, assessment of determinants of health, impact on rapport with patients, and patient care. A sign test assessed difference in scores using repeated-measures analysis. Findings demonstrated that asking about pets strengthens the patient-provider relationship and therapeutic alliance. Knowing about pets in patients’ families influences the available approaches to care and enables providers to incorporate the pet into patient management plans. For example, learning about dog ownership can lead physicians to encourage dog walking for increased physical activity. All participants in the survey had patients with pets, and all patients responded without objection.
“Scientific research demonstrates that the human-animal bond helps reduce blood pressure, relieve stress, and increase physical activity,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “With the results of the Asking About Pets study, we know that pets benefit the medical profession by empowering doctors to activate pets as an existing health resource in the family to take better care of us!”
Kate Hodgson, DVM, MHSc, CCMEP, Marcia Darling, BSc(Hons), Douglas Freeman, DVM, PhD, DipACT, Alan Monavvari, MD, MHSc, CCFP, CHE, CPHQ. “Asking About Pets Enhances Patient Communication and Care: A Pilot Study” INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing 54 (2017). Web. 6 October 2017. https://doi.org/10.1177/0046958017734030.
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.
About Markham Stouffville Hospital
Markham Stouffville Hospital is a progressive, two-site, community hospital with 275 beds, leading diagnostic services and clinical programs in acute care medicine and surgery, addictions and mental health, and childbirth and children’s services. Partnering with other specialist providers, the hospital’s 450 physicians, 2,100 staff, and 1,300 volunteers make it the centre of community care for the residents of the City of Markham and the Towns of Stouffville and Uxbridge.
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The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $55,000 grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital for a groundbreaking research study, Using the Pet Query to Assess Patients’ Environmental History and Social Context, to explore how questions about pet ownership can help healthcare professionals better serve their patients. “If primary care practitioners – physicians, nurse practitioners, and social workers – just ask patients about pets in their families, a whole new world of patient care is open to them,” said Dr. Kate Hodgson, co-investigator of the study, veterinarian and Certified Continuing Medical Education Professional. “Pets can build social capital, motivate healthy behavior change, catalyze harm reduction, and even participate in a patient’s treatment plan.” It is expected that by utilizing the Pet Query, (Do you live with companion animals? How many? What species?) patients will be more open about their environmental history and habits, allowing healthcare providers to better assess and address their patients’ health. Pets can then become powerful catalysts and motivators for patients’ healthy choices and behaviors. In addition to enabling primary care providers to leverage the health benefits of companion animals, asking about pets in the family assists in identifying and mitigating any associated risk. “This grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital is an important stepping-stone in HABRI’s mission of investigating and sharing the healing power of companion animals,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “We know 97% of doctors already believe in the health benefits of pets. This research will give them practical tools to act on this belief.” The 12-month study will survey 150-200 healthcare professionals ranging from family physicians to social workers on how specific behaviors relate to pet ownership and how to integrate that information into healthcare practices.