5 ways wellness plans can work
Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.
Heres some helpful and possibly inspiring advice from two companies that help veterinary practices set up and maintain wellness plans. Have you considered lately whether plans like these could help you educate clients on the need for regular visits, baseline diagnostics and preventive medications?
Wellness plans, with or without monthly charges, offer pet owners a financially predictable package of healthcare expense that tells them, “These are the basics for my pets, and this is how I do right by them.” If you think this model for care has legs (and many do), consider a few best practices we gleaned from talking to folks at two current purveyors of wellness/preventive-care plans for private veterinary practices: VCP and Premier Pet Care Plan.
1. Make wellness plans more than an afterthought
VCP's Jessica Goodman Lee speaks inspiringly of the power of a wellness plan: “When you realize that wellness plans are about changing the way we interact with pet owners and patients-from the exam room to the payment methods offered-it becomes clear that they're one of the most impactful and important initiatives a practice can undertake and is well worth the up-front time and effort.”
Does that mean you need to start big? Not necessarily, if you …
2. Keep it simple at the start
In the beginning, don't confuse pet owners (or team members) with too many add-ons, too much customization or too many different payment plans. Start with cats and dogs, break it down by age groups, and perhaps get most or all of your patients managed in five or six plans.
3. Get payments managed from the start
For normal visits, clients pay for services rendered while they're there. For wellness plans, you can require a full annual payment when clients sign up, but that takes away one possible advantage of wellness plans: monthly (or quarterly) installments. But are you ready to manage regular payments, track down new payment information when old info is invalid and track accounts receivable? If you don't have a strong, legally compliant method of in-house payment processing for monthly payments, consider a wellness-plan company that manages that for you or pairing up with another non-wellness-plan company that can help with recurring payments.
4. Don't get caught up in “Complain and blame”
Changing procedures and the way your team thinks about and talks about preventive care can be hard work in the beginning. All change is hard, says Premier Pet Care Plan's Craig Fraser, who says there's a tendency to “complain and blame.”
If it's painful for team members because of client push-back or process glitches, a perfectly normal human tendency is to go negative, point fingers and give up. Switching a veterinary team that has focused almost exclusively on providing care in a single visit that's paid for in a single visit and waiting for the next visit may have a hard time getting into the swing of asking pet owners to think about pet care as a monthly and an annual package of care they may not be used to paying for.
If the philosophy of wellness plans-providing a baseline of annual wellness care in the form of physical exams, diagnostics, parasite preventives and more-is something you're trying, come up with a plan, stick to the plan, and be ready to stay positive by sharing positive results and reminding people why you're doing it: improving patient care one wellness plan at a time.
Basically, don't let the haters get you down.
5. Show me the improved pet care!
A wellness plan should be integrated into your practice software and tracking so you can show client compliance on parasite preventives, diagnostics and regular wellness trips to the veterinarians increasing. If you're a practice owner or manager particularly concerned that the plans increase revenue, track the spending by these pet owners who buy into your plan for more wellness care and visits. Are you catching signs earlier? Are you improving client education on weight issues and age-related issues?
Plug into your PIMS to check the numbers.
While wellness plans have been successful in Banfield for decades, many private practices have struggled with integrating a philosophy of wellness plans into their approach. For veterinarians and team members who believe in both helping pet owners understand what wellness care is essential for their pet over time and also helping them plan for the cost of that care, wellness/preventive-care plans are a powerful option if used right. Is it time to try them?