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Acupuncture: A new kind of veterinary needle
Becoming a certified veterinary acupuncturist is a long and involved process, but it can recap big rewards for your patients and your practice.
One of Dr. Ann Kramer's clients drives hundreds of miles with a pair of Great Danes in tow to visit her practice. When the trio arrives at Columbus Small Animal Hospital in Columbus, Neb., they head in for treatment, where one of the behemoth pooches plops down on the couch like a human, sitting upright with legs splayed over the edge. Then the treatment commences.
Jim Kramer, DVM
It's not a typical veterinary visit, but it's become the norm at Columbus Small Animal Hospital since Dr. Kramer became a certified veterinary acupuncturist in late 2008. Since that time, she has used acupuncture to treat everything from osteoarthritis to anxiety, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and ear infections. The service has proven to be a success and has converted even the most skeptical clients into believers.
Looking for a new way to supplement your patient care offerings while generating revenue for your practice? Follow these steps for adding acupuncture services.
1. BECOME CERTIFIED
First things first: It won't be easy or cheap. Tuition costs exceed $5,000, plus the cost of books and travel—Dr. Kramer attended the Chi Institute in Reddick, Fla. The training took months and involved written exams, practical exams, written case reports, and time spent shadowing a certified veterinary acupuncturist, according to Dr. Kramer's husband and practice partner, Dr. Jim Kramer, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member.
East meets Midwest: Dr. Ann Kramerâs acupuncture services have added a new level of care for patients at Columbus Small Animal Hospital in Columbus, Neb. (Photos courtesy Dr. Jim Kramer)
2. COMMIT TO THE PROGRAM
After all of that work, the doctors decided that failure was not an option. So they converted a room in their facility into a specialized acupuncture room, complete with carpeting, recliners, a sofa, earthtone paint colors, pleasant aromas, and background music. The doctors even replaced the standard door with a glass one so that passing clients could take a look. "We call it the Zen room—we don't want people and their pets to feel like they're in a clinical situation," Dr. Jim Kramer says.
During a treatment, clients can either sit with their pets for the 20- to 30-minute procedure or request that one of the practice's team members do so. Some clients even use the time to meditate, read a magazine, or simply close their eyes and relax. "It's therapeutic for our clients, too," Dr. Jim Kramer says.
3. DEVELOP A PRICING STRUCTURE
Since most veterinary acupuncture cases require multiple treatments, Dr. Ann Kramer typically offers clients two options: Try the service once for $79, or prepurchase a block of three appointments for $150. If a team member is required to sit with the pet, the price increases by $25 per treatment. Because the system encourages clients to invest in multiple treatments, they're less likely to bring in their pets arbitrarily and more likely to see major benefits from the treatments.
Those benefits have helped many of the practice's patients live better lives, Dr. Jim Kramer says. "Some of our patients will go from not being able to jump in the back of a pickup truck to hopping up there easily," he says. "Or they'll have itchy skin that clears up after they come to our practice. There's no sleight of hand, and there's no placebo effect. The results are easy for clients to recognize and have been truly amazing."
4. DON'T SHORTCHANGE YOUR CLIENTS
Finally, think twice before you say, "My clients would never take acupuncture seriously." Columbus Small Animal Hospital is located in a rural area and is home to a large group of farmers and light industry workers, Dr. Jim Kramer says. "Some of the farmers look like deer in headlights when we first tell them about it," he says. "Some people laugh out loud. But some of those same people have become our most staunch believers."
Have a seat: After a long car ride from South Dakota, Remi the Great Dane makes herself comfortable in the Zen room at Columbus Small Animal Hospital in Columbus, Neb., where she receives acupuncture treatments for joint stiffness.
In the end, acupuncture has become a successful loved service at Columbus Small Animal Hospital. "We're always trying to find new ways to become better veterinarians and get better results," Dr. Jim Kramer says. If you share a similar philosophy, acupuncture might be the next step for your veterinary practice.