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How should you charge for your digital expertise?
Smart reimbursement strategies for adapting to telehealth
As a consultant for veterinary practices seeking to implement telehealth, I frequently hear this question: “How do I charge for something I’ve done for years at no cost?” You should be paid for your time and expertise. Here’s how you start to charge for these services, especially if you’ve trained your clients to expect them for free.
Payment method can change the entire experience for the client and how they view the service. There is such a thing as “the pain of paying,” which refers to the negative emotions experienced during the process of paying for a good or service. Research shows that cash and check payments are the most painful ways to pay but credit card payments are less painful.1 Furthermore, recent studies show that mobile and subscription payments are even less painful and often forgotten about.2 With these studies in mind, how do you make the transition from free advice to paid service as painless as possible?
Start small and bundle the cost with other services
You can easily add the cost of a virtual recheck to a surgery bill, making this one of the easiest places to start. Consider other services you can bundle, including new puppy packages with virtual nutrition and behavior consultations, palliative care, chronic condition monitoring, and rehabilitation.
Use subscription plans
Younger clients have grown up in a world of subscriptions. It is a common way to remove the friction of paying when using a service frequently. Although your first instinct may be to worry talkative clients will take up too much time, you have many reasons to embrace this trend. Clients will reach out about symptoms sooner and will not feel they are being overcharged every time they have a question. Placing a limit on the number of consultations per month will help meter those chatty clients.
Be transparent about costs
Perceived value is real. If clients think they can call you anytime, they are not going to value your time. However, if they pay to speak to you at a particular time and date, they are less likely to abuse the system. A small expense may dissuade clients who want to repeatedly communicate regarding minor issues for their pet, but it won’t limit access to care for those who need it.
Consider who provides the service and when it happens, and charge accordingly
You may charge nothing for customer service repre- sentatives to speak with a client, a certain amount for a technician, and double that amount for a DVM. Perhaps teletriage with a technician is free, and you only charge if a DVM is needed. Maybe you only charge for cases after hours. Depending on how your practice functions, you may set up charges in multiple ways.
What can you provide for free?
You may provide whatever you want at no cost. Just remember, as you continue to lose old sources of revenue to new business models such as online pharmacies, walk-in clinics in retail stores, and telehealth services from large corporations, you must learn how to survive by changing your own business and payment models. Charging for your time and expertise will eventually train your clients to better value and respect your work.
Jess Trimble, DVM is the chief veterinary officer of Anipanion, a veterinary telehealth platform, and coauthor of the 2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice. She speaks and consults about telehealth implementation in clinical practice and passionately seeks out new technologies to improve the lives of veterinary teams, clients, and patients.
- Zellermayer O. The Pain of Paying. Dissertation. Carnegie Mellon University; 1996.
- Pisani F, Atalay S. Cashless payments, pain of paying and the role of attachment. European Advances in Consumer Research. 2018;11:238-239.