Pet health insurance and veterinary team mental health


Dr. Wooten: Let’s talk about the practice. What are the hard monetary benefits to the practices that allow pets that are insured to come for services?

Ms. Russ: Certainly. I think the obvious is that with increased compliance, they’re coming to the hospital ultimately that’s going to go to your bottom line and increase your revenue. Beyond that though, and I think this is way more important. We are going to see the veterinary profession as a whole become healthier both mentally and physically because of it. We have a very high turnover rate, low retention and regrettably, an increased suicide rate in the veterinary profession.

What I have seen and what you have both reflected on as well, is that when you can go in that room and take that away and then know that you are able to provide the best recommendation and the client can accept it. Then you both are working towards helping that pet, which is what we all got into this for, and to really honor that human/animal bond. We can do that more consistently, then that just brings that job satisfaction, that reward, so we can drive down turnover and increase retention, which ultimately, absolutely affects the bottom line of a veterinarian business. And then just improves the health and wealth of the veterinary profession, which is an amazing one.

D. Wooten: How does having pet insurance improve the veterinarian-client-patient relationship?

Mr. Halow: I think it’s a lot what you said. I have an opportunity in my capacity, to visit practices all over the country and there are some parts of the country that are very poor. I’m telling you; I’ll spend the day at the practice and every single client interaction is a monetary issue. Every single one. It is emotionally debilitating for all of those team members there.

We talk about growing the bottom line and you have a lot of veterinary professionals that are not willing to recommend services and products because they know out of the gate that it’s not going to be possible for those pet owners to pay for them. I was in a practice in New Brunswick in Canada once and I was talking to the team about how to improve their dental compliance and I’m getting the old head nod.

Dr. Wooten: Oh, dental compliance.

Mr. Halow: And I could tell that this team was not picking up on it—they weren't drinking the Kool-Aid. Finally, this one veterinarian, she’s down in the front row, when I asked if there were any reservations about this, she raised her hand and she said, "I don’t know if can recommend dentistry to my clients." I thought finally, we’re getting to why. I said, 'why?', and she goes, "My kids go to school with the children of the pet owners and I know that those children are wearing coats from Goodwill, so I don’t know how, in good consciousness I can make a recommendation for dental service that I know is going to cost $600 or $700, when these people’s children are buying their clothes at Goodwill."

That is an excellent point and if that’s what that poor person and all those other working at that practice are enduring every day, that is extremely debilitating to them. If we can take that money thing out of the room, I say it over and over again, everybody’s life improves. That’s when we, as you pointed out, we get to really enjoy what we do.

Dr. Wooten: You’ve covered this already, but if we had a higher rate of insured pets, would that impact the amount of compassion fatigue we see in our profession?

Mr. Halow: I definitely think that compassion fatigue would be reduced in our industry if we didn’t have to worry so much about money, and veterinary professionals weren’t often labeled as we unjustly are as all about money and whether our pricing is unfair or that we don’t have any heart. To be called those kinds of things is just so terrible given how giving most veterinary professionals are. To be labeled, in addition to all the charity and all the good work we do, and they’re slamming us with you're greedy and all you care about is money is terrible, so yes, it would be great to have all that taken off our shoulders.

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