Preventive-care plans: Make it happen ... finally

May 22, 2017
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

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.

CVC Virginia Beach speaker John Volk saw preventive-care plans as the future more than 15 years ago. Today, he sees their eventual adoption in most, if not all, private practices over time as inevitable.

VolkWhen CVC educator John Volk worked on the landmark Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, he thought the data would inspire veterinarians to jump on Banfield-like wellness plans, offering pet owners what they wanted: a clear healthcare plan for their pet and monthly installments.

Be a 'no surprises' practice

Most people in veterinary hospitals don't like to talk about money, but money comes up. So you guarantee dissatisfaction if your clients are unclear on your policies and options. And in medicine, there are always surprises, but your financing options and policies don't have to be one of them. Volk said every veterinary practice needs a documented financial policy with details on:

Forms of payment accepted

Financing options available

Fee for bounced checks

Deposits necessary for procedures of a certain amount or higher.

He also suggested everyone in the team should be educating clients proactively on:

Pet insurance

Emergency financing

Payment plans

"Provide the information on your website as well as to new clients and once a year to existing clients," Volk suggested to CVC attendees. Regular training and retraining makes sure every team member knows the ways their clients can pay.

"I thought there would be a much more rapid uptake of preventive plans," he told attendees at the CVC session "Financial tools that can get clients to 'yes.'"

Turns out, back in 2001, the "Banfield Effect" was still strong, Volk said, with many private practitioners saying, "Banfield does it, so how can it be good?"

But now most of the big corporate chains have some form of preventive care plans clients can buy, bundling up needed wellness exams, diagnostics and more.

Volk said, aside from increased revenue, increased visits, better patient care and more new clients-phew, that's a lot-is the "stickiness."

"If clients get all their services from you," Volk told attendees, "they're not going to go down to the supermarket for vaccinations. They know those are included with your plan."

Paid wellness plans bring pet owners in the door less afraid of that big bill at the end. "And almost no one comes across the veterinary practice threshold and doesn't spend money," Volk said.

Never give one-number estimates over the phone

Phone shoppers are a chance for your client service representatives to educate, said John Volk.

"Make sure they explain what's involved in the procedure," Volk says, emphasizing all the steps, services and costs. If that potential client is going to call around to compare, you want them to be comparing apples to apples-or at least know they're taking a risk with a less-expensive procedure that doesn't include all the safeguards your practice supports.

What could wellness plans mean for your practice? Volk has data from larger practice chains. When NVA started using preventive care plans in hospitals, they saw 8.4 percent compliance with dental procedure recommendations rise to 74.4 percent compliance on preventive care plans that include dental work. Associates at NVA hospitals saw production pay increase 57 percent with preventive-care plans.

Implementing preventive-care plans with an annual or monthly installments can be hard to implement in the beginning, Volk admitted. It's a major shift in focus to an enrollment mentality for doctors and staff-it takes a lot of training-but success breeds good feelings: "I've seen a lot of veterinary teams where they can get better care for pets, and then they love to talk about the plans after that."

Volk's major advice? Find a company to help you implement the plan. He name-dropped Veterinary Credit Plans, Prevent Plans, IDEXX Petly Plans or the do-it-yourself advice on Partners for Healthy Pets website.

"I believe preventive-care plans will become the norm," Volk says. "Someday you'll have no choice to offer it or lose clients."