Show high-quality veterinary medicine with itemized invoices


Small changes in your invoices can improve client communication and showcase your expertise in veterinary medicine

Admiration and disgust: They are two emotions I associated with a competing practitioner some five miles away. I admired this veterinarian's communications skill, and loathed his unethical behavior. This solo, licensed veterinarian (though I certainly begrudged him that title), took extended frequent vacations supported by his very satisfied clients.

I never met this individual, because he never attended a single county or state meeting. Many times, after seeing clients of his during one of his extended vacations, I would plan what I would say if ever introduced.

None of these possible conversations were going to be the least bit congratulatory, even though I was on good to excellent terms with every other veterinarian I had met.

In my opinion, this miserable excuse for a veterinarian was a thief. He was the subject of many, many complaints lodged with the state board, but there was never enough proof to take away his license.

This guy was a smooooooth talker. He could convince any pet owner that his or her pet was seriously ill, and that he was saving the pet's life.

If a client dropped a dog off for an ovariohysterectomy, he or she could expect a call a couple of hours later to report that the pet's abdomen was open on the table, and he discovered cancer invading the ovaries. He would tell the client he could save the pet, but the surgery would take much longer and cost four times the original estimate. Worst of all, he got away with it. Not only did he rob people with impunity, but these same people sang his praises for saving their pets' lives, referring all their friends and their friends' friends to him.

He would diagnose and treat dogs with hip dysplasia with very unorthodox methods, mostly massage, medicated baths and herbs. Local veterinarians, piqued with curiosity because of his strange methods, found he had no X-ray equipment, but he had a lovely radiographic viewer.

He did, however, admit dogs for radiology in the morning and review films at discharge in the afternoon. He had several old, unlabeled films of other pets with varying degreesof hip dysplasia. He would display a film for the client as he pointed out how bad Rosy the German Shepherd Dog's hips were. Sometimes an astute person would notice the os penis on the film and question why her female dog had one of those, but this fraud would quickly bring out the "correct film" with the same damage, claiming an innocent error!

So many times, a new client (gained during another one of his vacations) would crow about his prowess. "Dr. J saved Rascal's life last month. While she was boarding, she developed a ruptured spleen just from the excitement of playing so much with his great staff, but Dr. J was able to remove it. Look at her; she's as good as new!"

When I noted that I could not find a suture line from last month's surgery, the client would explain the doctor removed the spleen through the rectum or vagina to avoid outside sutures.

When the truth isn't enough

This guy should have been president of the United States. He could say anything, and clients would follow it as if it were gospel. He performed miracles every day.

I did admire his silver-tongued communication skills. I was jealous of his clients' admiration, though I was definitely unwilling to misguide and rob any client of mine. So, I took the road more travelled. I earned a lot less, and I earned it honestly. However, I did learn that my plain communication wasn't enough for great success. Clients didn't understand medical terms and couldn't wrap their heads around the necessary procedures when multiple conditions were present.

A pet presenting with acute otitis often had medial patellar luxation, seborrhea and conjunctivitis. How many of these conditions could a client manage? I needed to send instructions home in writing. If I treated the ear for acute otitis and treatment failed because the dog had chronic otitis, I would spend time talking about the difference to the client on the follow-up visit. I made sure that I communicated effectively and truthfully

And while my experience with this doctor happened years ago, it offers a valuable lesson in communication.

Tell the whole truth

Can you improve your practice without bragging or making false claims? Yes, you can. Just tell clients what you really do.

Your invoice can help. Clients won't respect a bill that just lists "ovariohysterectomy" and the cost. Don't dismiss your expertise! Take a look at the invoice on the previous page. It conveys the care and effort you took to perform a successful abdominal surgery.

Sample of a successful invoice

Aren't you impressed? Your clients will be too. Your computer can print this with a single service code entry. You only have to put the procedure in once. It's worth the interest and greater respect you honestly gain from the client. And you'll only be telling the truth— the whole truth — about the work you do and the care pets need.

Dr. Snyder publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be reached at 112 Harmon Cove Towers, Secaucus, NJ, 07094; (800) 292-7995;; fax: (866) 908-6986.

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