Add some bling to your bottom line

Add some bling to your bottom line

May 01, 2007

Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM
CLIENTS COME TO YOU WHEN THEY want their pets to be the picture of perfect health. And these five services—kitten classes, dentistry, pain management, laser surgery, and diagnostics—give you great opportunities to help pets shine. (You won't mind if improving or adding these services also improves your profit margin—right?)

1 Kitten classes

Consider first an underserved majority: felines. Multiple studies have shown that while cats are more popular than dogs as pets, owners don't bring cats to the veterinarian as frequently as dogs or spend as much on their care. One reason is that cats, as a rule, don't like going out and about as much as dogs. A visit to the clinic can be an ordeal for both cat and owner. However, cats that are socialized as kittens won't have as much trouble visiting the practice as adults. This is where kitten classes come in.

Kitten classes usually consist of five to eight kittens (7 to 14 weeks old) and their owners gathering for an hour of play, treats, socialization exercises, and activities that acclimate them to the veterinary clinic and get them used to being examined. Participants also are taught about feline healthcare and the warning signs of illness in cats.

One of the most important ways to make this service a success is to get the word out. Be sure everyone in the practice knows about the classes, what goes on in them, why they're important, and when and where they will be held. Design a brochure touting the benefits of the classes, and post an eye-catching sign in your lobby announcing them. Let all the local humane societies and other pet organizations know about your new-kitten education.

Compliance booster: If you decide to charge owners for kitten classes, make it a nominal fee—perhaps $10 per class for nonclients and $5 for clients. The classes are worth their weight in gold—not in tuition fees, but in client retention and increased patient visits.

Take the next step: Make cats comfortable by separating them from dogs in the waiting area. Teach team members that less is more when it comes to feline restraint; really leaning on a cat can frighten it and make it even more unmanageable. And receptionists can help increase compliance by asking all clients if they have cats at home and whether they're current on their vaccinations.

2 Pain management

Pets feel pain as frequently and as intensely as people do, but as veterinarians we haven't been as aggressive as our human-medicine counterparts in managing pain when we provide care. Yet pets feel better and their recovery is often accelerated by aggressive pain control.

When you're setting fees for pain management services, look first at what you're charging for other similar injections or oral medications. Clients are generally willing to pay for pain control if you educate them about it.

Don't forget to include pain management in common services like spays and neuters, and in dentistry.

Compliance booster: If you already offer complete pain management, consider including it in all medical protocols, estimates, and computer group codes. You may want to make pain control a mandatory requirement instead of an option in many or all cases.

Take the next step: If you already use conventional pain control techniques, think about how acupuncture or chiropractic care could supplement your practice's efforts to reduce patients' pain.