Help senior pets graduate to good health

A senior wellness program can stimulate growth and keep older patients healthy.
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May 01, 2009

Times are tough, but don't accept that your practice can't grow. The best businesses can thrive even in a time of economic turmoil. So look at your missed opportunities for growth. There's a lot of gold in your patient charts—are there services you could be providing that you're missing out on?

One of my favorite areas for growth is senior wellness care and treatment. Many clinics have aging pet populations that need our help. Prove it to yourself by running a patient search on your veterinary software program. You'll likely find that the majority of your patients are 5 years old or older. Many veterinarians talk about promoting senior care but do little about it. Now's the time to work a little harder, dig a little deeper, and implement new services.

Designing a senior wellness care program isn't hard, but you'll need to be systematic. To start out, the "Senior at Seven" theme is a good marketing message to help raise clients' awareness of age-related pet health needs. Your next step is to recommend an annual health screen, which ideally includes a thyroid test and a urinalysis, for all patients over the age of 5 or 7. And if you really want to go all out—which is the most gratifying way to do it—also include blood pressure and eye pressure screens. So whether a senior patient suffers from kidney disease, diabetes, glaucoma, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, or high blood pressure, you'll be there to fix the problem. You don't need to design your program from scratch—there's plenty of help out there. You can find articles in professional journals and on Web sites, call your lab service for ideas, or hire a consultant.

Here's a good example: Last week, a colleague of mine mentioned that when he recently took over his practice as owner, one of the first things he did was send a coupon to clients for a senior wellness package. The package cost $170, a savings of $56 to clients. He was surprised at the mailing's success and how many takers he had—especially in today's economy. If your wellness program is behind the times—or nonexistent—start implementing a new one now. You just might surprise yourself, too.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.