Q&A: No deal on a professional discount

Q&A: No deal on a professional discount

My practice regularly refers cases to a nearby specialty practice. Recently my own dog became sick, and the clinic offered me a disappointingly meager discount for its services. Am I expecting too much? Is there a standard for professional discounts?
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Feb 01, 2011

My practice regularly refers cases to a nearby specialty practice. Recently, my own dog became sick, and the clinic offered me a disappointingly meager discount for its services. Am I expecting too much? Is there a standard for professional discounts?

The fact that you have a great relationship with your local specialty clinic—enough that you'd send your own pet there—is worth its weight in gold and is better than any discount, says Donna Bauman, CVPM, hospital administrator at Veterinary Specialty Care in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. That said, there are a few things to consider when discussing professional discounts.

First, consider the legalities. If a practice gives employees more than a 20 percent discount, it must be reported as income and can become problematic with the IRS. The amount the practice offers its employees will guide what it offers to outsiders. So if the practice offers a 20 percent discount to its employees, it probably isn't going to give you 40 percent.

Discounts have a negative impact on the practice's revenue, so team members need to work twice as hard to make up every dollar they give away in the form of a discount. In this situation, the specialty practice not only has team members who want discounts but also veterinarians and team members from every referring practice in the area. You can imagine how offering a substantial discount to all of them could have a negative financial effect on the practice.

In the future, ask ahead of time what kind of discount the practice offers to referring veterinarians. Understand that it's a business and that practice owners must be able to pay for skilled staff, expensive specialty equipment, and often board-certified veterinarians.

Don't let your disappointment affect your relationship with the practice, Bauman says. Judge the practice on the care it offers—not the discount it's willing to offer you.

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