Talk is cheap in veterinary practice

Talk is cheap in veterinary practice

And really effective when delivered just right to clients.
Sep 01, 2012

Brendan Howard, Editor
Banfield has sold them for years. Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, has, too (see for his version). And companies have risen up to administer them for you.

That's right—I'm talking about annual wellness plans. If you're not ready to pull the trigger on wellness packages with a discount just yet, don't worry. There's no shame in seeing how the market will shake out. You'll be in good company. Just 20 percent of Well-Managed Practices—many of them on the cutting edge of business and management trends—have started wellness plans.

But whether you start them now or later, you can be sure clients want the benefits these plans provide. Pet owners appreciate the monthly payments associated with such plans. And in a recent study, they revealed what, besides cost, would get them into the veterinarian more often. (Check it out on article title "Bridge the client communication gap" this issue.) The top answers from the list are accounted for in wellness plans: preventing disease, detecting problems earlier, explaining why more frequent visits are necessary, and doing more thorough examainations—when you're not under fire to diagnose an illness.

If you're ready to try out wellness plans and breed-specific healthcare, head to "One size doesn';t fit all", where Denise Tumblin, CPA, offers an overview. (Next month she'll give details on pricing and administering wellness plans. It's all drawn from 2012 Benchmarks: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, now on sale at

And wellness plans or not, pet owners are always asking why they need to bring in pets more frequently. If you want to halt declining office visits, it's time for a heaping dose of what you already have—and what clients don't: the medical knowledge that more frequent visits mean better patient care. For more, dive into the article on the Client Communication Gap Survey starting on this issue as well as the first Veterinary Economics article by pet-focused writer Steve Dale on "Face time" for this issue.

Dale's article is a call to action for veterinarians whose medicine is top-notch but whose client communication could use a little work. Whether we're in a downturn, an upswing, a recession, or a depression, it's partly the economy—but a whole lot is based on the relationships you build with clients. Pet owners want to see that what they're paying for—a vaccination, an office visit, a diagnostic plan, or a procedure—will make their pet healthier, happier and ultimately live longer. They want more time with their pets, and you want to see pets in the hospital more often.

When cost is not the No. 1 issue, it comes down to you and your team's ability to explain the importance of particular products, services, and, yes, exam room visits. You can spread the word with signage outside, in posters and brochures in the waiting area, in face-to-face communication, in newsletters, and through activity on social media.

Your humility might not bear the truth, but when it comes to better patient care, better client compliance, and better education for pet owners, it really is all about you.

Brendan Howard, Editor

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