Dogs and cats come in all shapes and sizes—why shouldn't healthcare plans? The sooner you start customizing care, the better you can treat patients. Here are two strategies you and your staff can implement today:
Denise Tumblin, CPA
1. Offer wellness packages. Clients pay for these bundled services up front or with installment billing.
2. Create breed-specific healthcare plans. Clients can follow these guidelines and you can consistently customize care for each patient.
Let's review: Despite all the talk about wellness packages, only 20 percent of practices surveyed offer them, according to Benchmarks 2012: A Study of Well-Managed Practices by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics. Most veterinarians surveyed said they don't use the plans because they don't want to reduce the price of their services—a valid point given the decades-long advice not to offer discounts. (Keep reading to find out how to offset this discount.)
Components of care in adult dog wellness packages
Veterinarians also said they don't know what to include in the packages or how to price and administer them (we'll get to this part next month). However, well-structured wellness packages are a viable option for driving patient visits without giving away your time and medicine.
WIN WITH WELLNESS PLANS
Wellness packages are intended to cover wellness and prevention services—not everything a pet will ever need. If you design your package to include only basic services and communicate clearly with clients using a written contract, clients won't be surprised by fees and services that aren't covered by the plan.
Clients with wellness plans are more committed to bringing their pet in for preventive care because they've either prepaid for the care or are making budget-friendly monthly payments. More regular visits mean you have more opportunities to identify additional, necessary care not covered by the package. When a client says, "Yes!" to additional care, that's good for the patient, practice, and client relationship (you identified and resolved the pet's health needs sooner rather than later).
Wellness plans are usually designed to cater to puppies/kittens, adults, and seniors. While practices include a variety of services and products in the package, the most common are exams, vaccinations, fecal testing, and heartworm testing. See the tables belove for more info.
Most veterinarians using wellness plans have discounted services more than 20 percent from the regular à la carte price—this discount is too steep. Ideally, you should offer a price cut of 15 percent or less. The following factors make this price slash feasible:
> Pet owners purchase additional, necessary care that pets wouldn't have received if they hadn't come in for their "package visit." In some respects, the wellness package acts as a loss leader that results in additional, incremental revenue. The additional, incremental revenue helps offset the steep discount on the plan.
> Some patients enrolled under a wellness plan will not receive all the care they're entitled to. Pet owners might not schedule all of the visits—even though they've already paid for the care and you remind them.
Although veterinarians want their patients to receive what they've paid for to the patient's benefit, clients' failure to utilize the included services does play a role in the viability of offering steep discounts.