Hospital administrator Union Lake Veterinary Hospital Waterford, Mich.
5 The practice owners at this seven-doctor practice saw the number of wellness exams sink when the recession started. Worried
that the biggest barrier to pet care might be cost, they decided to let clients break up payments to make the care affordable.
Three years ago, Union Lake Veterinary Hospital introduced prepaid preventive healthcare plans for pets. An important feature
of the plans was to provide unlimited pet visits so that clients would know they could bring in their pets for any reason
and the exams would be covered. The hard part, Engler says, was figuring out how to make the plan work for clients and the
She started from the beginning, deciding what services clients on plans would use. She estimated her costs this way. For example,
she assumed that clients with adult pets would use two wellness visits, two medical exams and two rechecks in a 12-month period.
Then she added in costs of vaccines and other preventive services and discounted the entire package by 10 percent. She created
puppy and kitten, adult pet and senior pet plans to offer customized coverage to individual pets.
At least 10 percent of new puppy and kitten owners sign up for the plan, Engler says. The senior pet plans are the hardest
The learning curve for the practice's 55 team members has been a challenge, she says, and the practice continues to adjust
the plans as they see how clients use them. It also took time to convince the comission-based doctors they were not really
sacrificing income but instead had a way to practice better medicine. Under the plans, doctors receive credit as services
are rendered. They receive full commission on pet exams, even if clients use more than the six exams covered under their plans.
Doctors have found that clients now bring in their pets for ear problems and accept cytology and laboratory work because they
can afford to do more.
Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM, is a veterinary business consultant and nationally known writer and speaker. She says her job is to help practices "go and
grow" with training, marketing and new ideas. She is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager, an adjunct instructor for AAHA,
and a founding member of VetPartners (formerly the Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants and Advisors).