Sticker shock: Stop scaring clients with your veterinary fees - Veterinary Economics
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Sticker shock: Stop scaring clients with your veterinary fees
Veterinary fees have outpaced inflation. Make sure your clients understand the better medicine they're receiving, and tackle client pushback with bundled services, payment alternatives, and—gasp!—discounts.


Banfield practices have used plans like these for years. Some non-Banfield practices have also implemented them successfully. (Again, see "What wellness plans can be for your veterinary practice".) Discounts in the plans are more than offset by profit generated from increased visits. Of course, you need to market the program. These plans must bring in new clients or encourage current clients to provide better care to be effective. You need to reach out in newsletters and brochures, on your website, in direct-mail campaigns, and face-to-face communication with clients in the practice.

Targeted discounts. Many practices already offer these in conjunction with calendar events, such as National Pet Dental Health Month in February. They can work well. For example, let's say you want to increase cat visits to your practice. You could run a program in which a discount is offered to cat owners who haven't visited the practice in over 18 months. Perhaps you'd offer a percentage off of total services or give a service for free or at a reduced rate. You could offer discounts during a month, a week, or certain days when the practice is slow.

Other examples of targeted discounts include a reduced rate for a service you want to promote (in-house blood work, tonometry) or a discount on a product such as flea preventive if a client pays for an exam.

The power of discounts and bundles is that they give clients who weren't going to come an incentive to visit the practice. The reduced price alone, however, won't keep pet owners visiting regularly. You and your staff must provide a good experience and explain the value in the care they get once they're at your door.

One key component of the strategy: You must track how many people are using your discounts and bundled programs to see if they really do increase revenue, visits, and the amount of care you provide to patients.

Give them ways to pay

Some clients who are fully committed to providing high-quality care for their pets are looking for payment alternatives. Pet owners may agree that your prices are fair and justified, but if they've got just $200 and a maxed-out credit card, they simply can't afford your $500 recommendation.

Research has shown that finance alternatives make a real difference in patient care. A study by Veterinary Pet Insurance found that its clients with pet health insurance on average had 41 percent higher stop-treatment levels, scheduled 40 percent more veterinary visits, and spent twice as much on veterinary care over the life of their pets compared to similar pet owners without pet insurance. A cardholder survey by CareCredit revealed that 71 percent of cardholders said having this option affected their decision to accept treatment for their pet.

Of course, you and your team need to understand the pet insurance and third-party payment plans yourselves to effectively recommend them to clients. Recommendations are most helpful when they include not only a general financing option but a specific brand along with the reasons why the practice thinks the product is the best one. This is no different from your medical products and treatment plans. Clients don't just want to know that their pets should be on heartworm preventive—they want to know which brand your practice recommends and why. (For more on payment alternatives, read my article at

Not every pricing strategy discussed here is going to be right for every practice. If your hospital is experiencing real growth in visits and transactions and has a healthy profit margin, you may not need to change much. But if your practice isn't growing and isn't profitable, it's time to change something, whether that's financing alternatives, smart discounts and bundling, better exam-room communication—or the straight-up cost of a service.

Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, is CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. John Volk is a senior consultant with Brakke Consulting.



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