What wellness plans can be for your veterinary practice - Veterinary Economics
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What wellness plans can be for your veterinary practice
Wellness plans aren't milking clients dry. They're swelling veterinary hospitals with income and helping spot patient problems. Learn what set-fee-for-service packages can do for your practice.


VETERINARY ECONOMICS


Create your wellness plan

To get started, you'll want to develop several types of packages. Wellness plans can include preventive care services, such as lab tests, vaccinations, radiographs, dental care, and elective surgery. Which services are included depends on the package. For example, a minimum-care plan might include vaccinations, heartworm or feline leukemia tests, fecal exams, annual deworming, and interstate health certificates. A premium plan could include all of this plus dentistry procedures and urinalysis. Packages can also be created for pets according to age. Those under 6 months old will need an ovariohysterectomy or castration, and those more than 5 years old benefit from lab tests twice a year, a chest radiograph, and electrocardiograms. Each plan has a different monthly fee. (Look at my "Sample wellness plan" to see what these packages might look like.)

No matter what level of plan, the package should include at least one comprehensive health exam—I recommend two—requiring a drop-off appointment. Drop-off appointments let us spread out our day's wellness exams and avoid crowding nonwellness patient visits. When the patient goes home, the client is given a multi-page printout describing what's normal or abnormal in each system area. In my practice, we've found that most clients really appreciate these reports. Most say they've never seen such detailed explanations before, even when they've received patient report cards in the past. These comprehensive exams include much more than the usual exam visit, and the report reflects that.

Plan your Package's pricing

At my hospital, wellness plans are priced at $18 per month for the most basic level and up to $39 per month for the geriatric plan. Pet insurance studies have found that clients resist monthly payments exceeding $40 to $45, so we keep wellness plans in a similar range.

In addition to the monthly fee, we charge a one-time sign-up fee of $69 for most packages. The fee helps pay for bookkeeping and provides up to $20 for a staff incentive to educate clients about the plans. The incentive system determines how much and how many staff members benefit from educating a client. For example, if only one staff member educates the client and the client signs up, the incentive is $20. If four staff members educate the client, each gets $5 incentive pay.

Our wellness package clients pay the sign-up fee up front and either prepay the monthly fee or elect to have it withdrawn from their checking or savings account every month. We don't accept mail-in payments or recurring payments on credit cards. Clients sign a one-year contract, with automatic renewal if they don't cancel. More than 80 percent of our participants continue on the plan year after year.

Veterinarians for decades have been of the opinion that wellness plans are not good for practices because they're merely another way of discounting fees. But at my practice, wellness plans have increased our financial outlook considerably. Maybe in these new economic times, the profession needs to take a fresh look at what bundled wellness services can do for clients, patients, and practices.

Simply put, wellness plans meet the highest standards for patient care. They meet clients' needs by spreading out the cost of care. They allow veterinary team members to earn incentive compensation. And they bring consistent revenue into the practice. What's not to like about a cash cow, especially when patient care improves and clients become more satisfied with your practice?

Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, of Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Kelso, Wash., is an accredited valuation analyst and a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member. He is also owner of Yelm Veterinary Hospital in Yelm, Wash. Send questions and comments to


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Source: VETERINARY ECONOMICS,
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