Should Your Clinic Offer Prepaid Wellness Plans?
Consumers are familiar with prepaid plans. We use them to pay for our cars, our mortgages, and our electronics. Why should it be any different with our pets? That’s where prepaid wellness plans, also known as preventive plans, come in.
“If money were no object, what would you want to do take care of your patients?” Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM and owner of 2 Manage Vets Consulting, asks.
Having successfully managed veterinary practices for 23 years, Debbie Boone encourages clinics to offer preventive plans. “Preventive plans were so successful in my first practice that we had a 90% compliance rate with remindable services,” says Boone, who now works with hospitals to create plans with equalized payments.
So where do you start?
What are the Advantages of Prepaid Wellness Plans?
Most pet owners only seek veterinary care in an emergency, but a prepaid wellness plan allows pet owners to be proactive and take better care of their pets.
Prepaid wellness plans also play a critical role in early disease detection. According to Antech Diagnostics Early Detection Brochure, if detected early, 75% of common diseases in dogs and 63% of common diseases in cats can be prevented by dietary modifications alone over a one year period.
Prepaid wellness plans also help control costs for pet owners. The Bayer Veterinary Usage Care Study identified cost of care as one of the reasons for the yearly decline in companion animal veterinary care visits. In the study, conducted by Bayer Animal Health, Brakke Consulting and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI), 53% of those surveyed said veterinary costs are usually much higher than they expected.
“Preventive plans give clients a better ability to pay,” Debbie Boone says. “By implementing payment plans, you’re able to space out how much it would cost over a period of time."
Prepaid wellness plans are also beneficial to veterinary hospitals. First, they allow practices to provide better services to the pet. For example, you might normally only give a patient core vaccinations, but with a prepaid wellness plan, you’re able to perform more, such as blood work and other diagnostic screenings.
“Preventive plans allow us to give more services to pets and to keep them healthier,” Boone states.
Prepaid wellness plans also create stability for practices. With payments coming in year-round, they even out some of the instability in revenue during the winter months. Another benefit prepaid wellness plans offer is increased client compliance. “As you continue to educate and work with your clients and make it easier to pay, then your compliance rate goes up,” she explains.
Creating a Prepaid Wellness Plan
There are lots of questions to ask when creating a prepaid wellness plan. For instance, what are you going include in your plan: medicines, services, or both? What vaccinations are you going to consider core vaccinations? How much are you going to charge?
The first and most important step, however, is to decide your protocol. “There has to be a consistency of protocol,” Boone says. “If you’re going to set up plans in your practice, every doctor has to do the same thing.”
Next, create bundle packages. Packages are often set up according to age group, but can vary with breed, she says. Most packages are divided into the following:
• Puppies/Kittens – 1 year old or younger
• Adult Animals – 1-5 years old
• Senior Animals – 5-7 years old and up, depending on breed
Decide what services you’re going to offer. To answer that question, ask yourself, what is the best thing to do to take care of animal at this life stage?
According to Debbie Boone, most plans include:
• 2 physical exams/year
• Core vaccinations
• Additional at-risk vaccines
• Lab testing/screening
• Fecal exams
• Heartworm tests
Other services to consider include neutering or parasite prevention. “There is no limit to what can be pulled in to the plans,” she says.
Once your packages are set, you need to develop a marketing strategy. There are several ways to promote your preventive plans. Create handouts for clients, send out emails and cards, create in-clinic posters, post details to your social media pages, and remind staff to tell their friends.
“Explain to clients the benefit of the plans,” Boone says. “The gain they get [better health care for their pet] over the pain of giving up the money.”
Difficulties of Prepaid Wellness Plans
As with any service, prepaid wellness plans can present challenges. What happens when a patient dies? Are clients still required to pay the remainder of the plan?
“Some practices require the plans be paid out even if the pet dies or runs away,” Boone says. “Most practices calculate how much of the plan services have actually been used by the pet and determine which is better for the client – to continue to pay out the plan or to pay full fees for the services used.”
Practices need to strongly emphasize that the plans are not insurance and if the pet is sick there will be regular fees associated with the sickness.
“This is a major point of confusion when free or discounted exams are included in the plans. Some practices make the choice of not including any sick care in the plans just for this reason,” she says.
To lessen this problem, Debbie Boone recommends using credit recommendations to qualify clients who participate in wellness plans. Also, putting it down in writing will help clients clearly see what they are actually paying for.
Are Prepaid Wellness Plans Really Worth It?
The logistics of creating a prepaid wellness plan can also be challenging. “Many practices don’t have a lot of staff,” Boone explains. “If you have a small practice, who is going to handle the payments?”
Another obstacle might be resistance to change. Use training and storytelling to get your team onboard. Convey the benefit to the animal and share stories of how preventive plans increase client compliance. After all, staff members are the ones marketing the preventive plans in the practice. They have to be comfortable with it.
Still, Debbie Boone says the challenges are well-worth it.
“It is an effort to make the change, it is an effort to train your staff and educate your clients, but it’s an effort worth doing,” Boone notes. “Preventive plans work.”
For more information about prepaid wellness plans, visit, www.dboone2managevets.com.