Pet Wellness Plans Increase Monthly Visits

Early adopters of wellness plans are seeing increases in patient visits while also boosting compliance.


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At age 12, Kodi was diagnosed with cancer, adding to his multiple medical problems. When veterinarians at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital in Waterford, Mich., wanted to perform ultrasound, blood work, and X-rays, Kodi's family easily said yes.

Kodi has been enrolled in a senior preventive care plan for four years, which covers unlimited exams, vaccines, heartworm tests, intestinal parasite screens, deworming, EKG, blood pressure check, tonometry, abdominal ultrasound, chest and abdominal X-rays and senior preventive blood work.

Because core medical services are on monthly payments, Kodi's family could afford the level of cancer treatments that their dog needed.

“Kodi is probably surviving cancer much better because we diagnosed it early,” says Annette Engler, LVT, CVPM, CCRP, the hospital administrator.

Over four years, Kodi's preventive care plan has saved the family an estimated $1,000 and cemented their loyalty to the nine-doctor practice nestled in the heart of the Big Three—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Decades of economic downturn in the Detroit area often had clients requesting monthly payments, Engler says. Now preventive care plans deliver the standard of care that veterinarians want, while giving clients financial solutions. After four years, 600 clients have enrolled, with numbers swelling higher each year. Revenue is up 10 percent thanks to increases in neuters and dentistry covered by plans.

Early adopters of wellness plans are seeing increases in patient visits while also boosting compliance. Here are benefits that hospitals have discovered during the kickoff years of wellness plans:

Increased Patient Visits

More than 44 percent of pet owners said veterinarians could increase patient visits if they provided wellness plans with monthly billing, according to the 2011 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study.1

At Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, doctors strive to see patients twice a year for exams. Plan holders exceed the standard, averaging three to five exams per year, Engler says.

Improved patient visits at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital echo results found by Banfield Pet Hospital, which has 1.4 million pets on wellness plans. Among Banfield plan holders, cats averaged 3.67 veterinary visits per year while dogs had 2.86 visits annually.2 Plan holders visited twice as often as non-plan users.

“Preventive care plans give clients a way to receive unlimited exams while also increasing value and compliance,” Engler says. For tips on showing value for your veterinary services, click here.

Eliminate "Do You Want?” Conversations

During 20-minute exams, how much time do you spend negotiating which services and products clients will accept?

“There is no back and forth because we do what we recommend for the pet,” says Harold Pearce, DVM, owner of Leesville Animal Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., who has been offering wellness plans for one year through Partners in Wellness. “Most senior patients need blood work and dentistry. Senior patients need care now, and wellness plans are a way clients can say yes now.”

Clients pay $47 per month plus a one-time $50 enrollment fee for a senior dog wellness plan with a routine dental cleaning. If purchased separately, clients would pay $783 for the same services, a savings of $169. As an added perk, plan holders are rewarded with a 10 percent discount on microchips and flea/tick and heartworm prevention.

“Smart clinics add items to their plans that cost them very little—such as nail trims—but have high value to clients,” says David Goodnight, DVM, MBA, president and chief operating officer of Partners in Wellness in San Antonio. “People love unlimited exams because they're not afraid to come in.”

When employees sell plans at Powell Boulevard Veterinary Clinic & Dental Center in Portland, Ore., they compare costs for today's visit with wellness plan payments. Staff may ask clients, “Instead of spending $430 today, would you like to sign up for a wellness plan? You would pay $99.90 today and then monthly payments of $29.95.”

Clients pay a one-time enrollment fee of $69.95 per pet and monthly payments of $29.95 for the adult wellness plan. The plan includes up to four exams, core vaccines, monthly nail trims, anal gland expression, deworming, two intestinal parasite tests and preventive blood work (www.powellvet.com/online-forms).

“Make your adult plans the same price as pediatric plans or a little less,” says Denise Saxon, hospital manager, who has offered plans for two years. “Make sure your plans auto renew every year with a 60-day cancellation period.”

Plan holders can graduate from puppy/kitten to adult plans and then onto senior plans. At Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, 70 percent of plan holders renew.

Perform More Dentistry

Leesville Animal Hospital offers plans that include routine dentistry. When advanced oral disease is present, clients pay for extractions, dental X-rays and other services at the time of the procedure. “No question, dentistry is an easy sell,” Dr. Pearce says.

Finances may limit some clients from accepting dentistry. At Powell Boulevard Veterinary Clinic & Dental Center, having wellness plans with dental add-ons has increased compliance.

“We practice great medicine but a lot of people can't pay $600 to $700 for dentistry,” says Saxon. “Splitting it into 12 payments gives us more potential for extra earnings while also improving patient care. Now clients can afford extractions, dental X-rays and advanced care.”

Provide More Diagnostics

When structuring plans, most hospitals include preventive blood work for adult and senior patients. “Our plans include workups for early detection,” says Engler. “We want to address medical conditions before they become serious problems.”

At Leesville Animal Hospital, its senior dog plan includes diagnostics of heartworm/tick test, intestinal parasite screen, blood work, thyroid test, urinalysis, tonometry and blood-pressure screening. Bundling diagnostics into wellness plans has upgraded patient care, Pearce says.

When deciding whether wellness plans are right for your clinic, have a goal in mind.

Union Lake Veterinary Hospital had four goals for its plans:

  • Bond clients to the practice;
  • Increase neuters being lost to low-cost providers;
  • Increase Grade 1 dentistry; and
  • Increase diagnostics for senior patients.

“Before you try to implement preventive care plans, ask yourself what you're trying to achieve by offering them,” Engler says. “Are you doing wellness plans because everyone else is? That's not a good reason. My main goal was to provide better patient care. As a result of wellness plans, we also grew revenue.” 

For more information on implementing a wellness plan, click here.

Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians. She helps teams improve compliance and client service through consulting, seminars and webinars. You can reach her at wmyers@csvets.com or www.csvets.com.

REFERENCES
1. 2011 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study conducted by the National Comission on Veterinary Economic Issues, Brakke Consulting and Bayer Animal Health.

2. JAVMA, Sep. 15, 2011. Burns K. "Reversing the Decline in Patient Visits."

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