Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2019

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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36 Today's Veterinary Business Communication On a mystery-shopper call, I asked whether my dog needed to be on heartworm pre- ventive. The client service represen- tative responded, "Yes, but it's only a recommendation. You don't have to. It's up to you." Rather than making assump- tions about what the pet owner can afford, simply answer their question by communicating value. Here's a better response: "Yes, we do recommend year-round heartworm prevention. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and can be quite serious. When you come in, our doctors will recommend which preventive product is best for Bella." A veterinary nurse pre- sented a treatment plan that she referred to as an "estimate." When the pet owner asked wheth- er all the tests needed to be done, the nurse responded, "Doctor wouldn't have put it on there if he didn't think it was important. But I can go find out your options." Avoid using the word "esti- mate," which focuses on money. Instead, say "treatment plan" or "preventive care plan," which focus on medical care. While it might be true that doctors recommend lab work and radiographs because they're both important, the specific value of the services might fail to be conveyed to the client. Here's a more confident re- sponse: "That's a good question, Mrs. Smith. The laboratory testing is to assess Bailey's internal organ function. Dr. Taylor wants to eval- uate his liver, kidney and pancreas function as well as his blood cell counts. The X-rays are to look for evidence of an obstruction or other abnormalities in his abdomen. These tests give Dr. Taylor different information. Together they will help determine what is causing Bai- ley's vomiting and the best course of treatment." A veterinarian examined a kitten that was weeks overdue for a second set of vac- cines. The final set was now due. She told the owner, "We could do just one vaccination, or to be on the safe side do a vaccine today and boost it again in three weeks. It's up to you." In this scenario, the veterinar- ian needed to focus on patient advocacy and make a clear rec- ommendation. Here's an example: "Since Lily missed her second set of vaccinations, we still need to do another booster three weeks from today. We want to ensure she is ad- equately protected against serious Ten years ago, I gave a conference presentation on the still-relevant topic "Talking to Clients About Treatment Plans and Fees." The catalyst for this article is what I've witnessed recently while working with several excellent practice teams: a focus on giving options to clients and saving money rather than concentrating on patient advocacy and the value of services or products. Let's look at what team members said and examples of how to improve financial conversations. Communication TALK THE TALK By Amanda L. Donnelly, DVM, MBA infectious diseases that kittens are susceptible to." A retired couple brought in their beloved Bichon Frise for a preventive care exam. The clients expressed some concern about finances. The veterinarian and nurse gave multiple options for heartworm and flea prevention. The couple were clearly confused by all the recommendations and product names. They left without purchasing any products. When clients are given too many options, they can easily become confused and assume they should just shop for the cheapest product online. Here's a better approach: "Keeping Sophie on monthly heartworm prevention is extreme- ly important. Heartworm disease can be costly to treat but more im- portantly can cause serious organ impairment and be life-threaten- ing. We also recommend flea and tick protection for Sophie since these external parasites can cause skin allergies and other diseases. We recommend [state the brand names] because these products are safe and effective. Let's review the cost and make sure this pre- ventive plan works for you. How does that sound?" The reason teams fail to have confident conversations about mon- ey and the value of services usually is due to a lack of training. Using an organized training program, practic- es can help team members become proficient in client communications so that they have better financial conversations like the examples above. Here are components of an effective training program. Focus on Patient Advocacy, Not Price The role of veterinary care provid- ers is to focus first and foremost on the value of care. Team members sometimes are unwittingly their worst enemy when making recom- mendations because the staff is concerned about whether the cli- ent will say "yes." As a result, client conversations end up focused on money rather than on patient care. 1 2 3 4 Communicate value Confident financial conversations are a team effort and serve to prioritize the pet.

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