Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2018

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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20 Today's Veterinary Business Business Business PET INSURANCE for the animals we love. My ob- jective is to deliver that care in a way that best benefits my veteri- narians, staff, clients and patients. Pet insurance helps me achieve that goal. I don't consider recom- mending vaccinations, spay/neuter, dentistry, senior diagnostic tests or pet insurance as "selling." I consid- er it my professional obligation and responsibility to my patients. Besides, wouldn't you rather have a conversation about pet insurance than commiserating over another economic euthanasia? The Personal Toll The persistent pressure of pocket- book juggling, accepting compro- mised clinical recommendations and looking into the eyes of a patient you didn't have the op- portunity to treat take their toll on morale. I'm convinced that the constant barrage of financial fallout is the biggest cause of burnout, compassion fatigue and poor mo- rale in the veterinary profession. It's as simple as asking, "Do you have pet insurance?" to every unin- sured client every time they enter your clinic. Even if only 10 percent end up choosing to insure their pet, that's 10 percent fewer clients who will worry about how they'll afford your services. That's also 10 percent more financially stress-free encounters your team will deal with, and 10 percent more clients who will be able to follow your doctors' best plans. Our profession could certainly benefit from less economic uncertainty from clients. The negative impact that economic euthanasia has on your team can't be understated. Knowing you could've, and prob- ably should've, done more for a patient is emotionally erosive to everyone. Receptionists must bill out despondent clients, veterinary nurses nurture aching hearts, and veterinarians carry the burden of self-doubt and defeat. Economic euthanasia inflicts deep pain. The 80:20 Rule My personal goal with most things in life follows the 80:20 rule, with a twist. I aim for my practice and personal life to run smoothly and according to plan about 80 per- cent of the time. I concede that 20 percent is left to forces beyond my control, and I deal with it. To make my 80 percent mark, I must prepare and plan, work strategically and dil- igently, and remained focused and controlled. I won't kid you, it's a lot of work and effort. When the side- ways 20 percent hits, I'm as ready as possible. If my days start sliding out of control, I take that as a sign I need to do something different, not a signal that hope is lost. With a little intention, you'll find that 80 percent is achievable. I've found this approach applies to practice and pet insurance. My longstanding goal has been for about 80 percent of my appoint- ments to be free of monetary woes and centered on the pet's best inter- est. To accomplish this, we promoted affordable heartworm and ectopar- asite preventives as far back as 1996, implemented standardized wellness packages beginning in 1999, advo- cated extended-duration vaccine protocols in 2000, and developed first-year puppy/kitten packages and training programs circa 2003. While all these tactics proved to be beneficial business moves, the primary motivation was to create better a working environment for our staff. Simpler and fewer financial conversations coupled with a clear understanding of the costs meant less fiscal anxiety for our staff. Pet insurance is an important part of the evolution of providing the best patient care while simultaneously making work more enjoyable. The fact is that insured pets can improve staff morale by helping reduce economic eutha- nasia and decreasing dreaded money talks. Anyone who works in veterinary practice understands the trepidation associated with a "money case." Pet insurance can't eliminate every problem, but it can help you avoid some of them. It also can help you avoid piling up costly outstanding debts that rob cash flow from your business. You're Not a Banker It's not fair for pet owners to ask veterinary clinics to be credit card companies. Yet that's exactly what happens every time we hold checks, provide payment plans or accept a promise to "pay you back." Most independent veterinary clin- ics simply don't have the financial resources to offer a majority of clients deferred payments. If we fail to recommend pet in- surance with each uninsured client, we risk having a more challenging money talk later. I've always said that for a profession that "isn't about the money," we spend an inordi- nate amount of time negotiating financial matters with our clients. A conversation about pet insurance is infinitely easier than an emo- tionally charged desperate plea for payment plans and adjustments. In- stead of cutting corners and saving nickels when faced with a medical crisis, your team can concentrate on the best treatment options for a particular patient. That's the best and most important consultation we should have with clients. Clients Are Inquisitive It's important to note that pet own- ers want to know what you think Researching, selecting and applying for pet health insurance is incredibly easy. Websites such as make it easy for pet owners and vet- erinary teams to learn what policy- holders like and dislike about any of the 20 major providers. Since 2005, the website has been my go-to resource for clients and colleagues. Pet insurers have significantly streamlined the application and reimbursement process for clients. Many provide smartphone apps and simple online signups. I look for companies staffed by licensed veterinarians and veterinary techni- cians able to answer any questions a veterinarian or pet owner may have. Most clients will be reim- bursed within days of filing a claim. Consider that one less thing you or your manager have to worry about. Don't Be Silent Despite the advancements in pet insurance, many veterinary profes- sionals still aren't recommending coverage. In the same study linking burnout with pet owners' econom- ic limitations, 44 percent of veteri- narians stated that they discussed pet health insurance with less than 10 percent of clients. Only 15 percent of practitioners claimed to mention pet insurance with more than 75 percent of clients. I believe we must do better for both our patients and ourselves. The reluctance to talk about pet insurance may be rooted in our self-identity. Veterinarians may fear they're "selling something" or inad- vertently putting financial pressure on clients if insurance is men - tioned. Perhaps the veterinarian had a bad experience with a previ- ous-generation pet insurer and is concerned that a client will blame her if something goes wrong. In my opinion, our identity is rooted in providing the best care I'm convinced that the constant barrage of financial fallout is the biggest cause of burnout, compassion fatigue and poor morale in the veterinary profession.

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