Wellness plans can improve the health of your patients and the finances of your clients and your practice. Here’s what you need to know.
High-quality medicine, satisfied clients, a happy staff and healthy profits are keys to success for any veterinary practice. Today, wellness plans are one of the tactics more practices are using to reach those goals.
A wellness plan allows clients to prepay for preventive pet health care services by entering into an annual contract with your practice. By paying an annual fee, typically broken into monthly installments, the pet receives certain wellness services throughout the year at no additional charge.
Services typically include annual exams, vaccinations, microchipping, diagnostic screenings and dental cleanings.
Plans can also include discounts on services not included in the plan. Wellness plans help keep pets healthier and—when thoughtfully implemented and executed—can also be a financial boon for practices, says Wendy Hauser, DVM, a former practitioner who now owns the practice management consultancy Peak Veterinary Consulting. “Plans that are not thought out may be confusing to pet owners and could result in decreased practice profitability,” Hauser says.
Above all, Hauser explains, wellness plans are a form of marketing. “They can be used to help attract new clients, because they offer a prescribed set of services and products for a set monthly fee,” she says. Clients who enroll in a wellness plan agree to obtain preventive care services from the hospital for the term of the contract, often resulting in increased annual client spend per pet.
When designing a wellness plan, it is critical that practice leadership understands the true costs of the services being provided. “I see plans that are minimally profitable or even unprofitable when inappropriate discounts are included,” Hauser says. She is not a proponent of plans that include unlimited examinations, for example, because there is a true cost to providing this service. “Examinations are often loss leaders, costing more to provide than is charged,” she says.
Factors to Consider
Hauser advises practices to consider these factors before implementing a wellness plan:
- Does the hospital have a culture of preventive medicine? Wellness plans are easiest to implement when team members believe in the value of preventive care and feel a responsibility to educate clients about how preventive medicine will benefit pets and their owners.
- Do hospital leaders believe in the program? Having buy-in from hospital leadership is critical. When hospital leaders model behavior that supports the importance of wellness plans, the entire team will embrace the program.
- How will the plan be marketed and managed? Assign an individual or small team to oversee your wellness plans, track results and update staff. Drive awareness and promote the plans through both internal and external marketing efforts such as in-clinic brochures and posters, telephone scripts and on-hold messages, email campaigns and social media outreach.
- What training will staff need to promote the plans? Team education is vital. Provide talking points to use in client discussions and have staff “practice what they preach” by participating in a plan for their own pets. Be sure to incentivize staff to promote the plan to clients, perhaps setting a target for them to sell a certain number of plans per month, and reward your team when goals are reached.
For more information
The Partners for Healthy Pets website offers resources for implementing wellness plans, including team training guidance. Click on “Monthly Payment Preventive Healthcare Plans” in the Your Toolbox tab.
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