Q&A: Talk clients through tough times to promote third-party payment plans

Q&A: Talk clients through tough times to promote third-party payment plans

Nov 01, 2010

Q. More clients are declining to even apply for third-party payment plans. Why?

There are multiple reasons people don't want to apply for these plans, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. Maybe they have too much debt, maybe their credit is bad and they don't want to be embarrassed by the rejection, maybe they don't really understand the program.

If you think clients aren't applying because they're worried about debt or low credit scores, you need to respect that, Dr. Felsted says. You should portray the programs in a positive and truthful light. Try saying something like, "This program is a great option for anyone who can make timely payments. If you're not comfortable with that, it might not be for you."

Next, you have to find ways to help these pets get the care they need. There are a few ways to address this:

Doctors recommend an alternative treatment. Rather than doing a liver biopsy, could the symptoms be treated empirically? The doctor must offer a medically appropriate alternative and you should explain the treatment from the standpoints of cost, prognosis, and procedures.

Spread out the treatment. Perhaps today your practice can do the exam and fecal, and in two months, you can do the heartworm test.

Use an "angel fund." If your practice has a fund set up, draw from it to help the needier clients. If you don't have one, could you put one in place? Solicit donations from team members and clients, and perhaps even ask employees to contribute services and time.

Utilize outside resources. In some areas, veterinary care is available for low-income pet owners. Consider referring clients to those organizations when available.