Who talks to veterinary clients about financing options?
Ouch! Are you feeling veterinary clients’ financial pain? Veterinary care can end up being a significant expense that many pet owners aren’t equipped to handle. Broaching the topic with clients requires sensitivity, empathy, timing and a plan. A VHMA survey about practice billing procedures elicited responses from 391 practice managers, hospital administrators and technicians.
Do practices routinely encounter clients who can’t afford to pay for treatment for their pets? The VHMA survey listed five practice problems—attracting clients, maintaining clients, foregoing treatment because of inability to pay, collecting payment and discounting services—and asked respondents to select the one that presented the greatest challenge daily.
Sixty-four percent said that dealing with clients who decline or delay treatment for their pets due to financial hardship is the most challenging aspect of the job. Less than half found it challenging to attract new clients, discount services, maintain clients or collect payments.
Once the client receives the pet’s prognosis, most often a receptionist (75 percent) or a technician (66 percent) delivers the cost breakdown for services and treatment. Hospital managers and veterinarians are least likely to be involved in the conversation.
When the cost of treatment is comparable to a major appliance, it’s not surprising that many clients want to hear more about financing treatment and other options. But only 10 percent said they automatically discuss financing options through the practice with the client. Although most respondents don’t offer financing in response to a particular diagnosis, 70 percent said they mention pet insurance to clients.
To help clients plan for the realities of pet ownership, respondents offered suggestions:
• Educate clients about the expense and issues associated with owning a pet so they’re aware of how they might need to pay for care.
• Offer a comparison chart that presents an overview of plans to show how they may meet the client’s needs. Clients also benefit from general information presented in brochures that are easy to digest.
• Offer good online information to facilitate the discussions.
Food for thought: More than 95 percent of respondents indicated they would like to receive information and training about inflation trends in service pricing.