Wellness Plans for Pet Owners

cover_june15In this post we are addressing how pet owners can plan for the cost of care for their companion over the long haul.

We addressed it in more detail in “Once Bitten, Price Shy,” appearing in the June 2015 issue of Trends Magazine, published by the American Animal Hospital Association.

So, how do pet owners plan for recurring costs?

Banfield Pet Hospital (in collaboration with PetSmart, now owned by MARS) revolutionized the way clients pay for their pet care when they developed a monthly payment model and called it a “wellness plan.” That was back in the 1990s.

Because Banfield was seen by many veterinarians as volume-oriented, with services of lesser quality, practice owners did not adopt the method. Today, however, many are realizing that they missed an opportunity and are looking at the “wellness plan” as a way to provide pet owners with some clarity and predictability.

Wellness Plans Provide Clarity and Predictability

Some full-service wellness plans are emerging from third-party providers, such as VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance), which is owned by Nationwide Insurance. In addition to their insurance policies, they now offer to veterinary practices a preventive-care package for a monthly fee. It is known as Prevention & Wellness Services (P&WS), with VPI serving as the silent partner, running the program through their software.

To serve clients whose practices do not offer a wellness plan, VPI launched the “Everyday Care Plan.” It’s a wellness plan that allows clients to go to any veterinarian of their choice.

Another provider is TruePet, which created a wellness plan for Amy Stone, DVM, PhD, Practice Manager at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. In partnership, TruePet produced the brochure and administers the plan; Stone and her staff decided on what should go into it. The plan is based on pet life stages. It also appreciates that some people cannot afford to do everything all the time, so there are packages based on different levels of care. Compared to some, the plan appears quite flexible, with the added benefit of access to specialties.

Subscribers to one of these plans can come in at any time for a $10 fee (like a co-pay), resulting in their coming more often rather than letting concerns go undiagnosed or treated.

To date, only 5%-10% of practices offer a wellness plan. To eliminate the mystery and give practices the know-how they need to get started, Wendy Hauser, DVM of Peak Veterinary Consulting, and Debra Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM of 2ManageVets, created a book entitled The Veterinarians’ Guide to Healthy Pet Plans.

The book includes an exploration of veterinary care plans, help in deciding if this is right for the practice, and the “how-to” to create a wellness plan. The authors teach how to think strategically about pricing, and they discuss discounting as a marketing tool which, when used correctly, can maintain profitability and increase acceptance. This resource includes extensive examples of training materials, scripts, plan contents, contracts and price calculations.

For more information, including research that has been done on wellness plans, read the entire article or contact us at info@ICSWorkplaceCommunication.com

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