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Presenting Finance Options is Not Standard Practice

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, August 31, 2017

In collaboration with our Platinum Business Alliance Partners CareCredit, Henry Schein/Vetstreet and Nationwide VHMA created a survey to elicit information from veterinary staff about the strategies, issues and challenges of helping clients pay for pet healthcare, communication and practice challenges. The results of the survey---completed by 216 respondents ---are presented below.

 

Discussing fees with pet owners can be uncomfortable and frustrating for veterinary team members. The conversation is even more difficult when it is clear that the client cannot afford the recommended treatment. In these situations, sharing information about financing alternatives and insurance options may increase the likelihood that the patients receives appropriate care.

 

Starting the conversation

 

According to the majority of respondents, the staff members most likely to discuss fees with clients are receptionists (87%) and veterinary technicians (78%).

The staff members least likely to engage in fee discussions with clients are veterinarians (52%) and other staff (62%). Please note, “other” does not include veterinarians, receptionists, managers and technicians.

 

Examining the options

 

Although the cost of veterinary care can be significant, discussing financing options with clients does not appear to be standard procedure in the practices surveyed. A scant nine percent indicate that options are included with the treatment plan. According to 67%, payment options are most often discussed only when the client voices concern about the cost of treatment. Nineteen percent defer talking about financing entirely until the client specifically inquiries about it.

 

Respondents (57%) prefer that when clients apply for financing they complete the application at home. Twenty-eight percent, however, would rather that clients apply in the office with the assistance of staff person.  A small number (14%) favor asking the client to complete the application on their own in the office.

 

Assisting the conversation

 

When payment options such as CareCredit are presented to clients, respondents indicate that conversations about these products can be improved with resources that clearly explain financing to clients (49%), scripts for staff that outline how CareCredit works (45%), a payment calculator (44%) that can be used to show clients their monthly payments and scripts that guide staff in discussing payment and costs in general with clients (42%). Fifteen percent believe that it would be beneficial for CareCredit to meet with and train veterinary staff.

Practices that offer CareCredit report that the most challenging aspect of promoting the credit card is informing clients that credit has been declined (75%). Other problematic areas include: discussing payment options (27%), answering client questions about CareCredit (24%), processing a CareCredit application (20%), getting help when needed (17%) and training staff to use CareCredit (15%).

 

Understanding the options

 

In the month prior to completing the survey, 70% of respondents report having first-hand knowledge of at least one staff member recommending an insurance plan to a client. The health insurance or finance companies most often mentioned are: Trupanion (61%), CareCredit (53%), Nationwide (44%), Embrace (21%), Pet Plan (18%) and ASPCA (15%). A small percentage identified a smattering of additional plans, which include 24PetWatch, Figo, Pet First and Healthy Paws.

 

When asked to list resources that might better equip staff  to knowledgably recommend pet insurance, the open-ended questioned yielded 66 responses that sorted into the following categories: approximately 30% report that a comparison chart with unbiased evaluations of an array of plans would provide consumers with information necessary to make good decisions; 10% requested training videos and webinars that staff could view to learn about the plans at their convenience; and several respondents requested lunch and learns and/or informational meetings with plan representatives.

 

Attracting clients

 

In response to the statement, “I believe that a pet insurance plan that includes wellness is important to a pet’s optimal health,” 40% of respondents agreed and 33% strongly agreed. Only 4% disagreed and 15% had no opinion. Forty-seven percent report that 50% or fewer of the visits to the practice are wellness visits and 43% said that more that 50% of visit are wellness visits.

 

Communicating effectively plays a significant role in attracting and retaining clients. The top three methods of communicating with clients are reminders sent via email (60%), reminders that are texted (45%) and assessing services and performance through client satisfaction surveys (31%). Respondents are least like to rely on phone reminders (6%) and email newsletters (4%) to keep in touch with clients.

 

The most important attribute of a Communication Solutions Strategy, as identified by respondents, is to improve client compliance, identified as very or most important by 71% of respondents. Forty-three percent indicated that the strategy is important to grow revenue. Fifty-six percent said that a less important aspect of communication is attract new clients and 50% felt that it was not as important to use communication to educate clients about the importance of preventive care (56%).

 

Responding to challenges in the practice

 

The quality of the staff often dictates the success of a practice. Recruiting and hiring staff is one of the greatest challenges respondents face (57%). Related to the importance of staff is the challenge of offering effective staff training and development (50%). Other areas that test practice administrators include: identifying lost revenue and capturing missing charges (43%), providing client education and ensuring compliance (40%) and increasing patient visits (40%).

 

Respondents do not seem to struggle as much with implementing new technology (12%), managing the practice’s reputation (11%) and complying with laws and regulations (11%).

 

Respondents are tuned in to what their clients are saying about the practice and most practices (94%) monitor online reviews.

 

An open ended question pertaining to Client Communication Solutions allowed respondent s to suggest enhancements and improvements. Those most often mentioned include:  lower cost, better integration with PMS, more opportunities for clients to communicate with the practice, improved customer support and the ability to schedule appointments online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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