Are Veterinary Wellness Programs Still Worth Doing?

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This week Nestlé Purina announced that their ‘Partners in Wellness’ veterinary wellness program will be discontinued. So are these programs now dead?

We say an emphatic NO! In our opinion there has never been a better time to introduce a veterinary wellness program into your practice. Here’s why…

Veterinary Sticker Shock, Buying Psychology,  And Why Veterinary Wellness Programs Are The Answer

Consider this common scenario played out for real every day in veterinary practices across the country…

A client visits with their pet for it’s annual wellness exam. They are told it should have a blood work done and that it’s core and non-core vaccinations are due. They are told that its needs a heart worm preventative and, of course, a heart worm test. They are told that it’s teeth needs cleaning.  And, of course, that’s on top of the wellness exam they came in for.

The more items they are told their pet needs (and the cost of each item), the more the color drains from their face. Eventually they decide to skip the blood work and delay getting the heart worm test (and preventative) and the dental cleaning  to “another day.”  

What you just witnessed was a classic case of “veterinary sticker shock!”

In 2011 Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division released their Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. In this study, they identified “sticker shock” as one of six reasons why visits to veterinary offices are declining.  Sticker Shock occurs when the actual cost of the visit is much higher than the one the client had in their head when they walked into the exam room.

Note: “Sticker Shock” can occur whether or not the client has the financial resources to pay the bill. It is an issue related to the psychology of how people make buying decisions.

For example, one our clients was having  trouble selling twelve month supplies of heart worm preventative at $120 a packet (Heart worm is a year round problem down here in sunny Florida.)  However, when he offered the same client the chance to buy a one month supply for $15 they jumped at the chance. So the same clients who balked at paying $120 for year supply are now happily paying $180 for a year supply!

The psychology at play here is the same reason why car dealers advertise cars at $299 per month rather than at $25,000 for the car. People can see the smaller payment as being doable and as fitting in with their budget without much thought but they can’t wrap their head around paying the bigger fee.

So in the heart worm example, the clients could not see pulling out $120 there and then but could make a decision on $15 without a second thought.

This is why Veterinary Wellness Programs, when delivered and sold in the right way can be tremendous for your clients and your practice. In fact, in the same Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, 46% of Dog Owners and 44% of Cat Owners said they would visit their veterinarian more often if they had a monthly billed veterinary wellness program.

The Benefits of Veterinary Wellness Programs

If you’re not convinced then consider the following:

  • Better Cash Flow – when you have clients paying monthly their fees are in your account at the start of each month before you’ve even opened your practice and switched the lights on!
  • Higher Client Retention – clients are less likely to move practices once they get used to paying a relatively small monthly fee to your practice.
  • Higher Patient Compliance – clients who are in veterinary wellness program are more likely to be compliant with your treatment recommendations because  they’re not having to pay in addition to a large annual fee.
  • Higher Patient Value – clients are likely to be worth more to your practice because the total they pay in monthly fees is likely to be more than if they paid annually. They are also likely to visit more often and not delay in bringing their pet to see you when it develops symptoms that may require further treatment.
  • More New Clients – if you’re the only practice in your offering a veterinary wellness program then you will attract more new clients for that reason alone.

So if you want to be different from the other practices in your area make introducing a veterinary wellness program a priority for 2014.


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