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So far VCP has created 27 blog entries.

Recommendations are a Responsibility, Not a Choice

When a pet owner brings their pet to an animal hospital, regardless of whether that pet is sick or seeking preventive care services, it is the responsibility of the veterinary team to recommend the care they believe is the very best in that situation. The great thing about a wellness plan program is that those recommendations are made easier because the care is clearly defined, the message is repeatable and there should be no differing opinions among doctors or team members. However, just because you make the recommendation doesn’t mean a pet owner will immediately accept and enroll their pet in your program. There may be a variety of reasons for this, but the important point is that not saying “yes” at that very moment does not mean that the owner isn’t interested at all. It often means that they need to think about it, which shouldn’t lead to discouragement, or a lack of future recommendations, on the part of the veterinary team. Consider the following true story submitted by Laura, the practice manager at Animal Clinic Del Rancho in Scottsdale, AZ: About 2 months ago, a client came in with both of their pets for a sick visit. At that time our technician and doctor told her about our wellness plans. The doctor also informed her that both pets would need a dental in the next year. However, the client chose not to enroll her pets at that time. Today, the client walked into our clinic and enrolled both pets on wellness plans that include dentistry, and scheduled an appointment to bring them in next week! It was a great reminder to our team that we should mention our wellness plans to all [...]

2018-01-09T17:22:02+00:005:18 pm|

New Year = New Possibilities

The end of a year is always a good time to look back on the past 12 months to see what has been accomplished, what worked and what didn’t and what still needs to be done going forward. At VCP 2017 was a busy year with lots of new practices launching wellness plan programs, software improvements and interesting iterations like telemedicine, membership clubs and much more. 2018 is already lining up to be just as exciting, as more practices come on board and existing practices with mature programs learn to navigate the renewal process and add new plans and features to grow their client offerings. In 2017 we have actively blogged on a variety of wellness plan related topics – from optimal plan design and marketing strategy to understanding ‘churn’ and everything in between. But when you strip away all of the statistics, recommendations and details, what is it we have been talking about in these articles and why is it important? At the heart of it all, we are talking about changing the eco-system of a veterinary practice simply by bundling optimal preventive care services and offering the ability for clients to pay for these services over time. And yet as simple as that sounds, we can all agree that the transition to this new eco-system has been slow to evolve and fraught with the anxiety that accompanies major change initiatives. But we also know wellness plans work. They improve the health of your business and your patients. Practices that do it, and do it well, will tell you it is the best thing they have ever done. Most likely as you read this, you are in one of three different states pertaining [...]

2018-01-09T17:20:39+00:003:21 pm|

Can Your Practice Management Software Handle the Business of Wellness?

Pet owners love wellness plans, fueling their growth in the veterinary industry. And while practice management software (PMS) system vendors see the advantage of claiming to have a wellness plan solution, many hospitals are discovering that it isn’t fully functional. At issue, is that PMS systems focus heavily on the front-end process – such as creating plans and enrolling pets on plans. What the PMS systems don’t offer is a recurring billing solution (not to be confused with recurring payments, which is simply the moving of funds) and associated back-office capabilities that accompany a successful wellness program. Additionally, PMS systems generally lack the flexibility to add optional services and do not support multiple plans per pets, allowing growth of treatment and revenue by allowing plans beyond preventive care, such as disease management, boarding/grooming, daycare and others. There is key functionality needed for successful management and control of a wellness plan program, and it starts by understanding the difference between the practice of wellness and the business of wellness. The practice of wellness focuses on developing standards of care and deciding what to include in your plans. The business of wellness, however, includes all of the processes and functionality that are unique to a wellness plan program and delivers the details and efficiency for a successful program from start to finish. The following are capabilities needed to manage the business of wellness, many of which are missing from PMS systems and most stand-alone wellness offerings: Separate AR Balance. This is vital to ensure easy tracking, reporting and visibility of your wellness program. It ensures that non-wellness services, discounts or transactions do not interfere with wellness plan accounting. Plan Flexibility. The ability to add optional services [...]

2017-11-29T15:52:37+00:003:49 pm|

Wellness Program Success At Animal Clinic Del Rancho

At Animal Clinic Del Rancho, Essential Care Plans Make it Easy  for Pet Owners to Say Yes to Recommended Care!  Animal Clinic Del Rancho is a two-doctor practice in Arizona that has been offering their branded preventive care plans, named Essential Care Plans for almost one year now.  During that time, the team has enrolled over 120 pets on a variety of plans.  One of their greatest accomplishments, the fact that over half of all the adult and senior plans purchased have included dentistry.  The story of Mousey and Giada, below, is a testament to the difference it makes when a practice provides pet owners with the ability to make automated monthly payments.  The plans provide a more affordable monthly payment allowing more clients to budget and afford for the care their pets need to stay happy and healthy. Giada, a Beagle/Boston Terrier Mix, and Mousey, a Chihuahua, have been patients at Animal Clinic Del Rancho for many years.  At their annual examination in 2016, the owner was concerned about a growth on Giada’s eyelid. The doctor recommended removal of the growth, and recommended it be done when Giada had a dental, which she really needed.  Mousey also needed a dental, but unfortunately their owner could not afford the costs associated with these procedures and had to decline the services. Enter Del Rancho’s Essential Care Plans!  When they came in for their annual examination in 2017 both pets still needed dentals and the growth still needed to be removed from Giada’s eyelid.  The owner was introduced to the plans and was relieved to learn that he could now provide the very best care for his beloved pets and stay within his budget by making [...]

2017-11-03T14:25:49+00:002:25 pm|

Why Veterinary Practices Need to Adopt a Blue Ocean Strategy

The focus of a recent lecture given by Michael Dicks, PHD, the AVMA’s Director of Veterinary Economics, at the VHMA Annual Conference focused on the need for veterinarians to embrace a Blue Ocean Strategy, a concept he took from a book by the same name. Here is a brief explanation of what is meant by a Blue Ocean Strategy:…companies can succeed by creating "blue oceans" of uncontested market space, as opposed to "red oceans" where competitors fight for dominance, the analogy being that an ocean full of vicious competition turns red with blood.They assert that these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant. 1Dr. Dicks asserts that veterinary practices need to adopt a Blue Ocean Strategy by creating and capturing new demand and breaking the cost-value trade off by changing the practice business model to one of differentiation and low cost. He points to AVMA and U.S. Census Bureau data which shows that in the current landscape only 20% of veterinary practices are large and corporately owned, but that this 20% actually controls more than 50% of the market share. Privately owned practices, with an average of 2.38 FTE veterinarians, must act and think differently if they want to retain and regain more of the pet owning population.In particular, Dr. Dicks highlighted the addition of monthly billed wellness plans as a Blue Ocean Strategy for practices, and he shared additional compelling data from the AVMA and U.S. Census Bureau to prove his point:Veterinary practices continue to raise fees far above the rate of inflation – a completely unsustainable modelWhile the U.S. economy has shown moderate growth for 97 [...]

2017-10-17T18:26:18+00:006:25 pm|

Keeping Your Team Interested, Enthusiastic and Motivated

There is so much being written these days about team empowerment and motivation, and by individuals far more qualified in the subject, that we won’t attempt to tackle that topic here. However, when it comes to wellness programs in particular there are some very specific things that you can do to get your team on board, and if we take the ‘6 months to build a habit’ rule into account, implementing these suggestions can speed up that time line.Incentives Team incentives are a great way to improve motivation, so long as they are used strategically and for a specific period of time. If you are just starting your program, consider setting a monthly goal for plans sales – start small and increase every month (in general it is reasonable to expect 20-25 plans per month per FTE veterinarian). Make sure to post a goal tracker and mark off progress at least weekly. If the goal is met or exceeded, then part of the enrollment fee for each plan is put into a ‘staff pot’. As you can imagine this can grow quite rapidly, and then the staff can decide how they want to spend the money.If the goal is not met, revisit and discuss as a team the reasons, come up with a plan going forward and then as a group set a new goal for the upcoming month. It is important that the goals be achievable in order to increase enthusiasm, but if they are not reached they are also just as important as a learning tool for moving forward.Permanent Meeting Agenda Item Once you start offering wellness plans, there should be time set aside at every team meeting to discuss the program. This [...]

2017-10-03T16:38:07+00:004:32 pm|

How Do I Know if My Wellness Program is On the Right Track? – PART TWO

In our previous blog we looked closely at the metrics for the first 6 months of your program, but those metrics will increase and change as your program matures. While you will always continue to measure plan sales and monitor the messaging and recommendations made by your team members, in the second half of the first year of your program it is time to start looking at other areas to make sure your program is maximizing benefits for the practice and your patients. Months 6-12 Congratulations, you have been offering plans for 6 months, a habit has been instilled and your wellness program is part of the practice culture! By now you have been able to celebrate some successful outcomes due to early diagnosis and are starting to feel the benefits of additional spay/neuter and dentistry procedures. Clients are taking advantage of the additional examinations offered in your plan, are following through on resulting treatment recommendations. While you will still need to focus on tracking the basics, it is time to start measuring how plans are increasing key service usage. For example, by now some of your initial enrollees should have begun redeeming spay/neuter surgeries, dentistry and diagnostics like blood work, radiographs, etc. What you need to determine is how many of these services are being performed monthly, how many of these are services are part of a plan versus purchased a la carte. From there you can determine whether you are performing more of these services than previously, and whether that growth is attributable to the plans. It’s also time to start tracking how many additional exams have been used (if you are offering these), and then take some time to review the [...]

2017-10-03T16:38:16+00:005:12 pm|

How Do I Know if My Wellness Program is On the Right Track?

Okay, so you’ve got your wellness program up and running, so now how do you ensure that it is “all that it can be?” That answer may be slightly different for each practice, but ultimately your program should be creating significant growth for your practice on a variety of levels, from something as simple as revenue to more complex and time dependent metrics like client retention and loyalty. In fact, with a wellness program, your metrics will increase, and some of your initial goals may change a bit, as your program matures. But you’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s take a look at what you should be tracking as you launch your program and then look at what metrics to add over time. The First 6 Months The first 6 months need to be focused on plan adoption, which ultimately means that your time is best spent perfecting the message, incorporating the offering into the practice flow and making sure that the plans become part of the practice culture. Initial goals should be based on the number of plans sold per month, keeping it reasonable but challenging and increasing that number every month. While there is no standardized metric for how many plans a practice should sell, after the first couple of months it is reasonable to expect 15-20 plans per month per full time DVM, and this should continue to increase on a monthly basis (ultimately, at least 20%-30% of active clients should have their pets on a plan). Implementing a team incentive program around a specific goal is a great way to create initial excitement and should continue for as long as it makes a difference. Make sure a portion of [...]

2018-02-14T16:19:00+00:006:36 pm|

A Deeper Understanding of Wellness Plan Management

Are Recurring Payments Causing You Pain? Veterinary practices are realizing that their clients love wellness plans. In fact, American’s have loved membership type programs in other industries for years. At the core of any membership programs’ success are the billing solutions and automation that allow consumers to make affordable monthly payments, rather than pay a large, upfront lump sum. As practices implement wellness plans, they are discovering why choosing the right plan management software is so important. In the past, veterinary practices did not have the need for a recurring billing solution, and simple payment processing (moving money from a client’s account to a business account) was all they needed. However, practices offering wellness plans are realizing just how critical a comprehensive billing and missed payment management system truly is, in order to efficiently and effectively manage a program at scale. Bottom line – to support a wellness program at scale you need an in-depth solution that provides expertise and advanced features both for billing and missed payment management versus just recurring payments. Simple recurring payment solutions will only lead to additional work and confusion, which unfortunately is the reason so many practices ultimately give up on their wellness programs. What Is the Difference Between Recurring Payments and a Billing and Payment Management? At first glance, recurring payment and recurring billing seem like they are one and the same, however, as your program grows, and you have more than just a handful of pets enrolled in your wellness program, you will quickly find out that there is a big difference. Recurring Payments As explained above, recurring payments functionality simply moves money from one account to another basis on some frequency. Sometimes PIMS solutions offer [...]

2017-08-24T22:13:54+00:0010:12 pm|

Preventive Care Plans: Renewal Strategy and Understanding ‘Churn’

Part Two: Beat Churn with a Successful Wellness Program Renewal Strategy Last week we introduced the concept of churn as the number of plans that do not renew over a given period, expressed as a percentage of total renewals possible. So if you have 100 plans up for renewal and only 60 of them renew, your churn is 40%. Clearly, then, the less churn you have, the greater the success of your wellness program. Last week we also stated that when it comes to renewal strategies, ensuring that program participants perceive consistent and above anticipated value as a member is the best strategy to ensure low churn. And this needs to happen from the very first day they purchase their pet’s plan. The good news is that perception of value is almost entirely dependent upon communication, and good communication skills come with training and focus. You can’t expect your team to automatically know how to communicate value – that is an unfair expectation. But you can teach them. Step One: Communicating Purpose and Delivering Value A perfect example of the need to train and coach the team on communicating value is at the puppy/kitten plan level. Puppy and kitten plans literally fly off the shelf without any communication necessary, because new pet owners see them as “no brainers.” They know that their puppy or kitten will need multiple visits, vaccines, etc. in that first year, and enrolling in a plan ensures that it will all be taken care of. Being able to divide the cost of that care over 12 payments and receive a small discount makes it even more appealing. However, these easy selling points do not communicate the lifetime value of preventive [...]

2017-08-24T22:14:01+00:007:47 pm|