In an era where misinformation spreads like a virus, it’s perhaps no surprise that certain myths have taken root in veterinary practices about wellness plan programs. Here, we dispel five top myths, explaining why these commonly held beliefs should be considered fake news, rather than facts. And we share the latest data on the advantages of wellness plan programs.

I’m selling to my existing customers — not new ones — but now at a discount

Not even close, says Bob Richardson, president of VCP. VCP’s research shows that almost 60% of wellness plan clients are net new to the practice. Plus, he says this myth ignores the reality that wellness members spend more per pet. This additional spending extends to existing customers who sign up for wellness plans too.

“A customer who was spending $500 per year is now spending $50 per month — so you’re already ahead $100,” Richardson points out. As practices discuss and add optional services, that figure rises even more. If you add the out-of-plan spending that almost always occurs, you are looking at annual spending of $1,200 to $1,500 per pet.

“We have seen this in hundreds of thousands of plans,” Richardson adds.

In addition, Jessica Lee, VCP’s director of veterinary solutions, says doctors should realize that existing customers “may not be as compliant as you think they are.” However, once those existing customers convert over to wellness plans, their compliance goes up, resulting in much healthier pets and happy pet owners.

Clients sign up, consume a lot of services up front, and then ditch the program

Not quite, says Richardson. “Our system has processed over 10 million wellness payments and the numbers just don’t bear this out.”

If it’s a concern, he suggests delaying the delivery of big-ticket services until new clients have built up a history of making payments.

Lee agrees, advising veterinarians to do “only what is necessary at the first visit and save the rest of the services for the second visit in six months.”

She adds, “Hold off on things like spay and neuter or dentistry until at least one auto-payment has been made. That way, you’re confident the client’s intent isn’t to skip out on their payments.”

The bottom line? “You’re in control of when you have people consume which items,” says Richardson.

We’re in a high-end socioeconomic area, so people don’t want these plans

People in all tax brackets flock to membership programs, ranging from Costco to Netflix, and wellness plans are no different, says Richardson. “The desire for membership really has nothing to do with socioeconomic level — it’s that simple. The myth that people with money don’t like to budget isn’t true.”

Plus, this illusion ignores the nearly universal desire of pet parents to do what’s best for their animals, adds Lee.

“First, it’s not about being able to afford it — it’s about creating a program that says to the client, ‘This is what we recommend as the optimal care for your pet.’ Clients want to do what is best for their pet, and in this way wellness plans serve as an amazing educational tool.”

Lee says she’s often surprised to see clients who can afford veterinary care opt to purchase a wellness plan, but then pay the entire cost up-front. To her, it confirms that owners want to do what’s best for their pet, regardless of their bank balance.

Plans make doctors perform the same services for less money

This myth ignores the big-picture benefit of wellness plan programs, says Richardson. “The question you should be asking is: Do I make more money or less money on pets on wellness plans? The answer is you make significantly more money on a wellness pet.”

Richardson says this myth also overlooks another truth that VCP has witnessed over the years. “Wellness plan clients tend to more readily agree with their veterinarian’s recommendations and buy more add-on services — services that aren’t typically sold at a discount,” he notes. “So, while the pet is sitting there on the table, you’re going to do five services instead of just two, which is not a big impact on your time — and those extra services are at retail.”

A wellness program is too much work

Although a wellness program can be a lot of work, Richardson is quick to point out “the myth is that it has to be that way.”

Wellness plans needn’t be a drain on your time, or your staff’s time, if you follow specific steps before rolling out the program, he explains. The first step: education.

Richardson suggests, “First, take some time and learn about membership clubs, marketing concepts, and what it takes to run an outstanding program. Talk to people to learn about recurring billing versus recurring payments and missed payment management.”

Next, find a trusted resource that has implemented wellness programs before. “Because if you do try to do it on your own with no help, it is easy to make simple mistakes that lead to the program becoming a full-time job,” Richardson adds.

Lee agrees that the right partner helps to relieve the workload. “With our platform, the ongoing management of plans is minimal,” she notes.

Next week, we’ll explain how to maximize wellness plan programs to grow compliance and revenue with a holistic understanding of both the Business of Wellness and Practice of Wellness.