Considering A Third Party Wellness Partner? Part One

Last month, we covered the pros and cons of using a practice management solution for your wellness plan. If you missed it, it’s a worthwhile read that lays out the features you should seek in a wellness solution — such as recurring billing, smart renewal, and more. In reality, VCP has found the vast majority of practice management modules lack the essential features you need to scale your wellness program, while guaranteeing the highest quality of pet care.


Since most practice management solutions aren’t equipped with the robust functionality your practice needs for a well-run wellness plan program, it makes sense to shop for a third-party solution for wellness. By one count, more than a half-dozen vendors provide veterinary wellness platforms, including VCP.


For 8 years, VCP has focused solely on offering an industry-leading wellness plan solution. Today, its comprehensive solution empowers veterinary practices to offer and manage customized preventive care plans and wellness programs that drive practice growth while catering to the needs of pets and owners.


This experience provides VCP with uncommon insight into what works — and doesn’t — in wellness plan solutions. Here we’ve distilled the company’s expertise into a blueprint of what to look for in a wellness plan solution and have created the Business of Wellness.


Stability and Longevity
The last thing a busy veterinary practice needs is a vendor that disappears after implementation. The demise in 2013 PurinaCare’s Partners in Wellness and in 2016 PAWS wellness plans are prime examples of how financial stability and viability can affect your practice. Key to wellness programs is focus. At VCP, it is all we do.


Partners in Wellness was available for 18 months before Purina pulled the plug, citing the program’s failure to “catch on.” The decision left nearly 5,000 veterinarians without a wellness vendor, according to one report.


Before purchasing a wellness solution, Bob Richardson, president of VCP, suggests doing your homework on a potential vendor’s financial viability. Financial data for publicly traded companies are readily available via a quick Internet search.


“Look up the financials and make sure they’re solid,” Richardson suggests. Also, consider whether veterinary wellness is “core to their business or an add-on to the core services,” he adds. A company that’s selling wellness solutions as an add-on might be more quick to jettison the business unit if financial projections don’t pan out or its core business moves in a different direction.


Brand Marketing
Done correctly, a wellness plan program acts as a strategic advantage, setting you apart from both local independent competitors and large chains. Your brand is the personification of your practice — it’s what your clients relate to, and it’s the image and feelings that come to mind when clients visit or discuss your practice with others.


Branding and marketing are good for your bottom line. The Bayer study found that practices that recognized the value of marketing had more client visits than those that didn’t.


However, some wellness solutions don’t help to build your brand. Instead, their business model offers wellness plans as stand-alone packages that pet owners can use at a variety of participating hospitals, including with your competition.


In this scenario, the vendor is marketing its own brand over yours — robbing you of a competitive advantage and making it virtually impossible to build a lifelong relationship with your clients. Still others dictate what can and cannot be in your plan limiting how you wish to deliver preventive care and your brand promise.


As you review this aspect of wellness solutions, Richardson suggests analyzing whether the vendor “builds your brand or pushes its own brand.”


Also evaluate how the company handles preventive care, he adds. “For example, does it allow you to practice your protocols, or does it dictate what has to be in the plan?”


End-to-End Solution
The advantage of working with a third-party vendor is gaining an end-to-end solution with functionality in four crucial areas. These areas are:


New Client Sign-Up
New client sign-up includes enrolling pets, selecting an appropriate plan for pets, setting up billing, and providing clients with a practice-branded portal to manage some tasks on their own. Ideally, a solution should allow you to add optional services at enrollment, or at any point during the plan year, and to manage multiple plans (treatment, boarding, preventive care, etc.) for the same pet.


Plan Administration
Wellness plan administration encompasses establishing and updating preventive care protocols, customizing wellness plans to the health, age, and unique needs of each pet, and managing renewals. Plan renewals involve making sure that puppy and kitten plans automatically renew to adult plans, coordinating plan launches with annual price increases, and ensuring that previous versions of wellness plans renew to a new version of the plan.


Payment Management
Payment management includes the process of setting up payment plans and chasing down missed payments. Missed payment management involves client outreach, accounts receivable, partial payment accounting, and much more. (Read more on this issue here.)


Client Communications
Client communications include automated communications to empower your clients to take an active role in the health of their pets. Communications also foster a bond with clients that begins with an initial automated welcome message and continues with routine communications with you and your staff through a practice-branded portal.


As you compare the features of third-party solutions, “you want to pick a vendor with functionality in all four of these areas,” suggests Ron Nelson, vice president of operations with VCP.


Next week, we’ll remain on this topic. We’ll take a look at a sample RFP with a checklist that outlines specific questions to ask as you compare wellness plan vendors and solutions.

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