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A Comprehensive Guide to Pet Health Plans for Veterinary Practices

A Comprehensive Guide to Pet Health Plans for Veterinary Practices

By bundling essential services into a convenient, discounted package, pet health plans can encourage regular check-ups and preventive care. But with so many different ways to structure and implement pet health plans, it can be challenging to determine the best approach for your practice. Should you offer a one-size-fits-all plan or tiered options? Which services should you include, and which should you exclude? Keep reading for the answer to these questions and more.

What are Pet Health Plans?

You might have heard these plans referred to as wellness plans or preventive care plans, but they all have the same goal: bundling essential veterinary services into a convenient, package.

So, what’s included in these plans? While the specifics can vary between veterinary practices, most plans cover the following key features:

  • Annual wellness exams to assess your pet’s overall health, monitor any changes, and detect potential issues before they become more serious.
  • Vaccinations to protect your pet against infectious diseases.
  • Parasite prevention to keep common pests like fleas, ticks, and heartworms at bay.
  • Diagnostic testing, such as basic blood work, urinalysis, or fecal tests, to screen for underlying health conditions.
  • Dental care, which may include dental cleanings or other oral health services to maintain your pet’s dental hygiene.

Pet health plans help your clients spread out the cost of preventive care over the course of a year. Instead of paying for each service individually, clients typically pay a monthly or annual fee, making it much easier for them to budget for their pet’s healthcare expenses.

How Can Pet Health Plans Help Your Practice?

While pet health plans have become increasingly popular among veterinary practices, not all plans are created equal. Each practice has the flexibility to tailor its plans to best suit its unique needs and the needs of it’s clients.

Customizable Plans

One of the key ways your practice can differentiate its pet health plans is through customization options. Some practices only offer a one-size-fits-all plan. You can stand out by providing tiered options or allowing clients to pick and choose the specific services they want in their plan. This customization can be based on factors such as the practice’s specialty, location, and client demographics.

For example, a practice with a high volume of senior pets may choose to include more comprehensive diagnostic testing or geriatric screenings in their plans. On the other hand, a practice located in an area with a high prevalence of tick-borne diseases might place a greater emphasis on parasite prevention.

Tailored Plans for Life Stages or Breeds

We all know puppies and kittens have much different preventive care needs than adult or senior pets. So, you can offer specific plans tailored to the unique requirements of each life stage, ensuring that pets receive the most appropriate care at every age. Similarly, certain breeds are more prone to specific health issues. Creating breed-specific plans that include screenings or tests relevant to those predispositions can make your practice stand out.

Pricing

Of course, the price of your pet health plans can always help you attract clients. Charging a low monthly fee can make your plans more accessible to a wider range of clients. But, you could also position your practice as a premium option with higher fees for more comprehensive coverage. This can play well with the pet owners who treat their pets like family. Practices may also offer different payment structures, such as monthly payments, annual payments, or even lifetime memberships.

Inclusions and Exclusions in Pet Health Plans

When it comes to pet health plans, one of the most important aspects to consider is what services and treatments are included or excluded. While most plans cover the basics of preventive care, there is some debate about whether you should offer unlimited consultations or examinations.

Some practices view this as a way to encourage clients to seek veterinary care whenever they have concerns, others argue that it can devalue the time and expertise of veterinarians. For example, when we talked to Matthew Flann, the Managing Director of Pennard Vets, they made the decision to offer unlimited consults. At their practice, it made sense because it allows their clients to ask any questions and receive treatment as soon as an issue starts to arrive.

The controversy surrounding unlimited consults has been fuelled in part by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcement in the UK. The CMA has raised concerns about the potential for unlimited consults to mislead clients on how much they end up paying for veterinary care.

In reality, offering unlimited consults in your pet health plans can come at a significant cost to the practice. Veterinarians’ time and knowledge are valuable resources, and providing an unlimited number of consultations can strain a practice’s capacity and financial sustainability.

As a result of these factors, most plans include limitations on the number of covered services per year, such as a cap on the number of dental cleanings or parasite prevention treatments. It’s still crucial for practices to clearly communicate these exclusions and limitations to clients upfront. Your veterinary practice’s transparent pricing helps build loyalty with your customers whether you offer unlimited consults or not.

Is a Pet Health Plan Right for Your Practice?

Deciding whether to implement, change, or leave a pet health plan can be a complex decision. Here are some factors to consider whether you want to start a pet health plan, change your current offerings, or stop offering pet health plans altogether.

Introducing a Pet Health Plan

If you’re thinking about introducing a pet health plan at your practice, there are several key factors to keep in mind:

  • Your practice’s goals and values: Does offering a pet health plan align with your practice’s mission and long-term objectives?
  • Your client demographics: Would your clients benefit from and be receptive to a pet health plan? Consider factors like age, income level, and pet ownership trends in your area.
  • Your practice’s capacity: Do you have the staff, resources, and infrastructure in place to effectively manage a pet health plan?
  • Financial feasibility: Will the plan be financially sustainable for your practice? Consider the costs of included services, potential discounts, and administrative expenses.
  • Competitor analysis: What are other practices in your area offering in terms of pet health plans? How can you differentiate your plan to stand out in the market?

Modifying Your Pet Health Plan

When you want to make some changes to your pet health plan, there are a few tactics you can use to make sure those changes become a success:

  • Gather feedback: Solicit input from your clients and staff about what’s working well and what could be improved in your current plan.
  • Analyze data: Review your plan’s performance metrics, such as enrolment numbers, retention rates, and revenue generated, to identify areas for optimization.
  • Benchmark against industry trends: Stay informed about the latest developments and best practices in pet health plans to ensure your plan remains competitive and relevant.
  • Communicate changes effectively: If you do decide to modify your plan, be sure to communicate the changes clearly and proactively to your clients and staff to minimize confusion and ensure a smooth transition.

Leaving a Pet Health Plan

In some cases, you might decide that offering a pet health plan is no longer the right fit. Reasons for this decision could include:

  • Financial unsustainability: If the costs of maintaining the plan outweigh the benefits, it may be necessary to discontinue the program.
  • Shifting practice focus: If your practice decides to specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine or cater to a specific type of clientele, a pet health plan may no longer align with your goals.
  • Lack of client interest: If enrolment numbers are consistently low or declining, it may indicate that a pet health plan is not a good fit for your client base.
  • Administrative burden: If managing the plan becomes too complex or time-consuming, it may detract from other essential aspects of running your practice.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the key to success with pet health plans lies in finding the right balance. That usually requires a bit of trial and error. So, don’t be afraid to adjust your pet health plan based on how your current plan works for your practice and your customers. By finding a balance that works for you and your customers, you can help your clients keep up with their pets preventive health needs for overall better health outcomes.