Posted by Brandon Weaver on Sat, Feb 14, 2015 @ 07:00 AM
You became a vet because you love animals. Think back to how you may have started your quest to become a veterinarian: Adopting a pet, volunteering at a shelter, maybe even fund raising, or elevating awareness on how to prevent overpopulation of stray animals (As Bob Barker, and now Drew Carey, has always stated).
In any case, and now as a certified veterinarian, your main concern is providing quality care, not having to worry about payment plans pet owners can afford. Most vets would love to provide quality care to all animals, but unfortunately that’s just not a reality. You are responsible for staff wages, health insurance, retirement funds, and adopting advanced treatments. Adding guilt to a concerned pet owner about money issues makes a hard situation worse.
Just like yearly physicals for adults, annual pet visits are recommended. But emergency pet visits are commonplace in your line of work because life can be unpredictable at times.
Think about this for a moment - you may have experienced this yourself:
A dog wakes up its owner at 3am whimpering in pain, the owner races to the hospital or vet clinic, you investigate and learn there is a loose tooth and bleeding gums due to excessive plaque buildup. This comes as no surprise to you because “80% of dogs have some stage of periodontal disease by age 3.” That percentage increases to 85% as canines reach age 4. For dogs, showing any visual sign of mouth pain makes them vulnerable to attack so they have a natural instinct to hide the problem. But at some point the pain just becomes too unbearable to mask any longer. From the owner’s perspective, this is difficult to diagnose because “other than bad breath, there are few signs of [periodontal] disease.”
In the end, you recommend a tooth extraction to the owner, quoting them a price anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000. This is the point where you can see the owner immediately and instinctively start doing math in their head. They are contemplating how much their kids’ tuition is. Are they current on their monthly bills. Can they afford this new bill with summer vacation on the horizon. Credit cards have scary interest rates and ATMs only allow withdrawals up to a maximum limit.
This is also when you realize you must have concern for affordable payment plans for pet owners, like it or not.
Pet insurance exists from a variety of providers, but 99% of pet owners don’t have it. Even those that do often encounter premiums, exclusions, and some even limit which veterinarians and hospitals can accept the insurance. Some veterinary clinics and hospitals offer payment plans like Care Credit. However, after an introductory period their 26.99% APR is much higher than that of a typical consumer credit card!
We think there’s a better way. Take a look at Crystal Creek Animal Hospital, which offers another option – a hold check system. Pet owners can write up to 4 checks and the clinic deposits them over 45 days. The owner can match payments to their cash flow, and if your clinic works with CrossCheck, the revenue each check represents can be guaranteed.
There’s also no reason to limit this offer to emergency payments. Owners bringing pets in for regular exams may also benefit, considering annual checkups can cost pet owners up to $1,000. That’s not even factoring in surgery and other treatments, which can easily cost pet owners an additional $1,000 or more.
Multiple Check or “hold check” can be a pet-owner-friendly payment plan with 0% financing, making it easier for pet owners to make those annual visits and to pay for emergency care when needed.
Being compassionate in your line of work comes with the territory. So with the number of pet owners deciding to euthanize their pet increasing between 10% and 12% per year, compassion may come in the form of a payment plan.