VCP was founded on the simple premise that to enable treatment and promote lasting health, a veterinary practice must maintain a healthy bottom line. Today, more than 350,000 plans run on VCP’s software, underscoring the significant impact of VCP wellness solutions. VCP’s partners see higher compliance rates for services both inside and outside of wellness plans. They also experience 10% to 15% growth in practice revenue and dramatic increases in per-pet spend.
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.
Stability and Longevity
The last thing a busy veterinary practice needs is a vendor that disappears after implementation. The downfall of PurinaCare’s Partners in Wellness in 2013 and PAWS wellness plans in 2016 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.
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?”
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.
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 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 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.