“Almost half of Americans say that the most difficult topic to discuss with others is personal finance

and they would rather discuss death, politics or religion”

— Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, Behavioral Change Specialist

 

At some point, we all do it: make assumptions about people and their situations based on our own perceptions and life experiences. But making assumptions about clients, their ability to pay or their need for a payment solution may be more of a hindrance than a help to their pet. Especially if you underestimate the lengths some people would go to for a pet they love. A 2017 Harris poll revealed 3 out of 5 American pet owners (61 percent) would sacrifice their cable and TV streaming services to pay for their pet’s expenses. A third of pet owners (35 percent) said they would even sacrifice their cell phone plan.1

So, imagine how relieved clients might be just to know there are other, easier payment solutions. That goes for clients on all ends of the financial spectrum, those who may be struggling to make ends meet and those who may be juggling cash flow.

Payment can be a touchy topic (for all of us)

Money and finances can be an uncomfortable subject for both your clients and team. It’s the classic “elephant in the room.” Money issues provide an undercurrent for many relationships but are rarely discussed. Pet owners may believe veterinary medicine is a profession that’s unconcerned over money, however, economic limitations to patient care are an important cause of veterinary dissatisfaction or burnout.2

In fact, a discussion about costs was brought up by veterinarians in less than a third of companion animal veterinary visits.2 And this isn’t unique to the veterinary world. Several years ago, a study in human medicine found patient/physician communication about out-of-pocket expenses was uncommon, even though both physicians and patients thought it was an important discussion.

The cost-of-care paradox for veterinarians

There are many reasons veterinary professionals may see money discussions as difficult. One is the emotional damage that can be done by pet owners’ accusations that the veterinarian doesn’t care about their pet or they would charge less. Several studies have indicated pet owners think the cost of routine veterinary visits are higher than expected.

If treatment is given before the cost of care is discussed, pet owners may be outraged at the cost and berate the veterinarian. If too much emphasis is placed on cost of care and compensation before treatment, the pet owner may decide the veterinarian cares more about the money than the pet. Similar struggles may exist for the pet owner. A client may believe how much they can pay for their pet’s care indicates how much they care about their pet. They may be anxious and distressed about how to pay for care, which can trigger feelings of guilt, resentment or anger.

 The heart of the matter comes down to finding the right balance between care and cost — with open communication to help pets get the care they need.

 Get out of the assumption trap

It’s important to remember the desire or need to discuss payment options has nothing to do with any preconceived notions about the client. Here are some basic steps your team can take to get out of the assumption trap:

  • Take the emotion out of payment discussions.
  • Approach every client the same way by presenting recommendations, costs and payment options. Regardless of a client’s outward appearance or station in life, let them know you routinely offer financing solutions, just as you would inform them about other information about your practice.
  • Turn the topic around with financing options. Let everyone know you have payment solutions, like the CareCredit credit card, to make payment easier for all your clients.

 Offer to help with a financing solution

Even before your clients start to wonder if or how they can fit your recommendation into their budget, you can make it a point to help ease payment concerns. Tell them your practice accepts the CareCredit credit card with financing options that can make it easier for them to:

  • Fit their pet’s care into their budget when it’s needed
  • Make convenient monthly payments*
  • Pay for everything from wellness exams and dental care to emergencies, surgeries and more

It’s good to know CareCredit provides some relief for your practice, too. You get paid within two business days and can spend less time on billing.

The bottom line is more than money

Veterinarians have a desire to heal and help their patients, but pet owners also need to be aware of the realistic costs of veterinary services. When you address concerns and prepare for payment discussions in advance, your entire team will feel better equipped to handle these conversations, work in partnership, and integrate payment as a natural part of every visit.

References

1″These are the Financial Sacrifices Americans Are Willing to Make for Their Pets,” Pet Age, Dec. 2017,http://www.petage.com/new-survey-explores-financial-sacrifices-americans-willing-to-make-for-their-pets/

2″Factors that influence small animal veterinarians’ opinions and actions regarding cost of care and effects of economic limitations on patient care and outcome and professional career satisfaction and burnout.” JAVMAKipperman

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