Pet owners love wellness plans, fueling their growth in the veterinary industry. And while practice management software (PMS) system vendors see the advantage of claiming to have a wellness plan solution, many hospitals are discovering that it isn’t fully functional.
At issue is the heavy focus of PMS systems on the front-end process, such as creating plans and enrolling pets on plans. What PMS systems don’t offer is a recurring billing solution (not to be confused with recurring payments, which is simply the moving of funds), and associated back-office capabilities that accompany a successful wellness program. Additionally, PMS systems generally lack the flexibility to add optional services and do not support multiple plans per pets, allowing growth of treatment and revenue by allowing plans beyond preventive care, such as disease management, boarding/grooming, daycare and others.
There is key functionality needed for successful management and control of a wellness plan program, and it starts by understanding the difference between the Practice of Wellness and the Business of Wellness. The Practice of Wellness focuses on developing standards of care and deciding what to include in your plans. The Business of Wellness, however, includes all of the processes and functionality that are unique to a wellness plan program, and delivers the details and efficiency for a successful program from start to finish.
The following are capabilities needed to manage the Business of Wellness, many of which are missing from PMS systems and most stand-alone wellness offerings:
- Separate AR Balance. This is vital to ensure easy tracking, reporting and visibility of your wellness program. It ensures that non-wellness services, discounts or transactions do not interfere with wellness plan accounting.
- Plan Flexibility. The ability to add optional services at the time of enrollment, or at any time during the plan year. Also, the ability to have multiple plans for the same pet (e.g. preventive care plan, chronic illness plans, boarding plan, etc.).
- Recurring Billing. While PMS systems focus on recurring payments, which is the moving of money from your client’s account to yours, they do not address recurring billing. Recurring billing is a huge industry; however, vet practices did not need recurring billing before wellness plans, so most are not familiar with the differences or the importance when it comes to plan management. First, recurring billing ensures monthly statement and invoicing generation and keeps the action of payment separate from that of billing, so that AR balances are correct and ongoing. It also enables the ability to automate payment issues management and simplifies the process of renewals, cancelations and much more.
- CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Capabilities. These are incredibly important features of a recurring billing platform and play a vital role in the business of wellness. They include things like automated communication to clients and staff through proactive reminders, billing oriented memos, automated account alerts, credit card expiration notices, wellness plan activity logs, task assignments and more.
- Smart Renewals. Auto renewals are a huge part of a successful wellness plan program, but they too are dependent on recurring billing being linked to payment issues. This automated relationship is how you are notified of a potential renewal problem due to payment issues, and it is what ensures that a delinquent account does not simply renew with no regard to the payment status. Other smart renewal features are simply a plan auto renewing, but also the ability to renew to plans automated such as puppy and kitten plans renewing to adult plans.
- Missed Payment Management. A recurring billing solution is truly integrated with merchant processing, enabling the ability for automated retries when payments fail, along with full reporting and tracking for actions and status. PMS solutions will link through third parties, but are not fully integrated with merchant processing, which means there is no feedback on why an attempted payment failed. Most will simply email you a list of failed payments, and then it is the practice’s responsibility to call the client, as well as figure out a way to track and document your attempts to collect payment. This is the #1 area where your team will spend extensive amounts of time and effort if a solution is selected that doesn’t include comprehensive missed payment management capabilities.
- Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). While not applicable to all veterinary practices, more and more are following GAAP. PMS and most other solutions do not manage the GAAP accounting requirements associated with wellness plans, the most important of which is the timing of revenue recognition for services provided.
Just as the right PMS system is vital to the smooth management and documentation of medical history and communication, so too is a recurring billing platform critical when it comes to successfully managing the business of wellness.