Is It Time to Switch?

If you’re among the veterinary professionals who’ve launched wellness plan programs without assistance from a partner, you probably did so thinking it would be simple to use a DIY system or your practice management platform (PIMS) module.


Perhaps you started by designing the plans and enrolling pets. You may have thought about options to add by pet, but dismissed the idea, without realizing that optional services are vital to overall plan success. 


In time, as the volume of plans grew, your staff scrambled to stay on top of renewals, missed payments, expired cards, personalization requests, and so on.


Your seemingly simple program soon became a source of ongoing headaches.


Perhaps you were a victim of your success. As more and more pets joined your wellness plan program, program management increasingly consumed precious staff time.


Or, perhaps your staff struggled with administrative details, such as switching clients with puppy/kitten plans to adult plans or adding a new preventative or dental option in the middle of a plan term.


Or maybe chasing payments or updating expired cards became too time-consuming to keep up with — and revenue slumped as a result.


Finally, you reached a turning point. 


Now what? Is it time to scrap your current process for a more effective approach?


Your Wellness Program = Strategic Business Resource


The advantages of switching from self-management, or even a PIMS system, become clear once you recognize the value of treating your wellness program as a strategic tool. By strategy, we mean leveraging your wellness plan program to achieve your business goals, such as higher compliance and revenue. 


Perhaps strategy never crossed your mind when you started your wellness plan program, but now you’re faced with an array of business issues that you didn’t expect. Here we’ll discuss some of the key unexpected stumbling blocks with self-management and PIMS modules.


Optional Services


Pet owners, and Millennials in particular, appreciate personalized care for their pets. Yet, many practices with home-grown or PIMS-run wellness programs cannot offer optional services because the services are too difficult to track. 


This is unfortunate — because including optional services in wellness plans is a win on multiple levels. 


Optional services add tremendous value to the pet owner and cultivate pet owner loyalty by personalizing plans for each pet. Doing so makes clients less likely to leave and more inclined to refer family and friends to your practice. 


Optional services also differentiate your practice from corporate competitors and increase revenue to the practice. VCP’s research shows that clients with pets on wellness plans spend an additional 20-30% on optional services on average compared to non-wellness clients.


With optional services in wellness plans, you also can increase the usage of underutilized services, while providing more customized care to each pet. Your optional services might include:


  • Non-core vaccinations
  • Heartworm/flea/tick medications
  • Dental cleaning
  • Holistic medicine
  • Microchip
  • Spays/neuters
  • DNA testing
  • Grooming
  • Boarding

If you are going to offer optional services, you’ll need the ability to easily add the services mid-plan, such as instances where the doctor has recommended a service. You’ll also want to be sure that some options (spay/neuter, for example) do not renew when the plan renews. 


Missed Payment Management


Credit cards expire, get maxed out, or put on hold, along with various other issues. When this happens, your team is saddled with the job of chasing missed payments to keep wellness clients current. 

Now, valuable staff time is being eaten up by:


  • Creating an in-house process and system to track and manage all wellness payment tasks
  • Managing the process of outbound calls, month-to-month account balance accruals, partial payments, and more
  • Handling dozens of payment issues or more on an ongoing basis (The industry averages a 6-8% missed payment rate each month.)

Then, there’s also the issue of recurring billing, which can fall to the wayside with self-managed plans and PIMS modules. Recurring billing spans issuing payment notification reminders, making automated payment re-attempts, generating accurate statements with AR balances, incorporating a complete AR system, and so much more.


Plan Renewals


Managing renewals can be an endless headache when you’re dealing with various exceptions. What if your client isn’t current on plan payments at the time of renewal? What about those one-time services, like a spay or neuter, that shouldn’t renew?


Your self-managed system, along with most PIMS systems, is not designed to handle exceptions.


(If you’re wondering whether your PIMS can handle your wellness plans, read this post.)


Other exceptions to think about include:


  • Making sure puppy/kitten plans automatically renew to adult plans
  • Coordinating plan launches with annual price increases and making sure clients on previous versions of the plan renew to the new version
  • Managing pet owner custom requests — This may include switching plans at renewal, not renewing one of their pets, adding or subtracting services, and so on
  • Tracking non-renewal rates — Understanding the reasons for non-renewals can be quite a headache and very difficult for the practice to evaluate manually

Business Analytics and Insights


As your program succeeds, you’ll want to make sure it’s as positively impactful as possible. To do so, you’ll need real-time data from your wellness program to dig below the surface and answer questions, such as:


  • Are your wellness pets worth it? (For example, does your practice earn more revenue from wellness pets than non-wellness pets?)
  • What is the total spending of wellness plan clients? (In plan and out of plan)
  • Which plans are performing best?
  • Which options are performing well? Should you add new options? 
  • Are there business opportunities to tie in additional services at the practice?
  • Has your program achieved year-over-year growth?

The points we’ve made highlight some critical Business of Wellness™ concepts to consider with self-managed and PIMS-managed wellness plans. But it’s also important not to neglect additional concepts, such as membership clubs, chronic illness programs, and promotions for daycare, grooming, and other services. 


(Read a deep-dive about successful wellness plan programs.)


Moving Beyond Self-Management to Business Strategy


If you’ve reached a turning point with your wellness plan program, this juncture isn’t the time to jettison your entire program. 


Research shows that a well-run wellness plan program can deliver myriad benefits to your practice and, importantly, the pets you serve. According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, clients visited the veterinarian 67% more after signing up for wellness plans.


VCP’s own analysis shows that it’s not unusual to generate around $1,250-$1,600 in total annual per-pet spend in wellness plans, and 175%-200% more revenue for most practices in non-wellness spend. Assuming a program has 300 plans, that’s $480,000 in added annual revenue within a practice. 


Given this, isn’t now the time to start treating your wellness program as a strategic business resource? By shifting to a more strategic approach, you can form stronger relationships with clients, improve pet health, and generate consistent revenues, thereby realizing the true upside of your wellness plan program.


Curious about the pros and cons of using a partner to help run your wellness plans? Email for a complimentary white paper.


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