This blog isn’t about the VCPR, state statutes, or any other controversial topic around telehealth. This is simply about using telehealth capabilities to increase the value of your wellness plan program.
Because, the fact is telehealth is here, and the practices that learn to weave the capabilities and relationship opportunities that it provides into the fabric of their core offerings will benefit. And those that take it a step further, and offer telehealth as part of their wellness plan infrastructure, will benefit that much more.
The integration of wellness plans and telehealth is just one more way for practices to meet consumer demand and the desire for simplified and budgeted care; together, they expand the potential for building and expanding the lifelong relationships practices need and want to have with pet owners. And both offerings, together and apart, demonstrate that a practice is committed to meeting the needs and wants of consumers, and recognizes that these are evolving and changing quickly. As Dr. Shea Cox, co-founder of the One Health Company, so aptly puts it, “Virtual care is considered ‘normal practice of care’ in human medicine. Consumers have come to expect this for themselves, and they are rapidly beginning to expect this for their pet’s care as well.”
There isn’t one way to add telehealth to wellness plans. It can depend on how your plans are structured. The simplest way is to include a certain number of telehealth visits into a plan as an added value item, and build the cost of these visits into the plan payment. Perhaps you already offer additional exams to be used for non-wellness (a great offering that boosts plan sales and practice revenue), and you now allow the client to choose whether these start out as telehealth visits or not (some may need to come in and others may not, but either way it counts as an examination being used from the plan). Or perhaps, you only offer telehealth visits as an added benefit outside of the bi-annual preventive care examinations. In that case, if the pet did need to be seen, the cost of the telehealth visit could be deducted from the onsite exam fee.
Other ideas include adding optional telehealth packages to your wellness plans that the pet owner can choose from at the time of plan purchase. You could offer a small discount on the service if they add a telehealth package to their plan (maybe you offer a package of 3 or 6 telehealth consults for example). For clients, especially those with lots of concerns and questions, this can be a great benefit, since the cost will be part of their monthly payment, and they won’t feel like they have to reach for a credit card every time they want to talk to their veterinarian.
Or maybe you have expanded beyond just wellness plans and offer lifestyle, hospice, or disease-based chronic illness plans that allow clients to pay for care in monthly installments. In these cases, offering telehealth consults as part of the plan benefits has immense value. Imagine a pet with a diabetes plan where you can do a variety of things, from watching how the pet owner gives insulin, to discussing the results of a glucose curve while the owner sits on their couch with their pet in their lap. Or a hospice plan where you can regularly view the pet’s mentation, eating, drinking, etc. without having them leave the comfort of their home or you leaving your office.
How you incorporate telehealth into your practice and your wellness plans is ultimately up to you. The important thing is to embrace all of the new opportunities it presents. Again, as Dr. Cox so candidly explains, “Telehealth is more than replacing a visit with technology; it is a holistic, coordinated way of care that augments the services you are already providing and closes the gap in the delivery of care.”
Note: Currently there are several telehealth platform providers in the veterinary space from which to choose. If you would like to use a service fully integrated with VCP, you can learn more at https://www.gettelevet.com/.