Volk’s AVMA presentation makes the case for wellness plans

Today I’m at the Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit, which is one of my favorite conferences of the year. But I’m still working through my notes from the AVMA Convention in Boston last month, so I was able to write this post and set it up before I left for Portland.

Immediately after our presentation of the Nationwide® | Purdue Veterinary Price Index,  at the AVMA Convention, I rushed to get to “How Wellness Plans Grow Veterinary Practice,” presented by John Volk of Brakke Consulting. The AVMA “Hot Topics” presentation was based on Volk’s commentary for JAVMA of the same title (Jul 2015, Vol. 247, No. 1, Pages 40-41). The talk was well-attended, especially for the last afternoon of the conference, when many attendees were already on their way home. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to write about the presentation: Volk’s material really does need to be shared more widely.

According to Volk, wellness plans:

  • Increase visits
  • Increase revenue
  • Expand and improve patient care
  • Attract new clients
  • Add stickiness to the practice-client relation

The plans also address two of largest issues in the decline of veterinary visits identified by Brakke in previous studies: Clients who don’t understand the value of veterinary visits and those whose fear  of “sticker shock” prevents them from taking pets in.  Those with wellness plans are less likely to look for advice from Dr. Google, because they have ready access to care at their pets’ own veterinary practices, with no sticker shock to fear.  Although Volk’s presentation wasn’t about our practice-based Preventive & Wellness Services (P&WS)  specifically — he listed all providers of wellness plans on his penultimate slide — many of his conclusions matched what we found in our research leading up to the launch of our P&WS program.

One important point he made also resonates with me: The importance of using strategic discounting to “sweeten the deal” for clients  and potential clients alike. This topic was addressed in one of my earliest blog posts:

I was recently talking to someone who owns a small group of practices, and his take on the subject is that veterinary practices need to up their games when it comes to discounts. The retail sector has long perfected the profitable use of discounts to strategically build the bottom line, he noted, which is why Black Friday’s crazy price-cutting doesn’t keep companies from being profitable. “You should always think of discounts as a strategic business tool,” he said.

I agree with that point of view, for the most part. Our profession has a well-known tendency toward soft-heartedness – something I hope we never lose – but it makes sense to have policies on discounts that help your business overall. After all, a profitable practice has more leeway when it comes to the discounts that have no business benefit whatsoever. You can’t give away income you haven’t earned, after all, or offer care at any price if you can’t keep the door open.

Strategic discounts when it comes to wellness plans make sense, and the improvement to the bottom line shown in the Volk’s presentation makes even more sense.

And what about that bottom line? Here’s an excerpt from Volk’s JAVMA commentary:

National Veterinary Associates (NVA), a corporate owner of more than 200 veterinary practices, began a pilot program offering wellness plans at seven of its practices in 2011 and has since extended the program to 129 of its practices., with more than 40,000 active plans. It has found that wellness plans increased visits and revenue while providing more comprehensive medical care to pets.

“Providing more comprehensive medical care to pets.” Isn’t that we all want, practice owner, veterinarian and pet-owner alike? I think it is. And we all need strong business performance to keep providing that care. Wellness plans make that happen, according to the Brakke study.

In a way, it’s interesting that I’m at the Banfield Summit today because this company was a pioneer in the development of wellness plans.

But you don’t have to be a pioneer now  to get the benefit of wellness plans in your practice. Volk’s presentation shows that in large practices and small, in single-location practices and in large and small chains, at veterinary schools and even in different parts of the country these plans allow you to practice the medicine you want by making it affordable for your clients, as they want.

Find out more about our plans here.  We’d be happy to answer your questions and get you started.