Charging for your veterinary services isn’t just a necessity financially, it contributes to your employees’ value, as well as the value of those services rendered. Billing your clients for the care your veterinarians and staff provide is critical to giving the practice the necessary resources to continually elevate patient care, invest in new medical technology, and reward your employees with raises. By promoting the value of your staff and services, your clients can better recognize that value, too. To this end, your practice’s fee structure must reflect the quality of client services and the level of patient care you provide.
The Challenges of Service Charging
While it may seem simple enough to charge for every service rendered, we all know that it can be challenging to veterinarians at times. Appropriate charging is a frequent topic at conferences, and it seems that some doctors (both owners and associates) look for opportunities to provide care without billing the client. How does this happen? Sometimes, associates don’t charge for services because they don’t quite know what’s expected. It is up to the owner to fully communicate their expectations for charging upfront. Without that clear communication, an associate is likely to establish his or her own ideas about charging for patient care. These differences in philosophy can quickly lead to disagreements and an uncomfortable associate-owner relationship.
Soothing Charging Challenges
Teaching associates to charge appropriately for their services begins with the overall culture of the practice. The attitude and philosophy of your practice must reflect the belief that your time, knowledge, training, and experiences have value—and you bill for what you do because of that value. If your vets and staff don’t believe in the value of the practice’s services, clients certainly never will.
To help you lay a foundation for positive valuation of your services and appropriate charging for your pet health care, follow these guidelines!
- Include your philosophy into the employment agreement. Communicate your expectations right up front! Add in a clause to your employment contract that the associate is responsible for charging for all services and products provided according to the established fee schedule for your practice. This helps avoid misunderstandings further down the line, and if the associate does give services away, he or she is in violation of the contract.
- Add it to your position description. Be clear about all job requirements from the get-go. The description of adhering to all hospital directives and protocols—incluyding charging for all services and products provided—is a standard responsibility on the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Position Description in WellMP®.
- Provide an Explanation of your fee schedule. When a new associate is hired on, waste no time in detailing your fee schedule with them. Ask your patient care coordinator to sit down and ensure the associate has a thorough understanding of how services and products are billed to clients. You can also take time to review the travel/circle sheet to ensure the associate is effectively and accurately completing it. Need to update your fee schedule? Contact WTA Veterinary Consultants to help!
- Explain your credit protocol. Include a review of the hospital’s requirements regarding client payment into your associate’s onboarding process. Ensure they understand which clients are eligible for credit privileges, the credit terms, and the use of treatment plan estimates. This is also an opportune time to communicate that the ability to collect payment from clients ultimately impacts doctor and staff compensation.
- Routinely share philosophy regarding patient care. Conduct case reviews periodically to see if you or your associates are missing any opportunities regarding patient care. Additionally, determine if the doctors have similar medical and charging philosophies for patient care. Ask questions including: Would you have worked the case up differently in retrospect? Did you provide/recommend all the care you would expect? Was the client billed for all the care provided? If not, why? Discuss the results during veterinarian meetings to spread awareness and encourage consistency.
- Teach associates how to develop treatment plan estimates. Estimates for the expected cost for services are an essential to client communication and education. When your associates understand how to create an accurate estimate, it bolsters the trust the client has for your practice and adds value to those services. It also helps informing clients so they can make informed choices.
- Lead by example. It may be cliché to say, but actions speak louder than words. Be consistent in your practice of charging for services and products to send a clear message to the rest of your team. If you expect your associate to charge appropriately, do they same yourself!
In a survey conducted in partnership with The Well-Managed Practice® Study: Associate Management Guide, we asked associates to share the best coaching experience or advice they received from a mentor. The common themes we heard from associates include: “Always explain your treatment plan in terms clients understand and be sure they’re made aware of the cost and prognosis of the plan you intend to follow. Offer the best, educate and inform, and let the client decide. Don’t give services away. And, treat the client as you would want to be treated yourself.”
If you follow these words of advice, as well as the guidelines we provided here, you’ll help ensure a satisfying associate-owner relationship and gain the resources necessary to continue to raise the bar in your practice. For more information and guidance from WTA Veterinary Consultants, please visit our website, wellmp.com.