Content sponsored by CareCredit
Nearly half of pet parents in the United States underestimate the cost of lifelong care for their four-legged companions.1 This means that millions of families are financially unprepared for the true cost of pet ownership. How can veterinary professionals help bridge this knowledge gap to reduce unexpected expense pressures on clients and ensure patients receive the care they deserve?
in the last DVM360® Vet Perspective Video Series Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, and Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, discuss the results of the Lifelong Care Study and their significance.
Anxiety treatment cost
The Lifetime of Care study was conducted on behalf of Synchrony, the organization behind CareCredit and Pets Best pet health insurance. It is based on the results of a national survey of 1,200 pet owners and 100 US vets on spending that includes spaying/neutering, vaccinations, supplies, food, and insurance. The survey found that dog owners spend as much as $55,132 during a pet’s life and cat owners spend as much as $45,790.1
Perhaps the most significant discovery regarding the vet’s client relationship is the fact that 1 in 3 pet-owning households will experience unexpected pet expenses causing them financial anxiety.1 Furthermore, the study found that certain price thresholds caused stress for many customers.1 Weinstein explained:[When] We are talking to [pet owners] About the treatment plan… If 25% of people surveyed saw a cost of $250, they would be concerned [about their ability to pay] Because it was out of what they expected in terms of the cost of care. The most important percentage for me is 46%. [had anxiety] At $500, which means [half] From the people you talk to… they will have a little bit of uncertainty about being able to pay for their pet care at the $500 level.”
Why it matters: the role of veterinary professionals
Recognizing the problem—the client’s underestimation of pet care costs and the stress of unexpected expenses—is only the first step. If pet owners cannot afford care or withdraw from treatments because they cannot accept the price tag, the pets will lack optimal care and business practices will be lower. Veterinary professionals and staff are uniquely positioned to educate clients about the cost of lifelong pet care and expense handling tools, helping to ensure those pets receive the proper care. Furthermore, pet owners want their vet to talk to them directly about the cost of care over their pet’s life, including payment options.2
Weinstein explained the importance of the veterinary team performing their duties on various forms of third-party financial assistance, such as a CareCredit credit card and pet health insurance: “As a vet, my responsibility is to assist the vet…those companies and research from which one is best for my clients. to advocate for various pet health insurance companies.When I was in practice, we insured pets for my employees, which gave [my staff] A complete understanding of how pet health insurance works so they can advocate for it with… clients.” He added that he has used multiple forms of pet insurance in his life as a pet owner to be better equipped for those conversations with clients.
How should the team conduct those conversations with clients? Weinstein thinks they shouldn’t start in the exam room. Instead, they should start before the first date. He said information about financial policies and plans can be communicated to a new client in a series of emails, on the clinic’s website, over the phone, or virtually. “In a vet hospital, your clients will only take in about 20% of what you say,” Weinstein said.
how to start
Weinstein provided a step-by-step guide on how to implement his advice. First Step: Submit [clients] Some information in advance. Step 2: At the end of the visit or before they enter the room, ask them if they would like some additional information about CareCredit or pet health insurance. Step 3: Before they leave, ask them if they would like the team to follow them.” He continued, “I think… the great questions in the new client form would be ‘Is your pet insured? With any company? Do you have CareCredit?’ Then finally, ‘” Would you like more information about CareCredit or pet health insurance to help with the cost of caring for your pet?” With these tips, practices will be well on their way to providing financial peace of mind to clients, Weinstein said.
- Pets – a lifelong study of care; August 2021. www.petlifetimeofcare.com
- Communicating with clients: Using the right language to improve care. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed June 20, 2022. www.avma.org/resources-tools/practice-management/communicating-clients-using-right-language-improve-care#takeaways
- The ASPCA Pet Ownership Epidemiological Survey. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. May 26, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2022. https://aspca.app.box.com/s/v4t7yrwalwk39mf71a857ivqoxnv2x3d