You know it's good for you, but it just isn't palatable. Maybe you can't make it a habit. Or maybe it never even occurred to you. No, I'm not talking about spinach or lifting weights. I'm talking about underutilized services and business practices that benefit your bottom line. The following recommendations from industry experts will demonstrate how to reform your thinking and implement underutilized services to enhance your practice's financial health.
1. The missed exam
Why are brief examinations on their way to extinction? Lacher believes that many equine veterinarians know their clients can go elsewhere for vaccinations and Coggins tests. They're compelled to demonstrate gratitude for loyalty by being affordable. "But don't think of medical examinations as an added cost. They're an added service," Lacher says.
Elise Lacher, CPA, with Lacher McDonald Consulting in Seminole, Fla., says that equine practitioners skip brief medical examinations so frequently that adding them to your routine is practically found money. James Guenther, DVM, MBA, MHA, CVPM, a consultant with Brakke Veterinary Practice Management Group in Asheville, N.C., says it's easy to slip into the habit of performing the requested service and then moving on to the next thing. "Many practitioners still operate with a firefighter mentality," says Dr. Guenther. "They dash from emergency to emergency, rarely stopping to squeeze in routine care." But providing your patients with 10- to 15-minute examinations anytime you're onsite is good medicine—and good business.
Missed charges also undermine your ability to demonstrate value and generate income. Maybe you performed the examination or dispensed the drug, but you forgot to bill for it. "Don't wait until the 20th of the month to write invoices," warns Dr. Guenther. If you can't afford the time to bill at the point of service, ask a technician to do it.
Andrew Clark, DVM, MBA, and CEO of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., says capturing fees—and charging appropriately for what you do—holds the biggest potential for revenue growth. "It's harvesting the low-hanging fruit," Clark says.
2. Diagnostics in the field
It may constitute changing your protocol, but another ticket to enhanced revenue and preventive medicine is your imaging equipment. Your technician already rides shotgun (see Oldies but goodies), but the equipment acts as your third business partner. With the advent of portable laboratory equipment, ultrasonography, and radiography machines, diagnostics don't need to reside in a brick-and-mortar building. "Many practitioners buy the equipment, but some don't use it because they think it slows them down," Dr. Guenther says. But the technician takes care of the time issue, Dr. Clark says. "You take the pictures and discuss them with the client while the technician cleans and loads the unit, starts the invoice, and enters the charges," he says.
Oldies but goodies
Lacher says that pricing for onsite imaging can be difficult to pin down. Prices will vary depending on your practice and demographics. And it's not always easy to sell diagnostic testing to the owners of seemingly healthy horses. But Lacher says this is a critical opportunity where many equine practitioners fall behind.
Are you UP on your hourly rates?
The 2001 National Fee and Market Study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners claims that as much as 15% of small-animal clinics' revenue comes from diagnostic testing. Equine practices barely achieve 1%. Horses require just as many routine tests as cats and dogs, but few equine practitioners place the appropriate emphasis on testing. Explain to clients how diagnostics can make horse healthcare more affordable in the long run. Once you've determined your fees and polished your pitch, it's simply a matter of dusting off your equipment and using it in the field.