Let's talk about $: Part 2 (Proceedings)
Marianne answers the phone in your practice and the caller inquiries- "How much does it cost to....?"; Leia goes over a health plan (estimate) with the client in exam room 2- "The cost for...."; Debra helps out Mrs. Jones at the front desk "That will be...." Every day in every practice there are numerous conversations about money, and, given the taboo, it's no wonder that many of us become uncomfortable. Numerous studies (including AAHA's 2003 compliance study) show that price/cost is not how clients choose their veterinarian but why (especially now) does it seem like $ is all that matters.
In response to veterinarian's reaction to the AAHA compliance study that Money IS important to clients, AAHA and Merial engaged in a follow up research project which was published in 2007. Participants were asked to create a collage that represented " their most recent veterinary visit and their relationship with their veterinarian." Elements related to money showed up in many of the collages. In addition, of the 12 pet owner focus groups conducted- COST was a significant topic. One reason for this is that a veterinary visit resulted a troubling issue- the unexpected nature of the expense and the lack of expertise to determine if the expense was necessary. In fact many spontaneously compared it to an auto mechanic. UGH! The study focused on several critical findings:
1. Little to no relationship between asking about costs and likelihood of spending2. Feeling or talking about $ is not impacted by their pet bond, their relationship with the veterinarian or staff
3. Likelihood of spending $ IS impacted by the pet bond and relationship with veterinarian or staff
4. TRUST is the most important factor in the relationship between veterinarian and pet owner
5. Trust is obtained through full disclosure of costs and discussing those costs
Results from a study published in JAVMA provide some additional information specifically in regards to the monetary aspects of veterinary care. There were several areas mentioned. Key amongst them were: 1) Care of the animal should take precedence over monetary aspects, 2) discussion of costs should be initiated upfront, 3) costs if veterinary care should be placed in meaningful context, 4) client suspicion should be addressed and 5) Financial limitations of clients should be considered.
Opportunities for the Practice
• Focus on TRUST
• Advocate for the PET
• Be frank about the options- talk in risk, prognosis and benefit terms
• Don't JUDGE
• Work with the client to find solutions
• Explore financial options- pet insurance, third party payments, etc.
Albers, J- What Pet Owners really think about cost- AAHA Trends May/June 2007
AVMA PLIT- Client Management Guidelines
Chatzky, Jean- Money: No Longer a taboo topic – United Feature Syndicate, Inc.2009
Coe, J, Adams, C, Bonnett, B- A focus group study of veterinarians' and pet owners' perceptions of the monetary aspects of veterinary care- JAVMA Vol 231, No 10 pg 1510-1518
Millan, O, Piskaldo, K- Men, Women and Money- Psychology Today Jan/Feb 1999