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Veterinarian Technician April 2009 (Vol 30, No 4)

Management Matters — Factoring Knowledge into an Estimate

by Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

    When money is factored into an owner's relationship with his or her pet, that may be the first time the owner assesses the value of a veterinary practice's services. To establish or enhance the client's trust, it is important for the staff to exude confidence. That means knowing more than the grand total at the bottom of the printed estimate.

    Know the Words, Not Just the Numbers

    Most of the tests, treatments and procedures performed in a veterinary practice are abbreviated in the practice management software that produces the printed estimate. Learn the terms on the estimate, know what each acronym or abbreviation stands for and explain the meanings before you are asked. For any services or procedures that are "bundled" — many components are included and are not listed individually on the estimate — explain each component while you are reviewing the estimate with the client. In addition, review each line item, especially if it is a high dollar amount that could potentially alarm the client.

    Before the face-to-face meeting with the client, check the estimate for any missing items. As you become more familiar with what is involved in patient care for different cases, you may notice that certain items should have been included on the estimate.

    Know What Questions Will Come

    By thoroughly explaining the estimate to the client, many of his or her questions will be answered before they are asked. Learn to anticipate other potential questions by asking the veterinarian for details about the case before meeting with the client. In essence you are ensuring that the recommendations are necessary before the client asks.

    Be prepared with generalized answers as well as specific reasons why the pet needs a test, treatment or procedure.

    Every pet owner has a budget for how much can be spent on pet care. Do not judge a client based on monies available, but instead be prepared to do the best possible care with available funds. If a client needs to discuss a reduction in the estimate or a different course of action, understand ahead of time how this process works in your practice. Will you need to ask the veterinarian to discuss a reduced estimate with the client, or does the veterinarian provide several diagnostic and treatment options ahead of time?

    Know the Policies

    As the client makes tough financial decisions, it may be necessary to explain the practice's financial policies, including the deposit to begin treatment or tests, acceptable methods of payment, available payment plans and related questions.

    At the patient's first visit, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of pet health insurance. During subsequent visits, if the pet is not covered by health insurance, consider reviewing payment options, such as no-interest financing, and recommending them to clients who are in need of financial help for their pet's medical costs.

    A client may be able to consent rather quickly to an estimate after this discussion, but he or she also may need some time to consider the options. Allow private space and time for the decision, including access to a telephone in case other family members need to be contacted.

    Establish a plan to follow up, as well. Let the client know you will check back in 5 minutes or ask him or her to notify the front desk when a decision has been made.

    Estimates are more than numbers — they are an important step in a practice-owner relationship. Estimates can be difficult discussions, but when confidence and knowledge are maintained, these conversations can go well for everyone.

    NEXT: Parasites 100 — Working with the basic CAPC recommendations

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    Did you know... The vast majority of veterinary technicians would recommend becoming a technician to family and friends.Read More

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