By: Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
Why is marketing such a distressing thought for veterinarians of all genders and generations?
Because the terms marketing and sales have long been synonymous in veterinary medicine. And neither one has had a positive connotation.
When you went to vet school, you were excited about the opportunity to make animals healthy or prevent disease. The same is true if you became a technician. In fact, very few members of the veterinary hospital team took jobs to market or sell. But you do, everyday, every appointment, every phone call, every contact.
You market your business by the way you dress, answer the phone, greet a client, and even handle the pets.
You market your business with the colors that you choose for your business cards or hospital décor.
You market your business when you go to a restaurant, the movies or the bank.
YOU and EVERYONE on your staff is YOUR BUSINESS and they are in the business of marketing your business. Why you ask? Because marketing your business is the actions that you take to initiate, build, and maintain a relationship with your customers and subsequently your clients.
BOTTOM LINE: Marketing is EVERYTHING YOU DO; and Everything you do is MARKETING.
When we think of marketing we think of radio and television commercials, newspaper ads and inserts, direct mail solicitations, telemarketers, etc. And when we think of all of these we get a queasy feeling when we extrapolate it to veterinary medicine.
Of course, if this is the current mindset that you have then you are 100% correct about marketing. On the other hand, if we focus on marketing as a means of educating clients about the problems that their pets may have and the fact that you have solutions for those problems, it is much more palatable. If we educate clients about not only WHAT solutions you can offer but also WHY the solutions you have are something their pet needs, marketing becomes a teaching tool!
Your goal is to provide the information and resources needed for a client to make an educated decision that is in the best interest of their pets!
Veterinary Practice Marketing
The position of Marketing within our practice starts with and is driven by you Vision, Core Values, and Mission. If image, outreach, education and communication are not part of your vision, then marketing won’t be either.
Why do many small business owners get frustrated with their marketing? Because they want INSTANT results from something that is NOT designed to deliver instant results.
Effective marketing can make your practice almost a household word in your community. But it does take time.
Marketing and exercise have a lot in common:
- You rarely get results right away
- You need to do it on regular and frequent basis for best results
- The longer you do it the better it works
“Deliver your message to your market as many times as you can within your budget.”
The more people see or hear your message the more they will remember it. The more they remember your message, the more likely they are to believe and trust it. Therefore, they will be more likely to do business with you.
You need to keep your message in front of people on an ongoing basis. What you lack in concentrated marketing you make up for with repetition.
I like to think of marketing in two ways:
- Acquisition Marketing—marketing to ‘acquire’ new clients to replace those you have lost or to add new clients to your base.
- Retention Marketing—doing everything you can to keep a client for the entire life of their pets and for the life of subsequent pets.
Included within both is Referral Marketing, in which you use your existing client base to help you to grow by having them refer in friends, family, acquaintances, etc.
21st Century Marketing Ideas
Acquisition Marketing is readily perceived as external marketing because for the most part you are going to a population that you don’t have a relationship with and encouraging them to give you a try so that you can start a relationship with them.
Retention Marketing is directed at strengthening the already existing relationship that you have with your clients so that they have absolutely no desire to leave the warm, cozy comforts of you, your practice team, and your practice. It is based upon ongoing communication and education with a WE CARE attitude. For a great resource, consider Retention Marketing for Veterinary Professionals…I know one of the authors very well.
Referral Marketing bridges both Acquisition and Referral Marketing because it seeks to acquire new clients by tapping into the relationships that you have with your already existing client base.
The Long Haul
If you expose people to your message frequently, regularly and through multiple media, you develop awareness of your brand. Do this long enough and your brand becomes part of their long-term memory, part of their world!
You get the best results from your marketing when you focus on building awareness and credibility for your brand over the long term. The more people know you and trust you, the more they will want to do business with you.
FINAL POINT: For marketing to be successful, plan to be in it for the long haul. If we use the metaphor of marketing and relate it to vaccinations and the immune response, one shot is usually not enough to stimulate the immune system to afford sufficient long term protection from the disease being vaccinated for. Similarly, marketing is rarely effective as a single shot that has long lasting impressions on either your clients or your potential clients. In the case of vaccinations, early in the animal’s life there is usually a series of shots necessary to provide sufficient immune response to afford a long term protection and even then boosters are needed down the road. For marketing, constant exposure, education, and communication (the vaccinations) are needed to provide enough interest and motivation for the client/customer to take action. And then repeat marketing is needed to keep the front door swinging.
So, think of marketing as constantly educating your clients to the point that they are asking for the products and services that you provide. And after they have been fully educated, telling their friends and family members how great your products and services are.
In subsequent articles, we will delve deeper into marketing your practice and ultimately bonding clients for life.
As a veterinarian, the emotional satisfaction that you gain from your work is very important. While you may see many healthy pets for routine and preventive care, you also treat many others that are in pain or suffering – and that can be very tiring, emotionally. Don’t let “compassion fatigue” get you down. There are steps you can take to avoid the syndrome or overcome it and recharge yourself to stay at your best.
How to tell if you have compassion fatigue
Symptoms can include:
- Excessive complaining
- Compulsive behaviors (spending, eating, other addictions)
- Poor sleep habits
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chronic physical ailments (recurrent infections, aches and pains)
Tips to prevent/overcome compassion fatigue
- Find balance. Find a balance between caring too much and caring too little. Maintain enough concern for patients and clients to provide them with sensitive and understanding care, while having appropriate boundaries between your personal and professional life.
- Learn something new. Learn something every day to keep your work new and refreshing.
- Take personal time. You need to withdraw and recharge to function at your best.
- Embrace praise. Read letters and cards that patients send, showing their thanks for the work your practice does, as a constant reminder that your sympathetic care is highly valued. Be receptive to clients when they express their sincere thanks in person — don’t miss the opportunity to feel satisfaction in the moment.
- Take care of YOU. Possible self-care activities that can help break the cycle of compassion fatigue include getting regular exercise, keeping healthy eating habits, and maintaining a positive outlook.
Want to read more about this topic? Visit http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com/vetec/Veterinary+business/A-world-of-compassion-Veterinarians-unready-for-co/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/734911.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Pets Best President and Founder
After nearly 30 years of providing pet health insurance to pet owners, I know what pet owners have come to expect and hope for when insuring their beloved pets. 1. Ease
Pet owners want and expect a user-friendly experience in their pet insurance company. They want easy claim filing, a responsive customer care team and a variety of plan options to choose from. Let Pets Best help your clients afford the best level of care you can provide. 2. Affordability
The current industry average for pet insurance premiums is close to $35-40 per month. Pet insurance premiums will vary based on age, location and breed of the pet. Depending on the deductible and the plan selected, pet owners can find a level of coverage that will fit their budget. As veterinarians we want pet owners to purchase the broadest coverage they can afford. 3. Pre Existing Conditions Coverage
In an ideal world all pre-existing conditions would be covered. However, pet owners know this isn’t a realistic expectation. This hopeful notion generally comes from a past experience, where the pet owner incurred a costly vet bill, or after a pet had been diagnosed with an issue. Unlike some of the other pet insurance companies, Pets Best will cover previous medical conditions so long as they have been cured prior. For example, if a dog breaks his leg before he’s insured with Pets Best, and the leg heals completely, our company will happily reimburse this claim if the dog were to break the same leg again after he was insured with us. 4. Fast Reimbursement
Because pet owners pay out of pocket for their pet’s veterinary care, they want their reimbursement quickly. If pet owners are paying upfront with a credit card, they expect reimbursement from their pet insurance company before their credit card statement arrives.
Pet owners have shown that they actually prefer payments similar to human health care where the doctor/hospital bills the insurance company and they pay the difference. But because pet insurance, as a whole, doesn’t work this way, Pets Best has structured our flat rate reimbursements in a way that’s easy for pet owners to calculate their reimbursement. To make it even easier, Pets Best accepts electronic claim submissions and we even offer free direct deposit reimbursement, right back into their bank account!
By: Christina Materni
It’s that time of year when we are all feeling the pinch, but it’s never too late to think about what you can do to lessen that pinch in the future. A great first step is developing a budget. Then figure out how much it will cost to reach your goals and you are on your way!
The next step is to find a way to make it happen. Many of you likely use your income statements to track your practices’ progress, which can leave you frustrated. Income statements can’t measure cash flow – which is the lifeblood of a practice. Instead, we recommend using a more comprehensive tool, called a Management Statement™, to measure cash flow and develop a practice budget.
Not sure where to start? First, simplify the budget process by creating a Management Statement™, which will clearly show the sources and uses of cash in your practice (See www.wellmp.com Management Tools). Once you organize your revenue and expense numbers, developing a budget will be much easier.
Developing a budget
Before you sit down to create your budget, you need to gather some data. Start with the information you already know – your current year-to-date revenue and expenses. Also consider any additional goals you want to achieve. Holding a strategic planning meeting will help you identify what’s important. Lastly, look at benchmarks set by other practices to get an idea of spending levels (See www.wellmp.com Benchmarks WellMP® Study: Benchmarks 2011). Keep this data handy as you plan your revenue and expense changes for the coming year. Here’s what you should consider.
1. Revenue. How much will revenue grow next year? Consider:
- Fee changes. For example, implementing a 3 percent increase in your exam fee and value-based services and a nominal increase in your average markup on medications will increase revenue by approximately 3 percent.
- Additional services. Modifying your reminder protocols, focusing on proactive scheduling, and enhancing client education to improve compliance with recommended health care will increase the number of services that you provide – and will affect your revenue.
- New services. Are you adding a doctor or new technology such as laser or ultrasound in the coming year? Or perhaps you’re planning to offer new services, such as behavior consulting, rehabilitative therapy, or acupuncture. If so, estimate the number of times you’ll provide the service and multiply that by the proposed fee to determine how revenue will change.
2. Variable expenses. This category increases in direct proportion to revenue – more patients equals more revenue, equals more use of drugs and supplies. Non-medical variable expenses, such as pet food and over-the-counter retail, will vary from practice to practice, depending on how much is sold. Medical variable expenses – including drugs and medical supplies; heartworm, flea, and tick products; and lab supplies should be consistent at about 18 percent of revenue. Overall, variable expenses should remain consistent as a percentage of revenue from year-to-year between 24 percent and 26 percent. If your expenses are well-managed, multiply your current expense ratio by your revenue target for the coming year.
3. Fixed expenses. These expenses stay relatively stable over a range of revenue and ideally represent from 8 percent to 10 percent of revenue. For example, office supplies will likely remain consistent year-to-year, unless you plan to print new brochures, letterhead, or overhaul your client-education materials.
Areas where you might see significant increases include continuing education – if you’re planning additional meetings – and health insurance. Review your current costs and determine which fixed expenses will remain the same and which will increase and by how much.
4. Staff compensation. Target staff cost between 22 percent and 25 percent (wages, payroll tax, and retirement contributions), and include cost-of-living and merit increases for current team members. Depending on the economics of your community, you’ll need to plan a cost-of-living increase of 2 percent to 4 percent and a 1 percent to 5 percent merit increase for a total increase of between 3 percent and 9 percent.
Your revenue targets also will affect staff costs. For example, to attain higher doctor production, you may need to hire more staff members. Doctors in Well-Managed PracticesSM generate about $547,000 of medical revenue with a staff-to-doctor ratio of about 4.3 to 1.
Will you need additional staff members to achieve your revenue targets? If so, add the estimated total cost of the additional position(s), including wages, payroll taxes, and other benefits.
5. Facility expense. The cost of a well-established facility will represent between 8 percent to 9 percent of revenue. Does your lease agreement call for a rent increase in the coming year? What repairs and maintenance projects do you foresee next year? Do you want to project cost-of-living increases for utilities or property insurance? Decide whether you think your spending in this category will remain consistent with current expenses or increase in certain areas.
6. Associate compensation. If doctors are paid on production, apply the established percentages to the revenue targets for the coming year to determine the budget. If associate veterinarians receive a fixed salary, use the same process described in the staff-compensation section.
7. Owner compensation. If doctors are paid on production, apply the established percentages to the revenue target for the coming year to determine the budget. If owners receive a fixed salary, plan a cost-of-living increase. Management compensation is based on total revenue, so apply your management fee (typically between 2 percent and 3 percent) to the revenue target for the coming year.
8. Reinvestment. This category includes loan payments for equipment purchases in prior years and any new equipment purchases planned for the coming year. The target is between 3 percent and 5 percent.
9. Owner return. Don’t forget to plan to have something left. Owner return is whatever’s left after paying all operating expenses, veterinary and management compensation, and reinvestment. The target is between 9 percent and 13 percent after reinvestment.
Enjoy your improved financial health
Tracking your revenue and expenses and developing a budget provides you with an organized, systematic approach to efficiently measure and analyze your financial performance. The benefits:
- You’ll understand which revenue and expense items are important for short-term cash flow.
- You’ll know which items are crucial to long-term sustenance and growth.
- You’ll be knowledgeable about your cash flow, so you can create action plans to respond to problems or opportunities.
Most important, keeping the financial aspects of your practice under control helps you stay on track with your goals and gives you freedom to move forward in other areas.
Christina Materni is a Financial Analyst with Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, OH. She can be reached at 614-486-9700 or email@example.com.
By Jack L. Stephens, DVM
One of the drivers for sustainable success in any service business is excellence. Exceeding your clients’ expectations and providing them with a great experience will not only help retain clients, but it will make them “raving fans” of your practice. Raving fans build client referrals, which is the best kind of advertisement for your clinic.
One of the best ways to EXCEL is to assist clients with their pet insurance process (you would expect this from me!) On the surface it may seem like this service would be a hassle, yet in reality this assistance can bond the client to your practice at an even higher level. Insurance can be confusing to pet owners. So with very little effort, and by establishing a direct high level contact with a pet insurance provider, your practice can provide invaluable assistance for your clients. We already know that clients who insure their pets respond to symptoms quicker, spend much more on their pet’s care and readily accept diagnostics earlier in the diagnosis and treatment phase than non-insured clients. So how do you keep them at your practice?
Helping clients with their claims, so they receive their reimbursement quicker, (before they receive their credit card statement in most instances) will help bond them to your hospital. It demonstrates that you are sensitive to pet expenditures by recommending and then assisting in the reimbursement process. After all, it’s a veterinarian's responsibility to offer quality care, not to fund or compromise the care. And it’s the client’s responsibility to fund the care for their pet. A good pet insurance plan makes it easy for clients to budget for any unexpected accident or illness. Our pet insurance plans reimburse quickly and fairly at 70%, 80%, 90% or even 100% after the deductible. It’s easy to expedite the pet insurance claims process for your clients:
- Provide an itemized receipt.
- Provide a diagnosis (or list symptoms if unknown).
- Offer to fax the claim for your client.
- Remind the client that free direct deposit reimbursement may be available from their insurer.
At times, you may have a client who can’t afford to pay for the care upfront. In this case, you may choose to receive payment directly from the insurer. If you’re interested in offering this service for your clients with Pets Best, please contact our Veterinary Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
Added service will earn you a triple win:
- Clients can afford services
- Clients will bond to your practice for relieving them of a burden (after a few it becomes easy for staff and routine)
- Clients will refer friends for exceptional unexpected service
By Kelly Baltzell, MA
How many commercials have you or your clients seen about veterinary medicine? What about any marketing for veterinary medicine or information on pet health, whether offline or online? What’s the one message that is constantly being shown and assimilated by the masses? Likely, it’s “Call 1-800-petmeds because they are faster and cheaper than veterinarians.” If people are not educated about what the “best medicine” is or how it affects their pets’ health, then pet owners will most likely look to what they do know and understand— whether it be the value of a “1-800” dollar bill or the relationship they have with their veterinarian.
For women particularly, relationships play a strong role in continual purchasing decisions with a company. Ask any woman how far she would drive for her hair stylist, child’s doctor, personal care physician, or car mechanic, and she will likely answer “as far as I have to.” The reason for this is because she has built a relationship with these businesses and she trusts them. Veterinarians, once people visit them, become one of the businesses that clients (especially women) value because of the trust that can be built through the relationship.
Veterinarians tend to be great at building face-to-face relationships. And in fact, this is likely their primary means of communication. However, keeping and building relationships through electronic forms of communication may be just as valuable, although more foreign to some vets. If you’ve thought about looking into social media for your clinic, you’re probably wondering where to start, what the rules are and maybe even pondering how social media works.
Engaging and interacting with people through social media creates and maintain relationships. It is akin to meeting with people every day at a coffee shop, though much more forgiving when it comes to time. When people have a close relationship with their veterinarian, they are much less likely to leave and use another hospital’s services. Pet owners who engage in social media find value in content sharing that some animal hospitals may consider trivial fluff. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, or Pinterest pages that offer the most compelling and engaging content is the site people will visit repeatedly and create relationships with over the long term. This kind of social media interaction builds relationships that can help with client retention.
Where to start?
The first step is to educate yourself about social media, regardless of whether you decide to keep this kind of marketing in-house or use an external agency. Learning about the ins and outs of social media may seem daunting at first. But don’t be afraid to dive in and give it a try. It’s not something you can easily “mess up.” Overall, social media can be a tool that enables your business to grow and maintain client relationships online.
- The next step is to have a conversation with your staff and develop practice policies for managing and interacting in your social media endeavors. Find the right person within your company to represent the hospital via social media. You will want this employee to be articulate, friendly, knowledgeable and have the capability to easily respond to “posts” whether the clients are asking simple questions or posting comments that are contentious in nature. If such a person doesn’t exist within your practice, it may be time to interview outside providers who can manage your online marketing or hire someone part time, internally, to manage your social media.
Finally, never stop learning. Resist the urge to “check the box” and learn about social media, even if it means reading one article, just once. Everything on the Internet is changing constantly and keeping on top of these changes is easier when done on an ongoing basis.
Need help? Consider signing up for our Social Vet classes at www.thesocialvet.com, our online free webinars at www.beyondindigopets.com/webinars/, reading our blog at www.beyondindigopets.com/blog, and following us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/beyondindigopets/.
Jack L. Stephens DVM
Cancer is no longer a death sentence for pets, especially if they’re insured. Cancer diagnosis, specialty referrals and treatments generate some of the highest claims reimbursements that we at Pets Best pay out to our policyholders. It’s so gratifying to see pet owners choosing cancer care for their pets, and knowing we’re able to help because they chose to purchase pet insurance.
Because insurance pays up to 100% of the cost after a deductible, more pet owners are accepting costly diagnostics and treatments they otherwise could not afford. Insured clients don’t have to give up on their pet’s future to justify euthanasia, when in reality it was the cost of care that forced the euthanasia.
Our plans remove financial fear from the equation, so pet owners can focus on doing what’s best for their pets. The results are multifaceted:
- More diagnostic tests are given
- Diagnostic tests are given earlier
- Diagnosis is made earlier
- More specialty referrals can be made
- More cancer treatments are available
- Outcomes are better, medically and emotionally
Cancer Treatment Effect on Premiums
Of course, the increased spend on pet cancer care affects actuarial data. These actuarial changes cause insurance rates to rise in order to cover the care, which is simply how insurance works. It’s up to each insurer to set proper rates and to adapt to the ever-increasing cost of care. If pet owners want more sophisticated and expensive care, it is up to pet insurance companies to provide for it by setting affordable budgeted monthly premiums. Otherwise, the client would be caught unprepared to cover the entire bill, even with insurance.
This is why I founded pet health insurance in North America! Pets receive better care and veterinarians are able to charge appropriate amounts for more sophisticated treatments. And recently, Pets Best introduced a new Cancer Only plan as another option for pet owners.
According to a Pets Best survey, the number one financial concern for pet owners was treating cancer.
The new Cancer Only plan can be purchased alone or combined with our other plans to provide extra cancer coverage for many pet owners’ major financial concern. For example, clients can purchase Best Benefit plans for their pets with annual coverage of $20,000, including cancer, and add another $8,000 in annual cancer coverage starting as low as $3 per month. (Premium depends upon a variety of factors including age, breed and location.)
At Pets Best, we’re focused on pet owners’ desires to provide the absolute best care for their pets. That’s why recently we filed new plans, broader options and some new introductory plans to expand our outreach to fit even tight budgets.
Offer Your Clients a Discount
If you’re not already part of the program, ask about My Vet Knows Best. You can give your clients a 10% discount over the life of a policy when they enroll within 10 days of a veterinary visit. The savings in the first year alone can surpass the value of other companies’ free trial offers, and some pet owners will save up to $1,000 over the lifetime of their pet.
Timothy Holyoake, Arguello Pet Hospital
I probably don’t need to tell you that the most important thing one can give a pet, after love, is the opportunity to live a long and healthy life. We do not hesitate to provide medical insurance for our children, so why not the four-legged members of our extended family and our clients’ families?
Maybe we just don’t think about it until it’s too late. I feel it is the duty of our practice to inform and educate the client of all their choices when it comes to managing their pets’ health, including providing them with information about pet health insurance. Our commitment to building the client/patient relationship does not end once we have charged the client for the visit.
Veterinary medicine has made tremendous advances in recent years. We are now using the same equipment as human doctors to diagnose and treat illnesses and conditions that typically would have gone untreated and undiagnosed in the past. However, these advances have also brought high costs associated with diagnostics and treatments such as ultrasounds, MRIs, Chemotherapy, etc.
You may have experienced the following all too common situation in your practice. An animal with a treatable severe illness or injury is presented and tested, but the caregiver cannot afford such treatments and elects euthanasia instead. This is not only devastating to the client, but also to the staff of the hospital. Often, a pet insurance policy would have prevented the caregiver from having to make that decision.
Insurance helps to teach our clients about their pets’ short and long term medical needs, and supports preventative assessments and treatments. It also helps to reduce financial worries that prevent the client from having their animal examined in a timely manner.
It is also beneficial for clients to know that insurance is also not just for emergencies. Pet insurance can provide coverage for annual exams, vaccines, heartworm testing and prevention, routine teeth cleaning, and spaying or neutering. Preventative and routine care treatments allow clients to see the benefits of insurance immediately. Our clients value our opinions and explaining the benefits of performing routine care procedures along with our opinions on the the importance of having pet insurance to cover these procedures go hand in hand.
Working in a veterinary clinic, the doctors and staff are very aware of the routine medical issues that can affect a perfectly healthy animal. However, these routine issues are often surprising to a pet owner if not explained to the client during a patient visit. Thus infections of the ears, skin, eyes, lungs, bladder, and intestinal tract might be a matter of daily routine for us, but not for a new pet owner. We feel we need to explain that these are normal treatable problems that should be expected in the pets’ lifetime and how pet insurance can help offset the expense of hospital visits.
Insurance is also not limited to just puppies and kittens, rather it is available for animals of all ages. We often ask established clients with elderly animals, if they are aware that pet insurance could have covered some of the cost of their visit today. They are often surprised by this because they never thought of pet insurance themselves. This gives us an opportunity to send them home with information to better educate themselves on available insurance plans even for elderly pets.
As you may have noticed a common theme, client knowledge and awareness is the key to understanding that even the healthiest of pets can encounter a medical emergency. Knowledge and awareness is also the key to helping clients understand that insurance can eliminate the worries of being able to afford large unexpected medical bills. In addition, clients that do elect to purchase pet insurance are much more likely to elect to proceed with doctors’ recommendations, benefitting hospitals, clients, and most importantly, patients.
Arguello Pet Hospital
530 Arguello Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94118
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Pets Best President and Founder
At the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas in February, we announced the launch of our Claim Pre-Approval service. Now it’s easier than ever for your clients to know exactly what’s covered, day or night!
The service will provide Pets Best customers with round-the-clock access to Pets Best team members who have the ability to pre-authorize claims for veterinary treatments.
The Claim Pre-Approval service allows customers to know if their pet’s intended treatment will be covered. This program was developed to help provide pet owners peace of mind during stressful situations. We want them to focus on caring for their pets, rather than worrying about what is covered and how much it will cost.
To start the Claim Pre-Approval process, a policy holder simply calls Pets Best during business hours at 877-738-7237. The new pre-approval process is free to all veterinary clinics across the nation, and it does not require the installation of computer software. We wanted to make this process as simple as possible for veterinarians and pet owners alike.
When coupled with our direct deposit and direct-to-vet reimbursement options, Claim Pre-Approval provides our company and veterinary medical professionals across the nation with the ability to provide an unprecedented level of service to our clients.
Additionally, we process claims fast and need little to no veterinary clinic personnel involvement. Medical records are required on less than 10% of claims. Additionally, 92% of claims are processed within 2 days, 70% within one day and 13% same day.
Learn more about Claim Pre-Approval.
Paul Camilo, CVPM
March is here, and dental disease did not disappear. It’s time to actively promote dentistry year-round, not just in February. This past year at the Veterinary Dental Forum held in Seattle, I heard the story about how National Pet Dental Month came to be. In 1994, veterinary dentist Dr. Ken Capron from Tulsa, Oklahoma began promoting February as National Pet Dental Month. He wanted veterinarians and clients to flip their pets’ lips and look in the mouth. Now dental month is nationally celebrated as the time to revamp, refresh, and refocus on dental promotions.
I’m here to challenge all vets to extend Pet Dental Month to Pet Dental Year Round. Here are three ways to achieve the goal.
1. Use new dental technology
Identifying dental problems should be as simple and routine as giving vaccines. One of the biggest challenges in veterinary dentistry is that more than half of dental pathology is hidden underneath the gum line. Outside of having x-ray vision like Superman, the only way to properly evaluate what is going on underneath the gingiva used to be to probe the periodontal pockets under anesthesia and take intraoral x-rays. But now technology has changed that. There is a diagnostic dental tool that will show pet parents hidden periodontal disease. OraStrip measures thiols produced by anaerobic bacteria (FIG 1 & 2). OraStrip exams are easily incorporated into every vaccine and preventative visit, similar to heartworm and stool parasite tests.
2. Adopt forward scheduling
Borrow from the human dental model to retrain pet parents. Dentists use the forward scheduling for appointments. The hygienist or receptionist sets up the next appointment before you leave the office. This is part of their standards and makes compliance easy, allowing confirmation of the appointment rather than reminding to set an appointment. After every Oral ATP (Assessment Treatment, & Prevention) visit the patient should be put on a recheck schedule to evaluate how well homecare is going. At a minimum, pets should have their mouths rechecked every six months. Those treated for periodontal disease stage 3 or 4 should be rechecked monthly. Incorporating the follow-up visits fees in the initial Oral ATP visit allows “free” rechecks. If pets are only getting their teeth cleaned every 12 months, issues might be being missed. This is why it is so important to recheck the patient as often as needed to prevent disease.
3. Offer alternative payment options
Pet insurance is a great way to cover the costs associated with dental care, as opposed to the traditional debit/credit card option. Pets Best Insurance offers a variety of plans; including coverage for dental cleanings in their BestWellness plan, and traditional dental accident and illness coverage in their BestBenefit plans.
It’s up to you
Veterinary dentistry is not just for one month a year. Dental disease is the most prevalent animal ailment. Today’s animal hospital needs to promote dentistry year-round and make it an active part of the practice culture.
By: Carrie Tiemann
<img src="http://images.petsbest.com/marketing/pages/ingram check.png" align="left" class="left" alt="My Vet's the Best 2012
Winner" title="<div" _rdeditor_temp="1" style="float: left;" />In 2010, we became the nation’s first pet insurance company to develop a contest aimed at recognizing the country’s best veterinarians. Each year, hundreds of veterinarians receive nominations from grateful pet owners. We developed the contest to recognize outstanding veterinarians who go above and beyond to keep pets healthy. We award a My Vet’s the Best winner each quarter and an annual grand prize winner; for a total of five winners each year.
Our annual grand prize winner is selected by an internal review panel composed of respected veterinarians. The grand prize winner receives $1,000 to treat animals in need, as well as receives a trip for two to the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas.
For 2012, our grand prize winner was Dr. Irvin Ingram of All Creatures Animal Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. We closed out another successful year of the nation-wide content with a celebration honoring Dr. Ingram at the Western Veterinary Conference in February. During the event, we were able to praise Dr. Ingram for his charitable work and present him with a check for $1,000 to support his efforts.
Dr. Ingram, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than three decades, regularly travels to Arizona’s Navajo and Hopi reservations to provide free vaccinations and spaying and neutering services for local animals. He also embarks on trips to Nicaragua, India and other countries across the globe to treat and vaccinate pets in impoverished areas.
Dr. Ingram’s charitable work throughout the years has touched the lives of countless animals and pet owners. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to support his noble efforts in the U.S. and abroad.
Dr. Ingram received multiple nominations in 2012, underscoring his commitment to making a difference within his community. While there were many veterinarians worthy of the top honors this year, we felt confident in choosing Dr. Ingram as the winner. We also look forward to recognizing a new group of veterinarians this year as the My Vet’s the Best contest continues each quarter.