The Modern Equine Vet
November 2023
Vol 13 Issue 11 2023
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Ask the Finacial Expert

How Can I Help my Clients be Financially Prepared for Equine Care?

By Mike Pownall, DVM, MBA

How many times have you found yourself in the following scenario? A horse needs emergency care, but the owner balks at the cost. They ask if your practice can extend credit. While you discuss options, the horse is suffering and your frustration grows. Why don’t they have insurance or an emergency fund? Why are they so unprepared? Don’t they know horses are accidents waiting to happen?

As equine practitioners we deal with clients’ financial challenges on a regular basis. And these challenges aren’t limited to emergencies: horse owners are often just as unprepared to pay for routine care or chronic issues such as ongoing lameness. The solution is to offer clients financial care just as you provide patient care. Here are four strategies that can help you do this.

1. Build a healthy financial relationship from day one.
Be proactive about establishing a financial relationship with your clients early on. This means helping them figure out a way to pay before the crisis moment. Be open and transparent about the cost of equine care, and discuss the payment options you offer to help them be ready for the unexpected (and the expected) throughout their horse’s lifetime.

2. Be aware of the financial realities horse owners face.
Depending on the type of horse they own (competitive, recreational or backyard), your clients may spend anywhere from nearly $300,000 to $900,000-plus taking care of their horse over its life.¹  What’s more, owners tend to vastly underestimate these costs, spending three or four times more on their horses than they realize—no wonder 85% of them feel some kind of stress about horse-related expenditures.¹ Your understanding of these realities can lead to empathy and a foundation of trust between you and your clients.

3. Have a clear financial policy that sets the stage for lifelong care.
An ideal veterinary service agreement establishes your expectation that payment will be rendered at the time of service, lists the types of payment you accept, and highlights the value of your expertise in keeping horses healthy. In addition to sharing your policy at the first client visit, make sure to post it on your website and include it in brochures, treatment plans, invoices, client newsletters and so on.

4. Offer payment options that give clients a way to manage costs.
Insurance, wellness plans and financing solutions such as the CareCredit health and animal care credit card are all excellent ways to help clients manage lifelong costs. Everyone on your team—CSRs, technicians, practice managers, billing coordinators and veterinarians—should be comfortable talking about these options. Consider staff training focused on cost-of-care discussions (CareCredit offers a number of resources at carecredit.com/equineinsights), and note that financing is not just for emergencies—many horse owners use it for preventive care too. To make it easy for them to pay, provide convenient online and mobile payment options accessible through their phones or computers.

In my experience, the biggest benefit of these financial strategies is healthier horses getting the care they need. Whether you’re dealing with an emergency colic or routine vaccination series, wouldn’t you prefer to get right to providing care? Clients who are prepared with an established way to pay are much more likely to help you do just that.

To discover more about how veterinary financing can help you, your patients, your clients and your practice, visit CareCredit’s Equine Insights page. Learn how you can provide the contactless digital financing clients want at carecredit.com/mycustomlink.

1. CareCredit Equine Lifetime of Care Study, 2023, equinelifetimeofcare.com. CareCredit is a Synchrony solution.

Disclaimer from sponsor: This column is brought to you with the support of CareCredit. Synchrony and its affiliates, including CareCredit, share this information solely for your convenience. All statements are the sole opinions of the author, and Synchrony makes no representations or warranties regarding the content. You are urged to consult with your individual advisors with respect to any information presented.

 

Dr. Mike Pownall, co-owner of McKee-Pownall Equine Services near Toronto, is a practicing veterinarian and veterinary business management consultant. He writes and speaks frequently on business topics for the equine veterinary profession.