The Modern Equine Vet
September 2023
Vol 13 Issue 9 2023
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Ask the Financial Expert

How Do I Decrease Accounts Receivable
in My Ambulatory Practice?

By Linda Hagerman, DVM

Equine practice is a highly rewarding career, but it’s not an easy one, especially for ambulatory practitioners. Balancing the demands of daily practice with the needs of the business while on the road is challenging, to say the least. But to provide prosperous careers for ourselves and our employees, and to keep our practices viable, we must make our financial health a priority. Collecting payment at the time of service and maintaining low accounts receivable (A/R) is a key way to ensure a thriving practice. Here are some strategies to help you do this.

DEVELOP A CULTURE OF COLLECTION
Collecting payment at the time of service is a whole-team effort. The practice owner and/or manager leads the effort by creating a financial policy that states payment is required when services are provided. They then share the policy with associates, staff and clients and create a system of regular follow-up to ensure it’s being upheld.

If your clients are used to receiving a bill, manage their expectations through proactive communication. Discuss payment options when appointments are scheduled and again when you present your treatment plan and associated costs. This can help head off uncomfortable financial conversations when it’s time to pay. With time and consistency, you’ll see your practice culture change.

BE SELECTIVE
If a new client calls with an emergency, take time to talk to them on the phone to assess their situation. Find out who their regular veterinarian is, give them a cost estimate and establish the method of payment before heading out to help. Be especially careful if there are other veterinarians closer to them—the client may be in arrears with surrounding practices.

MONITOR YOUR METRICS
To meet your financial goals, be mindful of key performance metrics. Keep your A/R total under 9% of revenue and your days-to-collection number as low as possible—here’s the formula:

  • A/R beginning of period + A/R end of period ÷ 2 = Average A/R
  • Total sales ÷ Average A/R = % of A/R to sales
  • % of A/R to sales × 365 = Days to collection

TAKE-HOME MESSAGE
The success of a veterinary practice is determined by a mix of business and veterinary skills, yet few of us get the business education we need during veterinary school. We can start by collecting payment at time of service and decreasing A/R to create more profitable practices that let us continue providing care to the horses and clients that need it.

MY TIPS FOR MANAGING ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE

  • Make sure payment is worked out before providing services. Establish the payment method when the appointment is booked.
  • Make your billing period from the previous 16th to the current 15th of the month. This aligns with client end-of-month bill payment habits.
  • Offer flexible financing with the CareCredit health, wellness and animal care credit card, which provides a mobile-friendly experience accessible anywhere.
  • Take card readers in the field to collect credit and debit payments, and accept online options such as PayPal, Venmo and CareCredit.
  • Do not accept checks from first-time clients.
  • Be prepared with a collections strategy if clients don’t pay.

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.

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. Linda Hagerman has owned Tacoma Equine Hospital in Tacoma, Washington, since 2000. She and her five associates focus on providing outstanding preventive care along with advanced specialty services for those who need it. She was a speaker at the 2022 AAEP Convention.