Nobody is comfortable talking about money.? Not how much we have, or don’t have, nor how much we owe or are owed. We’re sometimes even apologetic when we talk about it: ?Sorry Client X, but I need to talk to you about your outstanding bill? or ?My apologies, Dr. Y, but I can only pay you half today.? it’s a touchy subject. And that stress worsens when an animal?s health is at stake, especially if the owner is almost as worried about the resulting bill.
Relax!? Veterinarians are people, too. We go through tough financial times just like everyone else.? Divorces, foreclosures, kids in college? we’re not immune. However, the tight economy had made it necessary for veterinarians to switch from monthly billing to payment at time of service.? It has nothing to do with you as an individual, and it doesn’t mean we don’t care about the animals (believe me, we do, or we wouldn?t be in this business). it’s solely a reflection of the current economic climate.
Frankly, it was easier to send a monthly bill. Generating an invoice bill at the time of an appointment requires costly technology and additional time. Plus, if the vet visits a property several times during a month (such as during breeding season), it can become a royal pain for everyone involved.
And, tHere’s always concern that being forced to have a discussion about a past-due bill might contaminate an otherwise good relationship. Your veterinarian doesn’t want to lose you as a client anymore than you want to lose his or her services. That said, your vet can’t see your horse for free and extending credit has become risky.
WHY BILLING DOESN?T WORK.We all know this is true: If you have a choice to pay the electric bill or pay the vet, you will keep the lights on. Veterinarians have little recourse for non-payers, except not returning to the farm. Taking bad debts to small claims court takes time and doesn’t guarantee payment anyway, and collection agencies are virtually impotent, as most people don’t care about their credit score anymore.
Busy veterinarians don’t have the time to call clients to ask for money nor do they have the funds to pay someone else to do it.
Billing is an expensive service, not a courtesy. Veterinarians aren?t required to give out products and services and then wait to get paid. If the grocery stores did that they?d be out of business in the blink of an eye. In this tough economy, many vets don’t have the financial means to wait 30 or more days to get paid. They have office rent, invoices for medicines and staff to pay.
THE NEW TREND. Fortunately, portable printers and tablet-based billing software have made it easier for veterinarians to produce bills right on the farm. The advent of smart-phone based credit card processors (such as Square, INC) allows virtually anyone to accept credit cards. And an immediate bill also allows the client to ask for clarification right at the moment.
BOTTOM LINE. Many top equine veterinary practice managers list ?payment at time of service? as one of the most crucial elements to the stability of an equine practice. So, be prepared if your veterinarian informs you that this is the new payment structure.
Grant Miller DVM, Contributing Veterinary Editor.