Preventive care plans versus pet insurance: Do your clients understand the difference?

By MWI Animal Health

Mapping how these services can add revenue and increase client satisfaction
Veterinary clients come to you looking for guidance on pet health. They might have heard about preventive care plans and pet insurance but are confused about the differences. Education from their trusted veterinarian can help them make the right choice, a selection that benefits both their beloved pet and your veterinary clinic.
Preventive care plans
  • Typically covers annual check-ups, basic diagnostics, vaccines, and flea, tick and heartworm medications, with optional add-ons for dental care
  • Clients pay veterinary practice
  • Coverage is limited to one practice
  • Current clients who joined a plan spent an average of $1,153/year

Pet insurance

  • Intended for emergencies, illnesses, and non-routine care, such as accidental ingestions, cancer, skin disease, diabetes, etc.
  • Clients pay insurance company monthly premiums
  • Coverage is portable and can be used at different animal hospitals that accept it
  • Pets with insurance bring in $211 more in revenue each year

Three reasons to encourage participation in preventive care plans

1. Attract clients

Client acquisition can be a challenge. One way to get newcomers into your practice is giving the people what they want—and that is preventive care plans. According to a Packaged Facts survey of pet owners, 26 percent of millennial and Gen Z pet owners said it’s “very important” their veterinarian offers this option. Could this be the factor that helps your practice stand out from the competition?

After a new client joins the veterinary practice, if they sign up to a preventive care plan, you will see them more often. An AVMA study showed an average growth of 5.89 percent in wellness visits for practices that offer preventive care plans. More frequent interactions lead to stronger relationships with pet parents, and of course, you get to know their pets better and can make more informed recommendations.

Clients on a preventive care plan are less likely to shop around for products and services. They value the convenience of the plan and might not feel the need to check elsewhere for a better deal. A preventive care plan lets them get necessary treatment from the veterinary practice who knows and understands their animal.

2. Drive client spend
Preventive care plans bring revenue into your veterinary practice. 40 percent of Premier Pet Care Plan clients paid in full at the time of enrollment. This income at the start of the plan year can be a boon during otherwise lean times. If clients pay in monthly installments, that’s still a plus in the ledger. 

Preventive care plans improve client spending for both large conglomerates and neighborhood shops. One consolidator group saw its revenue from medicals services grow 57 percent after it offered a plan. A small animal hospital’s average client spend per year increased 53 percent.

25 percent of millennial/Gen Z pet owners told Packaged Facts they prefer the straight-forward pricing such plans offer. Knowing up front how much various types of care will cost can encourage owners to budget for these expenses. 

3. Improve compliance
Premier Vet Alliance’s internal data shows that, on average, pet owners not enrolled in a preventive care plan only purchase one-third of the recommended dosage of flea, tick, and heartworm medications. To achieve maximum protection, the full cycle is needed, so this non-compliance can put pets at risk.

Enrollment in preventive care plans led to a three times growth in flea, tick, and heartworm doses administered. Practices that add dental to their preventive care plans will improve compliance for this critical, yet often overlooked, pet health concern.

 

Align simple, consistent yet bold messaging to different parts of the customer journey. Mention preventive care plans in new client onboarding messages, when they come into the clinic for the first time, and in any post-appointment communications. 

3 reasons to encourage participation in pet insurance

 
1. Help pet parents avoid “uh-oh!” bills

You may have been in the unfortunate scenario of a pet owner, shocked at the cost of a procedure, calculating if they can afford the treatment. Just 39 percent of Americans can afford a $1,000 unexpected expense, according to a survey from Bankrate.com. Pet insurance gives owners peace of mind. Conversations turn from “how much does it cost?” to “what can be done?”

2. Encourage more frequent visits
As with preventive care plans, owners with pet insurance visit their veterinarian more often, with a 20 percent increase in visits. Data from pet insurance marketplace Pawlicy shows owners of insured pets demonstrate a 20 percent increase in office visits. Clients with pet insurance are more likely to agree to recommended treatment. A North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAIPA) report found cat owners spend a staggering 81 percent more per year when the animals were insured.

Since variable pricing is based on the pet’s age at time of enrollment, encourage proud pet parents of puppies or kittens to sign up and benefit from the lower premiums. In fact, 35 percent of pet owners who have pet insurance bought it within 1 week of getting their new pet. Then, hopefully, it will be the start of a fruitful relationship.
 
3. Fosters sense of trust

A major difference between preventive care plans and pet insurance is that veterinary practices do not directly sell the pet insurance. Instead, you can foster a sense of trust by recommending preferred providers to your clients. The NAIPA found 50 percent more owners would purchase pet insurance if their veterinarian recommended. Consider linking to one or two respected insurance companies on your website or have their marketing material on hand for interested clients. Your endorsement adds a layer of incentive for clients on the fence.

Submitting claims on behalf of pet parents also removes a barrier. Pet insurance operates under a reimbursement model, where the owner pays their veterinarian, files the claim, and waits to be reimbursed (minus deductible and copay and any uncovered expenses). 85 percent of pet owners considering insurance would be more likely to buy if their veterinary practice would submit claims on their behalf.  Taking this burden off the pet owner showcases your services and brings a competitive advantage.

Staff education is the cornerstone of marketing preventive care plans

Employee buy-in is essential to promote preventive care plans and drive enrollment. Draft scripts for phone and in-person interactions to help the front desk staff talk about this option with clients. Staff should encourage 100 percent utilization of all services provided by the  plan, so pet owners see the whole value and renew each year. Appoint an internal champion who manages all aspects of the program for the clinic. Consider offering incentives to employees who sign up new clients to the plans. Using automated processes behind the scenes can lift some of the administrative burden for smaller practices.

 

Reach pet parents where they are

One survey from Guggenheim Securities showed over 50 percent of people were “likely” or “very likely” to sign onto a preventive care plan. The interest is there, but a nudge (or two) may be needed. Use your marketing channels—social media, website, digital signage in the office, brochures, and at-home mailers—to educate clients about preventive care plans and pet insurance. You might write a quiz that helps pet owners determine which service is right for them, for example. 

Align simple, consistent yet bold messaging to different parts of the customer journey. Mention preventive care plans in new client onboarding messages, when they come into the clinic for the first time, and in any post-appointment communications. Use client communications tools to automate communications and reach the right audience at the right time.

Pet owners may have heard of preventive care plans or pet insurance but need guidance untangling the differences. Educating your clients about these options will position your veterinary practice as a trusted resource for both health information.

Learn more about how to create a fully customized pet care plan solution to increase client compliance in your practice