It’s nearly impossible for a veterinary practice to achieve sustainable success without sufficient cash flow. Your employees still need to get paid and you’ve got overhead and ongoing upkeep of your clinic to worry about. If you are performing services but find yourself having to chase after clients to be compensated, or are struggling to get your finances out of the red, chances are you could benefit from tightening up and optimizing your billing processes. Let’s take a look at a few strategies to help you improve in this area.
Set a policy and stick with it
If you’ve been prone to making exceptions for clients in the past, now’s the time to buckle down and lay some ground rules. First and foremost, you need to create and document a formal payment policy. Ideally, we would recommend requiring payment in full at the time services are rendered, as this is standard practice in the veterinary industry. If you do offer other options, make sure you’re clear on what those entail and that your clients are fully aware before moving forward.
Communicate openly and frequently
Never just assume your clients know what your payment and billing policies are. Communicate them regularly. Post a “Payment Basics” flyer right near the front desk and include a disclaimer along with any paperwork you have your clients sign. Remember – you cannot adequately enforce a policy that isn’t well-documented and clearly communicated, so leave no ambiguity.
Offer a variety of payment options
If you find that requiring payment upfront is a struggle for some of your clients, you might consider offering a few other options. For instance, you might decide to work with a pet insurance company. This enables your clients to defray some of their out-of-pocket costs for veterinary care while also ensuring that you still receive timely payment for your services. Another option would be to accept pet-specific credit plans, such as CareCredit. Offering several options can relieve the burden from your clients, improve cash flow for your practice and contribute to happier, healthier pets overall.
Educate your staff
It may sound elementary, but many practices struggle with cash flow simply because their employees aren’t doing their jobs adequately. For instance, if your front desk agent isn’t well-versed on your time-of-service payment policy, he or she might erroneously give a client the option of being billed. This undermines your ability to collect in a timely manner. To avoid this, make sure that everyone on your team is educated, both on the policies and procedures as well as how to speak with clients about payments.
Make receivables a priority
If you already find yourself in a hole with regards to a backlog of payments, don’t let your collections efforts simmer on the back burner – no matter how uncomfortable a task it might be. Veterinary medicine may be primarily about building relationships, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business. Be compassionate but firm when it comes to your accounts receivable. And recognize that a client who is consistently late and/or reluctant to pay may not be someone you want to continue doing business with anyway.
Designate a go-to person
If finding the time to work on billing is becoming more and more challenging, be proactive in assigning the task to someone else on your team that you trust. Not only will this take the weight off of your shoulders and free you up to focus on growing your practice, but it will give everyone in the clinic a point person and subject-matter expert to whom they can turn whenever there’s an issue. This will enable your practice to run much more smoothly, which isn’t just better for you and your team, but for your clients and patients as well.
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