Written by Dr. Jeff Werber

The times, they are a-changin’. With the spread of COVID-19, veterinary hospitals have had to change the way they operate practically overnight. Telemedicine went from being an additional service offering, to now the primary way we are interacting with pet parents, which is evident with the FDA helping to facilitate veterinary telemedicine.

One of the biggest hurdles we see with hospitals implementing telemedicine is with them getting comfortable charging for the services. Here’s how to get comfortable charging for telemedicine.

Listen to Benjamin Franklin — “Remember that time is money”

I’ve been practicing veterinary medicine for 36 years, and have spent countless hours on my phone counseling, advising, and helping my clients with their pets, as I’m sure most of you have as well. My advice was often so sound, that the client never even needed to bring their pet in to see me. And of course I, like you, never charged for that precious time. Yes, giving our time away for free is just what we did! It sure strengthened our good will, and the bond with our clients, but did nothing to help our bottom line!

Why is it that we don’t value our time or expertise? If we don’t, how can we expect our clients to in the future? Certainly lawyers, accountants, and business consultants value their time very differently—try getting 15 minutes out of them for free. Yet, when it comes to what we do charge for, time is an essential factor.

Think about how we break down our service charges—anesthesia, surgery, consult time in the exam room—it all revolves around time and expertise. We often charge anesthesia time in 15 or 30 minute increments, our spay on a Great Dane is going to cost more than one on a Chihuahua—it’s more challenging, and it’s going to take more time. You’re probably going to charge more for the full office exam than you will for the recheck, and less than you would for the dermatology, behavior, or 2nd opinion consultation which is going to take up more of your time. The only reason clients may undervalue our time, is because, historically, we’ve undervalued our own time!

Telemedicine gives you the option to better manage and monetize your time

Unfortunately, we fear that if we charge for our time, clients will feel that we’re costing them more money. What I stress, and show them, is that by using telemedicine, we are actually saving them time, often time money, and now with the COVID-19 virus lurking over us, we are keeping them and your staff safer. Plus in a time where people won’t or simply can’t leave the house to come into the vet, it’s that much more valuable that we can consult and triage situations to drive the appointments in that really need to be seen in person, and can provide support for non-urgent issues while the client stays home (vs. them googling things or finding help on social media).

What choice do you have?

Don’t sell yourselves short, the time is now. Telemedicine is bringing a great deal of additional value to your clients, and the data shows that they are willing to pay for it. Clients appreciate the care!

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