10. 18. 22
On this episode of The Modern Practice Podcast, host Gary Tiratsuyan welcomes Dr. Sarah Wooten to the show to discuss how veterinary clinics can scale growth, and treat more pet patients.
With over 16 years of private clinic experience, Dr. Wooten shares her expertise on how clinic owners and staff, can navigate difficult financial conversations around treatment.
Using Rectangle Health’s financing solution, pet-owners can apply and receive up to $5,000 in financing for care.
With nearly a 100% approval rating*, pet owners can elect to move forward with necessary treatment for their animals.
* Patient Financing program provides nearly 100% approval. Applicants determined to be in Open Bankruptcy, Fraud Alert or on the Terrorist Watch List during the application process will be declined. Patients covered by government payor programs for a procedure are not eligible for financing of that procedure. Government payer programs include Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Department of Defense TRICARE and TRICARE for Life programs (DOD TRICARE), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) program, and the Indian Health Service (IHS) program.]
Gary Tiratsuyan: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Modern Practice podcast! Really excited for today’s episode as we are joined by Dr. Sarah Wooten to discuss scaling growth at your veterinary clinic. Dr. Wooten brings 16 years of private clinic experience and a wealth of knowledge to our conversation today. Welcome to the show!
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Thank you so much for having me, Gary. I’m excited to be here.
Gary Tiratsuyan: Great. Dr. Wooten, before we get started, can you tell our audience about yourself, your career and journey in the veterinary space, and what projects you are currently working on?
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Absolutely. So, as you already said, I graduated from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. And I have practiced for 16 years in small animal private practice in California and Colorado, both in Mom-and-Pop type of practices and in corporate practices. I did retire from practice back in 2018. And since 2009, I’ve been providing education to pet parents via articles and videos through, oh gosh, so many major online channels. I do radio, podcasts, and TV news broadcasts as well to bring veterinary education to pet parents so that they feel more empowered and educated about the decisions they make about their pet’s health. In 2015, I started teaching in the veterinary continuing education space on topics that include communication skills, competence building, resilience, entrepreneurship, and women in leadership. And that was where I co-developed the card game Vets Against Insanity, which we’ve been selling to the industry since 2017. And then this year, we morphed the game into a regional conference concept called the Vets Against Insanity Con because I felt like we really needed more connection, well-being, laughter, and high-quality CE. In addition to my online courses, [all of this] is pretty much what I do.
Gary Tiratsuyan: Amazing… for our listeners; you can learn more about Dr. Wooten’s history and work at drsarahwooten.com. Let’s get right into it…I want to preface this question with the fact that oftentimes, there is a sad reality when it comes to pet patients – in certain circumstances, pet owners simply cannot afford the extensive treatments needed. When a pet is injured or gets sick, we know veterinarians get into this line of work with a deep passion and desire to provide care. Finances are a barrier [to that care]. So, I think, “How can we knock down these barriers to treatment?” I think of recurring payment plans and financing options. These are real-life solutions for costly goods and services like buying a car. So why not in the vet space?
Can you share with us if you think this is a lack of awareness, or is there resistance to these methods of payment?
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Gary, it’s really both. So, I think there’s resistance to something like keeping a card on file. Because I’ve seen this over and over again, that’s what they’ll set up; they’ll set up the payment program. And then practice owners get burned because a.) the client closes the card after receiving services, or they just don’t have enough money on the card or in the account to pay the monthly payments. And then we look at the accounts receivable list, just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And there’s a lot of resistance to that because, at the end of the day, a veterinary clinic is still a business. I also think that there’s a lack of awareness of new financing options because, again, in my experience, when it came to financing options, such as lines of credit, the people who needed the line of credit the most were the ones that got turned down. And then they were embarrassed, and they’re already stressed about their pet, and then they had to call their aunt, their mother, and their brother to cobble together enough lines of credit to get the financing. And, of course, that takes a bunch of time. So then they tie up the exam room and the para staff, and I’ve seen it go on for an hour or even longer. And the whole time, the animals there they’re suffering, and everyone’s upset, and it’s just a who-ra, so I could see that there is resistance to that. And also, a lack of awareness that there are other options out there that are not as difficult or frustrating. I think there’s a lack of awareness of the Care Now, Pay LaterSM financing program that Rectangle Health offers because if they did, they would likely offer it more often. After all, it’s an easy, quick way to gain access to that financing. And hardly anybody gets turned down, and then the veterinarian gets to do their job. So, again, Gary, it’s both.
Gary Tiratsuyan: So, if you were to speak to a new veterinary clinic or even an organization with multiple locations, do you think these types of payment options (Care Now, Pay Later/financing plans) would be something they are willing to adopt? Right, because it scales the business. It takes on pet patients that otherwise wouldn’t be accepted, if the pet owner simply could not afford the treatment or care. You know, like you said, they’re going to be scrambling to find funds. But with this up to $5,000 worth of funding, it’s a manageable way to take on the expense, make sure that the pet patient is being treated, and the pet owner ultimately is in a good place financially to make those payments and get the treatment that they need. Right?
Dr. Sarah Wooten: I think this program addresses several pain points that we’ve already brought up, both on the veterinary side and on the client side. And so, I do think if we were speaking to new veterinary clinics about this program, if they have already had issues with clients not being able to afford care, or if they have had issues with payment plans and the decision maker was aware of how an option like this would make it easier for clients to get financing and how a program like this would affect their bottom line; I would definitely say they’d be willing to adopt it because it would solve so many of the issues that we experienced day in, day out in the trenches of veterinary medicine.
Gary Tiratsuyan: Thank you so much for that; that’s really insightful. And again, you hit the nail on the head a few moments ago when you said, “improving the bottom line,” when I look at Rectangle Health’s patient financing program as a whole, we’re looking ultimately at scaling your veterinary clinic, scaling the business side of the care. So, the veterinary practice as a whole is able to take on more pet patients and grow in revenue. And I also want to mention retention, that experience of a pet owner coming in, needing the treatment for their pet, saying what are my options and the vet turning around and saying, “Well, you’ve got a few: we can set you up with a card on file, we could set you up with text to pay so that you get automatic messages to pay in increments.” And ultimately, with this $5,000 in funding with Care Now, Pay Later, they are able to again manage this treatment from a financial perspective. The veterinary clinic, because they offered that option now, sort of has built this loyalty with the pet owner; they know that they can go there and get the treatment that they need. What does that do for growing a veterinary clinic?
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Oh my gosh, it does so much. I mean, so you already hit several of the points about being able to have more patients seen and be able to do more with each of those patients. You have more efficiency with your staff. Because, again, sometimes this line of credit will take up hours of para staff time. And then you’re able to free up those exam rooms. Suppose you can get them in, get them treated, move them on out, and get the next person in, the next case. In that case, you also have higher levels of compliance and adherence, which historically speaking, if you look at the numbers in veterinary medicine, are terrible; we are not being able to get enough compliance and adherence out of our clients so that we can get the care that their pets need. And so, it hits several different parts. And it also hits client retention. Because the client is going to have a good feeling about your veterinary hospital, they’re going to feel like I can go in there and get the care that they need. I don’t need to feel embarrassed or shame if I don’t have the funds at that moment. And then they’re going to tell their friends, and then they’re going to go on Google or Yelp or wherever, and they’re going to leave reviews. And so, there’s a lot of not tangible benefits. I mean, you’re going to see the financial benefits right away. But then there’s all these other, not tangible benefits that you’re going to be experiencing in it.
In addition, you have things like veterinary well-being. So, your veterinarians don’t have to be stressing out about, you know, okay, what do I take off the estimate so that the client will actually do what I’m telling them to do? What can they afford? They only have $500; what can I do? And so, then you add that in as well. And it’s not just the veterinarian; it’s your front staff, it’s your technicians, and your assistants because it all goes together. There are so many benefits to this program. I just obviously can’t say enough because I just keep talking.
But yes, this option would open the door to providing higher quality care to patients who wouldn’t otherwise get the care. And I’m thinking about so many cases that I have seen that ended up with economic euthanasia or got lower quality care, because that was all they could afford. Even though I could have done so much more for the patient. I’m thinking about your Parvo cases; I’m thinking about the hit by a car or the little family that gets the Chihuahua. And they don’t understand that when the Chihuahua jumps off a chair and breaks its leg, then they suddenly have a $3,000 bill: I’m thinking about things like dentistry, that’s always a huge surprise for people. And there have been many times where I haven’t been able to give these patients they need because the client could have couldn’t afford the dental care. I’m also thinking about so many times when there’s a torn ACL, which is the anterior cruciate ligament. I mean, everybody who’s listening knows that. And everybody who’s listening has had to not give a dog the care they needed because the person couldn’t afford to have the surgery done. So, so many things there. I hope I answered your question. But yes, so many benefits, Gary,
Gary Tiratsuyan: You absolutely did. And one thing I want to bring up is what you mentioned a few moments ago; it’s taking care of the pet patient completely and giving treatment in its entirety, not piecemealing. Not saying okay, we can do this. And then we can sort of push off this treatment for a little while until those funds are there to pay for the procedure. With patient financing, we’re looking at, ultimately, more care, more treatment, and a more permanent solution to an issue that a pet may have. It’s really all-encompassing and handling the problem, the issue, the illness, or whatever the injury may be at the point that it needs to be addressed so that there are no longer costs in the future. Right? We’re looking at not delaying, like I said, not sort of partial treatments here and there, not trying to figure out what we can do sort of as a band-aid, but ultimately getting the right fix in for the pet and treating the pet on the spot, the right way.
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Absolutely. As you were talking, I was just thinking about how many times I’ve had to delay vaccines, heartworm testing, or heartworm prevention or fecal testing because somebody comes in for their annual exam. They are rightly surprised by the $500 to $700 price tag that’s there for just doing annual preventive medicine. I’m thinking of exams, all of your parasite testing, all of your vaccinations, annual bloodwork, and urine on older patients. The list goes on. And so, I remember having the conversation so many times, okay, well, all right, we can do this, this, and this today. And then we’re going to make a plan to do this in a month when you get your paycheck and then do the next thing in a month when you get your next paycheck. And, you know, it would be something like heartworm testing. And so, like the leptospirosis vaccine, what happens in those two months if that animal is exposed, right? So, this allows the pet to get care when they come in. That also helps because then you’re not tying your para staff up with vet appointments when these people come back in over and over and over to get the stuff done little by little. Yeah, that’s just something else that I was thinking about in it, and that’s preventive care. Right. So, there are just there’s a lot of ways to apply this.
Gary Tiratsuyan: Thank you, Dr. Wooten. And thank you for all your insights today; I think, ultimately, our financing program as a whole allows the pet owners to consume the care for the pet to receive the care they need. At the time, they need it in a new, financially manageable way. Again, I want to thank you for coming on the podcast today, and I appreciate all your insights.
Dr. Sarah Wooten: Absolutely, Gary, it is a pleasure to be able to introduce something like this to our community, and I hope it helps a lot of people.
Gary Tiratsuyan: It absolutely will. For our veterinary professionals listening in today: If you’d like to learn more about Rectangle Health’s patient financing program, follow the link in the description below and reserve a time to speak to our experts about how this solution can scale growth at your veterinary clinic.
Till next time, everybody.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.