Padding the bill in veterinary practice

Patty Khuly, DVM
Published: February 26, 2008
Share this:

Yeah, it’s true. When we’re faced with truly obnoxious clients we vets do what all professionals do but almost never deign to admit: We sometimes pad the bill (well, sort of).

I’m surely immersing myself in scalding water on this one but honesty’s what you come to Dolittler for, right? So soak it up, because this post’s going to tell you why sugar beats vinegar every time.

Today’s client sounded sweet over the phone, but I’ve known her long enough to remain unswayed by this. This owner almost never arrives personally, preferring to send the housekeeper (who happens to be afraid of her charge) while she keeps her pedicure appointments. What’s far worse however is that Fido always arrives in distress long past his original illness date.

Like most vets, I detest the concept of fighting fires when earlier detection of disease would have driven most responsible pet owners to seek professional help sooner.

It’s this series of irresponsible events that drives me to keep a closer tally of every miniscule cost this pet imposes on our practice in our efforts to get him well. No catheterization attempt goes unnumbered, no bag of fluids goes untallied and no pill goes unaccounted for.

That’s the reality of veterinary practice and I’m sure it applies to my accountant, lawyer, masseuse (if I had one) and barmaid, too. Being nice, communicating well and showing you care by doing your part is the key to getting treated well when it comes to getting your bill.

“Not fair!” you may well cry, but these are life’s truths in any service business. Ask any professional you know well and the honesty may well pour forth in torrents you never imagined.

For most of us there are policies and pricings which we may adhere to assiduously. Then there are exceptions which may well apply to any number of our compliant and caring clients.

If your pet arrives in obviously profound distress due clearly to your disregard for her condition, you can bet you’ll get taken to task by our standard pricing policies. Show your concern and your evident care and you’re more likely to catch a break on any number of itemized details.

I’m not promising you’ll save a bundle, but your attitude counts for perhaps 10% of your bill in most standard vet settings.

Now, this may sound unreasonable and I’ll be the first to confess that it is. Humans will be humans.

Every responsible pet owner should know that unseen discounts are far more common in veterinary medicine than you might expect. We’re not really padding the bill when it comes to the losers; we’re charging YOU less because we love you.