Setting Fees in Veterinary Practices Table Topic

A Table Topic session on setting fees in veterinary practices was attended by more than 50 veterinarians from across the country during the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md. The majority were from one- or two-veterinarian practices, but a dozen or so practitioners from three-plus doctor practices also attended. Discussion ranged from how to set fees, when to increase fees, value-added services, doctor availability to clients, and discussion concerning competition and dealing with the recession.

The attendees discussed different methods of charging for services, including hourly rates, a set procedural fee, and itemization of all materials and time. Discussion also included charging differently for specialized area of expertise such as reproduction, lameness, or surgery. The audience was urged to use "evidence-based management" when considering fees. For example, Reilly recommended each clinic calculate its fixed hourly expense per doctor and use that as a basis for determining fees. By knowing one's fixed costs and adding in any variable costs, a fee can be reached that does not allow a loss on any single item or procedure. An example used was Coggins testing: Be sure to include time for blood drawing, sample prep, paperwork, filing and/or returning results to owners. Add this total to the cost the lab charges and then add a profit margin for the business so it can continue to pay its staff and offer services to its clients.

Discounting was discussed in the sense of volume discounts when visiting one farm for an extended period of time, or for abbreviated services such as holding vaccination and Coggin's clinics at one location. Either situation allows more horses to be seen per unit of time, reducing the need to travel to see as many horses. It also was recommended to the audience not to discount fees just because another practice does. Rather, value-added services, such as extracting wolf teeth while a horse is anesthetized during a castration at a reduced package fee, or performing sheath cleaning at a reduced cost if it is done in conjunction with dental floating under tranquilization. Reilly also shared his clinic's approach to castrations, offering three different fees based on what options might be included in each level (i.e., dispensed antibiotics, hospitalization, etc.).

This session was moderated by Denise Tumblin, CPA, who specializes in the veterinary field, and Mark Reilly, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, who owns South Shore Equine Clinic in Plympton, Mass.

About the Author

Mark Reilly, DVM, Dipl. ABVP

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