A veterinary receptionist weighs in on the topic of clients who need alternative payment options

By Rachel Kelly
Client Care Representative
Perry Hall Animal Hospital

Rachel at work with patient

Rachel Kelly with a Perry Hall Animal Hospital patient

Having worked as a veterinary receptionist for over eight years, I’ve had my fair share of experiences, each new day bringing something different than the day before. I have been called in to assist on a number of different things that fall outside the scope of my responsibilities as a receptionist. Maybe one day I am asked to simply hold a patient while a technician administers a vaccine, while the next day I am asked to transport a patient for overnight care at another facility. However, I always greet these challenges by putting my best foot forward – and by the grace of some amazing force, I’ve always managed to overcome any discomfort I might have when called upon to help in a challenging situation.

Yet despite my years of experience working in veterinary medicine, there is still one thing that I am never prepared for and, until recently, have had no answer for, and that is having to look into the eyes of someone desperate to save their pet, and having to turn that person away due to their inability to provide immediate payment for services.

There is a common misconception that if someone does not have hundreds – or thousands – of dollars available at their disposal, then they are not worthy of quality care for their pet. However, my years of experience have taught me that even the best pet owners, on the best of days, may still require some form of financial assistance to care for their beloved four-legged family members. It is therefore astounding to me that there are so few alternative payment options being offered in veterinary clinics across the nation.

Thankfully, I work for an amazing practice which values quality care for patients, and serves any client who requests financial assistance. It is for that reason that we began using VetBilling.com, a company that allows veterinary practices to offer in-house payment plans to clients who don’t have the resources to immediately pay their bill in full.

VetBilling.com allowed us to set up our own guidelines for the plans, which fit the needs of our practice perfectly. Our practice policy is that we require a 50% deposit, and a payment plan of no longer than 6 months, unless one of our veterinarians approves a longer term.

From an administrative standpoint, the plans are easy to follow and can be set up within a very reasonable amount of time. Our clients find the terms of the payment plan easy to understand, and even some of our non-administrative staff members have found it easy to present and explain the payment plan option to our clients. If an issue ever does arise, the accessibility of VetBilling.com’s customer service staff has been outstanding. Because I work for a practice that is well-managed and client-centered, it has been a relief to see that VetBilling.com values the same things we do.

From a human standpoint, there is no greater happiness than seeing the relief in pet owners’ eyes when they realize that they will be able to afford their pet’s emergency foreign body surgery. Moments prior to us offering the payment plan, that same owner may have been facing an impossible decision to euthanize their loving pet for financial reasons.

This brings me to my next, and possibly, most important point. Fortunately, not every situation that warrants a payment plan is a heartbreaking one. There are so many financial factors that contribute to a client needing a payment plan. For instance, we have one client whose pet required a fairly emergent procedure just as she was in the middle of settling on a house. Because she was in the process of financing a mortgage, she didn’t want to apply for, or use, any credit cards or make any large purchases from her checking account. Offering her a payment plan through VetBilling.com was the payment option that best fit her needs. Otherwise, this woman who was trying to buy a home with a larger yard and better environment for her pet may have been denied care.

Another of our clients is elderly and on disability, and only receives a check once a month. An elderly person on disability – who is willing and able to spend her only source of income to care for her pets – may have been denied care if we didn’t have the ability to offer her a payment plan.

elderly woman with dog

Without an installment payment plan, many elderly people would not be able to afford veterinary care for their pet, and may be forced to choose euthanasia or surrender their pet. VetBilling.com is committed to keeping pets and their people together, so they can love each other for as many years as possible. Image via dogheirs.com

We have many clients who are in the same situation as the two ladies I mentioned, who would not have been able to care for their pets’ immediate needs without VetBilling.com.

This is the real face of veterinary medicine, and not the scary picture that has been deceptively painted by those who assume that if someone needs a payment plan, they must have no money at all, and that they probably neglect their pets.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I would rather focus on the positive outcomes we’ve seen at our practice that have been a direct result of offering VetBilling.com payment plans. The plans have enabled our clients to proceed with essential emergent and/or preventive care for their pets. Our veterinarians are more comfortable too, knowing that they can present and follow through with the best treatment plan for a pet.

Each and every one of us got into veterinary medicine for what I believe to be the same reason – our love of animals. Because of VetBilling.com, our staff is no longer consumed by the financial worries and constraints that we had before. This lets us all to get back to where we started: providing the highest level of care to each and every patient who walks through our door.


Rachel Kelly has been a veterinary receptionist for over eight years, since graduating from Calvary Baptist School where she majored in General Studies and Theology. Her love of animals is obvious as she owns several dogs and cats of her own. She is also an avid exotics supporter who spends her down time breeding and caring for her ball pythons. She hopes to continue her work with animal rescue and knows that wherever the future takes her, she is certain that the veterinary field will always be close to her heart.


The mission of VetBilling.com is to reduce the frequency of economic euthanasia and shelter surrender, and to improve financial access to veterinary services, by providing veterinary clinics with more flexible payment options to offer their clients. 
VetBilling.com allows veterinarians to set up in-house, contract-based installment payment plans.  VetBilling.com automatically drafts the pet owner’s checking, savings or credit/debit card account, and then transfers those payments to the veterinary practice’s bank account.  Payments are completely managed by VetBilling.com, and include intervention in, and resolution of, any problematic transactions. 
Our services are available at no cost to the veterinary practice* (see below.) Pet owners pay a nominal one-time enrollment fee, and a small convenience fee is added to each recurring payment.  There are no other charges or fees associated with the plans.
If you are a veterinary practice and would like to learn more about how a broader array of payment options can benefit both your practice and your clients, contact us by phone at 800-766-1918; by e-mail at info@vetbilling.com; or through leaving a comment on this blog post.
If you are a pet owner and are seeking an animal hospital that offers payment plans, please visit our web site page titled “Participating Vets.”  Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of vets.  If you don’t see your vet listed there, return to the top of the page and recommend your vet by filling out our form with his/her contact information. 
Pet owners may also seek pre-approval for a payment plan by providing us with additional information on the same form.
* VetBilling.com offers an optional web-based application called Credit Score Recommendation.  This application is available to veterinary practices for a one-time set-up fee.  The Credit Score Recommendation executes a “soft” credit inquiry on a pet owner’s credit report, and provides instant feedback with a credit letter grade and a recommendation for down payment and length of payment plan to offer.  There is a charge for each credit inquiry.
Credit card payment plans incur merchant fees.