Embracing Wellness Plan Flexibility: Insights from Shawna Castillo on the Uncharted Podcast

In a recent episode of the Uncharted Podcast, host Stephanie Goss sat down with Shawna Castillo, the Director of Care at Otto, to delve into the evolving landscape of veterinary wellness plans. Shawna shared valuable insights into how Otto is transforming the traditional approach to veterinary care by prioritizing flexibility and accessibility for pet parents.

With her 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine, Shawna has been instrumental in creating Care, a new kind of wellness plan for modern veterinary practices. Otto’s revolutionary Care product helps veterinary hospitals boost revenue, client retention, team effectiveness, and patient outcomes.

Both Stephanie and Shawna were previously veterinary practice managers and bring deep insights that only those who have spent time in the trenches have. This article recaps the conversation and provides key takeaways to help you implement your own wellness plan.

Listen to the full episode here!

Why Clinics Need a Modernized Solution

Today’s pet parents need access to wellness plans that enable them to afford preventive and emergency care. Even the language of how we talk about care plans is changing. Historically care plans were referred to as wellness plans or preventive plans, but today, pet parents need true care plans that support their pet during their entire journey, from prevention to emergency.
Unfortunately, many clinics have found traditional care plans have been challenging to implement because they fell flat in a few key areas:

  • Restrictions on qualified service purchases made care plans hare for pet owners to take advantage of.
  • Rigid one-size-fits-all plans didn’t work for veterinary hospitals across the board.
  • Complex plans were difficult for staff and pet parents to understand and implement.
  • They didn’t allow for personalized plans.
  • Focusing on wellness instead of flexible spending allowed plans to support pets in various scenarios.

Stephanie shared, “I think there is a lot of stigma in veterinary medicine around it being a corporate thing, and it’s subsidized, and only big practices like corporate practices can afford to do it.” But today, care plans are accessible to practices of every shape and size.

Shawna also touched on the importance of removing initial barriers to care. “If you can break down that first barrier to getting clients through the door, then you can provide them with a treatment plan,” she explains. This strategy is about more than just affordability; it’s about creating a pathway for pet owners to engage with veterinary services more proactively and without the typical hesitations caused by cost concerns.

Shawna noted that in 2023 a study showed that over 60% of pet parents who apply for traditional credit-based financing don’t get approved, often because they simply don’t have credit because they’re young.

A recent study from Forbes revealed that a veterinary bill of $999 would cause 42% of pet parents to go into debt, while a veterinary bill of $499 or less would still cause 28% of pet owners to go into debt.

Stephanie notes that clinics have previously been hesitant to offer plans that look too similar to their competitors’ programs. However care plans are crucial to making care accessible and are no longer being considered marketing differentiators but gateways to care. In this environment, making care accessible is a dire need, not a marketing differentiator.

Designing Care Plans That Won’t Make Your Team Lose Their Mind

This was the mailbag question submitted to the Uncharted team was one on the minds of many veterinary practice managers:

“How do we design wellness plans in a way that is not going to make my team or doctors lose their ever-loving minds?”

Shawna shared, “In short, it really boils down to simplicity, profitability, and knowing, truly knowing what behavior you want to elicit from your clients. I call it long-term changed client behavior. What are you trying to get them to do more of? And the reason I say all three of these things is because when I started at Otto, we had a lot of work to do.”

Otto’s old wellness plan, like most traditional wellness plans, did not align with market needs:

  • Plans were too difficult to manage.
  • Updating plans was cumbersome.
  • Tracking was challenging.
  • Figuring out how to consume benefits was hard.
  • These programs were not designed to drive profits.

The restrictive wellness plans of the past were named as such because they typically covered exams, vaccines, a couple panels of blood work and maybe a spay, neuter, or dental cleaning. The Otto team set out to develop a care plan with the flexibility to customize plans based on the types of client behavior that each individual clinic wanted to encourage.

Care plans are not designed to be discount programs, they’re intended to drive profits by increasing care acceptance and helping pet parents budget for and pre-pay for care. Shawna notes that “our care members are spending almost 100% more than they did the year prior… …they’re spending about 65% more than non-members. You’re getting the best of both worlds, you’re making good clients better.”

3 things to consider when developing your own care plan:

  • Keep it simple. Adopting will be low if your staff and clients can’t understand it.
  • Price for profitability that’s the whole point of the program.
  • Don’t compromise your medicine.

Beyond Traditional Wellness Plans–Otto Care

Otto, an all-in-one workflow solution previously known as Otto, decided to create a care plan that worked for today’s clinics–Otto Care.

Care’s 4 core benefits are:

  • Health exams
  • Instant account credit to spend on any services
  • Bonus discounts that can be customized by clinic
  • 24/7 teletriage

Shawna explained the philosophy behind Care memberships, emphasizing the need for flexibility in wellness plans. “We’re going to open this up and really actually focus more on flexibility because pet needs can change on a dime,” she states. This perspective is crucial, considering that a pet’s health requirements can rapidly evolve due to various factors ranging from age to unexpected illnesses.

Shawna asked, “If you were given the option to be gifted a 100 gift card to your favorite store or a 100 valued gift basket from that same store, but mind you, remember how gift baskets work. Someone else puts the things in the basket and hands it to you. You’re not choosing. What would you choose?”. Almost everyone chooses the gift card because they have control to purchase the things they want instead of having someone else pre-select their items. The same is true with care plans. Pet parents would rather use the money on what they need than a suite of services that their pet might not need. Otto Care was built off of this keystone of flexibility and choice.

Otto Care’s customizable tiers enable any pet of any breed or age to enroll in any plan at the clinic. Shawna notes, “So, we kind of opened it up and we said, let’s make this a bundled credit essentially where the client enrolls in a plan. They get a predetermined amount of money. This amount of this credit is kind of based on the hospital’s economic value.” Care aims to help clients say yes to care, especially earlier in their pet’s life, to get them

Get Started with Otto Care Today

Contact us to find out how Otto Care is redefining veterinary wellness plans to be more inclusive, flexible, and responsive to the needs of modern clinics and pet parents.