Since most veterinary services performed in-clinic don’t have a bar code to scan for a price, pet owners must rely on the accuracy of the staff making out their bill. With all the people and steps involved in your pets’ care, it is easy to see why and how errors can increase your bill.
There are several reasons errors can appear on your pets’ invoice- staff knowledge, the time of day, misinterpreted notes from the veterinarian, typographical errors, and the busyness of the clinic can all play a part in you being mischarged for services provided.
The most common errors occur when the staff member ringing you out has very little information on your visit and the services provided. This often results you being charged for everything that the staff believes has been provided. For example we will assume you brought your pet in for an ear problem. The staff will charge an exam fee, probably an ear swab and microscopic interpretation, an ear cleaning fee then the medication as prescribed by the veterinarian. This leads to issues as perhaps the vet was not charging an examination because they were charging for the ear swab and analysis. Without communicating that to the staff, you now have been charged an additional fee that was not intended. Other times, a brief or comprehensive fee is charged for a visit by someone who is not aware this is actually a follow-up exam to an issue already being treated.
Staff changeovers and lunch breaks often result in errors when replacement staff are not properly briefed on the current patients in the exam rooms and what services are or are not being provided.
Veterinarians are not always clear when they inform the front staff as to what they are charging for the patients as they see them. More often than not, staff members are going to charge for everything done during the appointment as opposed to getting reprimanded later for omitting something from your bill.
And with most veterinary clinics that are computerized, all services generally have a code number for inputting them into your bill. Often staff members will choose the most common exam codes – a comprehensive (full) exam, or complex exam when the actual fee should have been a brief, re-check, or follow-up exam. These exams are quite common – and less expensive.
In addition, the more staff that aid in the treatment of your pet typically may also add their services to the bill (such as doing the ear swab analysis, or running a blood profile, analyzing a fecal sample clipping and cleaning a wound, etc) when the vet may have already included these costs into a more comprehensive exam fee (instead of billing for each individual service performed).
Clarify with the front desk staff what is on your bill if you don’t understand something that is on it. It is better to take care of any discrepancy while you are still at the clinic and they can verify any issues with the veterinarian while it is fresh in their mind. If you do not catch any potential issues until you get home (which is quite common, especially when you are trying to pay your bill, get medication instructions and your dog is pulling you around the reception area trying to play with another dog whose owner is going through the same process) contact the clinic as soon as you find an issue that needs to be clarified. Calling a day or so later just adds to the confusion as you will undoubtedly get a different staff on the phone or there is a different veterinarian working that day that won’t know the details of the exam or services provided.