Practice Management News and Views from around the World – November 2013

Flash Mob Munich

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to April 2013



You can click here to visit the AT Veterinary Systems website

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Leaders in the veterinary profession go toe to toe over supply and demand

from an article by Julie Scheidegger published in the DVM360 online magazine

Debate at Banfield pet health summit sparks discussions over how to steer veterinary profession.

An assemblage of CEOs and executive vice presidents, deans, board members of veterinary medical associations and nonprofits, salespeople, consultants, analysts, practitioners, past practitioners and, yes, members of the veterinary media gathered for the Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit in Portland, Ore., recently to discuss the very thing everyone seems to be talking about. If the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says the profession is experiencing a 12.5 percent excess capacity in veterinary services, is the problem oversupply of veterinarians or underdemand for veterinary services?

Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, dean of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Mike Thomas, DVM, PhD, founder of Noah’s Animal Hospitals in the Indianapolis area, took the stage Aug. 13 to debate the issue with dvm360’s own News Channel Director Kristi Reimer as moderator.

“There is no oversupply of veterinarians—there is underdemand,” Green says. “We’re still called one of the most viable professions. Our focus should be on demand, not supply.” She says the profession has to be creative in order to increase demand and that oversupply should be an opportunity for innovation.

Thomas calls this looking through “rose-colored glasses” and counters that as the number of veterinary colleges increases along with class sizes and debt loads, the problems of the profession will also grow as demand remains flat.

For Green, the key ingredients are service, marketing and value in order to convert potential demand into actual clients. But Thomas questions the effectiveness of those tactics in a still tepid economy. “We need to yield to the wisdom of the market,” Thomas says. That means capping class sizes and putting the brakes on the creation of new veterinary schools.

But Green says academia is not the problem. “Veterinary colleges are fed with demand,” she says. “How do we look at the masses who want our education and say no?” She says the quality of applicant is not waning and the applicant pool increased nationwide in 2013. And she says discouraging students from becoming veterinarians would hurt the profession. “Why can’t we start bragging about it instead of crying about it?” she asks. “There’s a need out there for us. No one ever shrunk themselves to greatness and neither will we.”

The discussions and comments that followed seemed to trend toward Green’s glass-half-full approach to the profession’s future as members of the crowd took to the microphone. Patty Olsen, DVM, PhD, chief veterinary advisor for the American Humane Association, said, “Market the heck out of it [the profession]. We have lots of services to provide. Why shy away from that?”

David Haworth, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation, spoke for his table, saying, “We believe there is an inherent, unrealized value in veterinary medicine.”

Others, however, backed Thomas’ concerns surrounding how to effectively market the value of veterinary medicine—“We’ve tried these strategies before and they haven’t worked,” Thomas told the crowd—and questioned whether that would be enough.

John Volk, senior consultant with Brakke Consulting, shared the same concern from those at his table. He said if demand is need plus ability to pay, the profession needs to “find ways to increase demand and add lower costs.”

Those from the AVMA pointed directly to the Partners for Healthy Pets pet owner campaign and its advertisements aimed at getting more clients in for annual exams for their pets. According to CEO Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, who addressed the conference on its second day, the campaign is designed to change the conversation from a strategic ideal to an actionable outcome for veterinarians.

Banfield Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, MS, DACVIM, expressed Banfield’s view that the profession seize potential demand. Clint Lewis, executive vice president and president U.S. Zoetis, echoed the sentiment, saying he couldn’t see how cutting the supply of veterinarians would be good for the profession. “We all need to be doing our part to make sure this industry is vital,” Lewis said when he took the stage to accept the John Payne Industry Leadership Award Tuesday night of the summit. “So goes the industry, so goes Zoetis; so goes the industry, so goes everybody in this room.”

You can click here to visit the website

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Veterinary Income

From her blog by Dr Natasha Wilks

Lately on many different social media channels there is much discussion about veterinary salaries.

The view is as it always has been. Vets don’t get paid enough. We are the poor cousins of Doctors.

Maybe vets are more vocal now when they graduate with a significant student debt and are navigating the cost of living and how to repay the debt… I don’t blame them. I remember how frustrated I was when I realised what the income was for an experienced vet.

However, I must admit I am sick of hearing the doom and gloom.

Do you know why? While everyone is moaning and focussed on the low salaries they aren’t considering how to increase their income. You can’t see the solution if you keep looking at the problem.I used to do the same. I had a limiting belief that vets will always be paid poorly and I never expected to earn a income of 6 figures.

That changed when I began to value my knowledge and skills and recognised that I could negotiate my salary and working conditions. I would not let myself be taken advantage of.
I had a habit of being nice and thinking if I worked hard, I would be looked after & paid appropriately. I was looked after but the pay went up by very small increments. Now I know why. I was costing the practice money as I wasn’t generating enough turnover. No one ever had a conversation with me about how to generate more, how to improve my case work up or how to communicate with clients. I just learned by trial and error. A long slow process.
A few years ago when I was first told I had to generate five times my income to justify my position, I was annoyed. Then I realised how easy it was working at a practice that charged appropriately and was busy (I’m not talking crazy busy).

These are the keys to increasing your veterinary income

  • value your knowledge, skills and worth
  • charge appropriately and stop discounting as you are sacrificing your income many times per day
  • build strong relationships with clients so you become their family doctor for their pet
  • work in a practice that is busy which will allow you to meet your financial targets
  • monitor your turnover and discuss this with your employer regularly
  • negotiate your salary
  • negotiate your benefits and working conditions
  • make it a win:win for you and the practice

If you are doing all of the above and not being paid well, then find a practice that will pay you well. When you are great with clients and can generate a high turnover, you are very valuable to a practice as you don’t cost them money.

There are vets who earn a good income. Talk to them to discover what they are doing & what they believe to be paid that salary.

Stop moaning and do something about it.

  • Sit down and discuss with your employer what you should be doing to generate more income
  • Ask the question “What do I need to do to be paid X?”. Then go, do it and hold you employer to it!
  • Uncover your limiting beliefs about being a good vet and earning a good income. Saying “I don’t do it for the money” is keeping you poor.
  • Increase your veterinary skills in an area that is valuable to the practice, generates turnover and is enjoyable for you
  • Improve your communication skills so clients will follow your recommendations
  • Learn to value your knowledge and skills and stop undercharging and discounting!

You can click here to visit Dr Natasha Wilks website

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SPVS-VPMA Congress 2014 launches its winning programme

VPMA/SPVS Congress 2014 logo

SPVS and VPMA are launching their annual congress with an impressive line up. John Lewis Board Director, Tracey Killen, heads the list of experienced speakers. From within and outside the industry and from home and abroad, they will provide strategic thinking and down-to-earth practical advice.

Tracey will share her take on what veterinary practice can learn from John Lewis, a respected and trusted household name. She should know – she’s married to successful independent vet, Richard Killen, owner of the multi-site Highcroft Veterinary Group!

Award-winning speaker, Katherine Eitel, who wowed audiences at the North American Veterinary Congress in Florida earlier this year, will deliver her high-octane presentations on personal and team development. And the two founders of the Mindfulness Exchange, a spin-off from Oxford University’s world-renowned Oxford Mindfulness Centre, will share the research that supports their pioneering approach to tackling stress in the workplace.

SPVS President, Adi Nell, particularly wanted to reach out to young vets with the brand new 5 to 15 years qualified stream,

‘This is typically the time when, having cut their teeth and got a good grounding in practice, vets start to think about ownership. As a society, one of our key aims is to help vets make the transition to ownership easier and less stressful. We support them with advice and practical help from experts and people who have been there and done it. ‘

This stream will be chaired by Alan Robinson and includes younger vets talking about their experiences of both corporate and private business models. With Brian Faulkner sharing his experience of setting up a new practice (twice – so far!) and Tim Puddle on marketing essentials, this stream is a must for anyone embarking on ownership.

VPMA President Helen Sanderson, meanwhile, was keen to build on feedback from practice managers after last year’s congress.

‘Our more experienced managers said they wanted intensive sessions in areas such as personal and team development. We’ve answered that by extending the lecture times to an hour with several streams that allow you to really get your teeth stuck into a subject such as a whole afternoon’s training in staff coaching with Nick Steele from Zoetis, one of our most popular CPD speakers.’

Helen has also brought her own particular interest to the Congress programme with a focused stream on equine management – a first for 2014.

Congress will be held in the luxurious surroundings of the 5 star Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, allowing delegates to treat themselves while they learn. The organisers have negotiated an excellent rate for delegates as well as a fun social programme and activities for partners and spouses.

The associations are extremely grateful to the sponsors who have made this congress possible!

You can click here to visit the VPMA-SPVS website and register for the Conference – Substantial discounts are available for group bookings and members of SPVS or VPMA.

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Veterinary bereavement support for the 21st century

by Caroline Hewson MVB PhD MRCVS

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In the early `90s, doctoral student (now Professor) Cindy Adams was researching how we grieve for pets. It was groundbreaking. Yet, 20 years on, little has changed for grieving pet owners.

The problem is not that clients’ grief is abnormal or needs “fixing” by vets or anyone else. What makes their experience painful is the lack of societal support—as highlighted this summer on BBC Radio 4’s Today.

Although struggling, many clients don’t want to talk or phone a helpline. Yet they also want more than a card or leaflet to help them find their way.

Vet teams know this too. Even when a condolence card has the five recommended elements, it’s not the same as bereavement support. We worry. But we don’t want to intrude on clients. And it’s not possible to provide the follow-up that human hospitals do.

Recent research doesn’t resolve the niggle. It indicates that the elderly or those living alone are not the only ones who struggle when their pet dies. Others also suffer because the death has triggered private, unresolved griefs (e.g. for a miscarriage, childhood losses or a deceased partner). If the pet’s death was unexpected, this can create additional pain and confusion.

In the face of all those elements, practices that provide more bereavement support than a leaflet or helpline can benefit clients hugely.

A comprehensive approach also makes good practice management sense. Euthanasia and client distress are among the top ten stressors for vets, vet nurses and receptionists. It is made harder when the practice does not offer training and clear role definition for bereavement support.

On the business side, some 10% of clients typically seek a new practice after euthanasias. As seasoned readers here know, it’s cheaper to keep a client than to get a new one. And, when the lifetime value of a cat or dog to a clinic is £1,000 -£10,000, ignoring attrition makes little sense.

Veterinary practices don’t need to “fix” clients’ grief. But, as with all authentic client-care, when we support them well, everyone benefits.

The Loss of Your Pet pack is a booklet-CD that bridges the support gap between practices and their bereaved clients, without needing more time or personnel.

You can click here to visit the PetLossVet website and order a sample

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What Do Your Clients Think of You?

From an article by Dr Rebecca Tudor published in her Catalyst Vets blog

I had the pleasure of having annual exams with two doctors this past Friday and wow what a contrast in experiences! I don’t know about you, but it is always a little odd for me to be the one getting the exam instead of giving it.

First, I went to my ophthalmologist’s office. The nurse who took me back to the exam room never introduced herself or gave me any run-down about what to expect. Her part of the exam was uneventful, and then I waited to see the doctor.

I have been going to this ophthalmologist for a few years, but since I see him only once a year, I expected him to introduce himself- but he did not. Actually, I am not 100% of his name so we will call him Dr. X.

Dr. X. did his exam and during the exam he asked me if my eyes had been bothering me. I told him a little but did not think much of it. The next thing I knew, he told me I had inflammation in both eyes, I would need to pick up some drops at the pharmacy, and he would need to see me on Monday for a recheck appointment.

Interestingly, Dr. X did not explain what was going on (keratitis) nor what he thought was the cause. He also did not explain anything about the medication. I had no idea what I was going to be putting into my eyes until I googled it after I left his office.

Later that day, I had my yearly appointment with my OB-GYN- Dr. H. The nurse, who brought me back, introduced herself, explained what they would be doing and had time for small talk too.

I was at ease by the time I made it back to see Dr. H. Dr. H took me to his office first to see how I had been doing and to see if there was anything I needed from him. Then he asked me how my dog’s surgery went last year. Yes, this doctor, who I had not seen in over a year, asked me how my dog’s surgery went- unbelievable!

During my exam, Dr. H seemed to be listening to my heart for a longer time than usual and I was starting to get a little concerned. Once he finished, he asked me if I ran. Because my heart rate was so slow, he had to listen for a long time to make sure all was within normal limits. Thankfully, the rest of the exam proceeded uneventfully.

Today my eyes feel a lot better, and I certainly don’t doubt my ophthalmologist ‘s competence as a doctor- he did a great job with that, but he and his nurse really dropped the ball when it came to the bedside manner. Because of my experience in his office, I would not go out of my way to recommend him to someone else.

There was absolutely nothing positively memorable about my interactions with anyone in their office.

I did have a positively memorable experience at my OB-GYN’s office. He, of course, is a competent doctor but his bedside manner showed me that he knows who I am, and he cares about me as his patient. I am sure he makes all his patients feel this way. I would recommend Dr. H to anyone who needs a great doctor, and I actually do all the time!

Are you and your staff creating positively memorable experiences or is everyone just doing their job?

You can click here to visit the CatalystVets website

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