AAHA study: Clinic culture affects veterinary practice success

April 13, 2016

Associations research reveals that relationships matter within a practice.

The culture and relationships within a veterinary practice may have a significant impact on the success of that hospital, according to survey data revealed during the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2016 State of the Industry presentation.

The study examined data from a fall 2015 survey AAHA conducted with the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver that studied organizational culture in veterinary practices, according to an AAHA release.

The study surveyed more than 1,000 veterinary hospitals to study the qualities of organizational culture they demonstrated, evaluate their overall and specific subcultures, and determine how culture affects veterinary practice metrics. Here are some key findings from the survey:

  • Perceptions of training and career development as well as staff relationships with veterinarians are positive.

  • Perceptions of institutional fairness and communication as well as rewards and recognition can be improved.

  • Employees with little decision-making power and lower wages hold less-positive perceptions of practice culture.

  • Employees in management and administratve positions have more positive perceptions of overall culture.

  • Higher production per full-time-equivalent veterinarian is associated with more positive cultural scores on leadership, employee involvement and supervision.

  • Fewer employees and lower gross income are associated with more positive cultural perceptions of leadership, teamwork and staffing, and relationships with veterinarians.

  • There is a positive relationship between AAHA accreditation and perceptions of culture as well as practice metrics.

“The data from this survey will allow practices to look introspectively at their hospitals and take a hard look at how their practice culture may be affecting their business success,” says AAHA CEO Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, in the association's release.

Associate veterinarians gave somewhat lower scores to many aspects of culture, while employees holding positions in management or administration had more positive perceptions. These results suggest a possible divide between associate veterinarians and their managers.

On the economic front, data from the 2016 State of the Industry indicate that more practices have moved into the “outgrower” category of practices that demonstrate growth of more than 10 percent year-over-year. Thirty-five percent of practices are now considered outgrowers, compared to with percent in 2015.

Other key points from the economic data revealed that in 2015, compared with 2014:

  • The number of active patients grew 2.6 percent.

  • Patient visits grew 3.2 percent.

  • Overall practice revenue grew by 6.4 percent.

“We know that successful veterinary practices such as outgrowers focus on strengthening bonds and building relationships,” Cavanaugh says. “We'll see that category continue to grow as more and more practices focus on strengthening the bonds and improving culture within their own practices.”

For more information on the study, visit aaha.org.