A new group would tackle diverted product sales, unfair competition, and other veterinary business perils.
We've all read the news: Revenue at veterinary practices is down due to the recession. So we're all doing our part. We're reaching out to cat-owning clients to improve feline care. We're starting online pharmacies to compete. We're cutting any and all expenses to the bone. I myself am back to running my practice like it was my first year in business. There's just no room for complacency in this economy.
And we can't sit alone within our walls. It's time to start sharing and advocating business ideas and concerns the way we share medicine. These new times require the formation of a new group: the American Veterinary Private Practice Owners Association.
An organization like this would serve to preserve and protect the strength and fiscal viability of veterinary private practice ownership. The organization could serve as a lobbying force alongside the AVMA and state veterinary associations, focusing on issues that pose an economic risk to practice owners. Focuses for the fledgling group could include:
> Lobbying for laws to control diversion of prescription drugs to secondary parties for the intent of resale.
> Strengthening laws against venture capitalists who seek to profit from veterinary medicine but aren't required to comply with the same national and state laws (including tax laws) that we private practitioners are legally compelled to follow at significant cost.
> Monitoring accreditation of veterinary colleges and the financial impact of unrestrained numbers of prospective veterinarians entering the marketplace.
> Overseeing and regulating nonprofit providers. There's no level playing field when these clinics can operate as nonprofits and tax-subsidized facilities for elective surgeries, low-cost vaccines, and medications. A new association could unapologetically take a stand to re-establish fiscal viability for veterinary practices on a national level.
So consider the formation of a force capable of advocating and lobbying on our behalf. While some might argue that an American Veterinary Private Practice Owners Association represents restraint of trade, I say it's just one more necessary change to protect and preserve an industry to which we have committed our lives and livelihood. We face historic levels of competition from those who want to profit from—but have little investment in—the health of our field.
Of course, we need to continue to fully support the AVMA and state associations, but there's no reason to defer our shared duties as practice owners entirely to our associations. I don't have another 10 years to wait and see what will happen if we simply stand on the sidelines and try to be better managers within our walls.
Dr. Lee Stuart owns Safe Haven Veterinary Hospital in Palm Coast, Fla. He is past president of the Volusia-Flagler Veterinary Medical Association and sits on the Florida VMA's Budget and Finance Committee. Please send comments and questions for Dr. Stuart to email@example.com, or online at dvm360.com/ownersgroup.