The VHMA Files: Online pharmacies


Is your practice ready to compete?

In a monthly Management Survey, VHMA asked managers if their practice has created an online pharmacy to address declining pharmacy revenues attributed to competition from large, online pet pharmacies. Many of the 271 respondents (56 percent), stated that their practice had established an online pharmacy. The remaining 44 percent indicated that their practice doesn't have an online pharmacy.

But a closer look shows most respondents say their online pharmacy accounts for less than $6,000 a year in income. (See the chart above for monthly revenue reported.) Clearly practice-run supply and pharmaceutical stores haven't been commonly integrated into a practice's services. Or, if they have, they have been slow to produce results. 

Less than 15 percent of respondents who have adopted online pharmacies are generating revenue of more than $12,000 per year. Accounts from VHMA members suggest that some business decisions tend to contribute to more successful online pharmacies. 

For example, several practices with healthy revenues report they have partnered with services that offer group purchasing plans for veterinary clinics, which help to defray upfront product costs. Some vendors even offer assistance to practices to ensure improved services.

“Pharmaceutical companies offer significant rebates and promotions for many products, some just for veterinary hospitals,” Brian Conrad, CVPM, VHMA vice president, says. “If you think you can't compete, think again. I see so many clinics choose not to participate and remain oblivious to client discounts they could offer-for free.”

Others recommend that practices create a professional online pharmacy website with adequate information to attract clients. The online store shouldn't be an afterthought on the website. It should be informative, easy to use and easy to find.

The online pharmacy as an extension of a practice's services is not new but has not gained significant momentum. It's certainly an area that is poised for growth as practice managers investigate the tools and resources available.  

Christine Shupe, CAE, is the executive director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The association is dedicated to serving professionals in veterinary management through education, certification and networking. 

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