The world of veterinary medicine is changing, but how? We see these themes in 2007.
For the last three months—in truth, for the last year—we at Veterinary Economics have been neck-deep in data. Every time a study crossed our desks or landed in our e-mail inboxes, we routed it to our "August" file in anticipation of this: our annual State of the Industry issue. We also did our own survey of practicing veterinarians to get your input on some important topics.
Globe photo illustration: Quinn Williams
When it came time to make sense of all those numbers, we whipped out our cal culators and launched Excel. When we needed some perspective on the numbers, we called in the people with the letters behind their names—the CPAs, CFPs, CVPMs, and MBAs. Not to mention quite a few DVMs and at least one RVT.
We present the results on the following pages. But before you dive in, we'd like to highlight five themes we saw flowing among the charts, graphs, and quotes. These are the issues on our radar, and we hope that they're on yours, too.
With U.S. residents spending $40.8 billion on their pets this year ($9.8 billion on veterinary care), it's clear that people are invested in their pets at an unprecedented level. You are an important steward of that relationship, and nothing brought that reality home this year like the pet food recall. Certainly we've never seen the national spotlight quite so focused on the profession.
This strong attachment carries other implications as well: Clients may increasingly try to hold you legally accountable when things go wrong with their pets' health. On the other hand, a hefty percentage of pet owners say they're willing to pay any amount to keep their pets healthy, which is good news. Of course, not everyone who wants the best veterinary care can afford it, which raises some hard questions about how you respond to these needs (see page 18).
The news broke just a few months ago: According to the AVMA, women outnumber men in the profession for the first time ever. We focused on a couple of key aspects of the increasing number of women in veterinary medicine—namely, how gender affects work-life balance (women do, after all, continue to be the primary care providers when it comes to children), earning potential, and practice ownership desires. We've heard people say that women don't want to own practices, and we wanted to find out if that was true, so we asked them.
Which brings us to the next point. You can't talk about women in the profession without talking about the future of the profession. To get an idea of what the next generation of veterinarians brings to the table, we contacted veterinary schools and asked professors and administrators what they thought about the future of veterinary medicine based on their experience with students right now. Here's a hint: It won't be the same-old, same-old. We also wondered about associates' ownership desires and how debt load and income affect a veterinarian's work and life.
Our experts continued to return to this point: The veterinary team is the linchpin of your success, whether they're educating clients, helping you cover wellness topics thoroughly, or gaining you time and money (page 78). We know that personnel issues dominate your list of challenges, and part of the problem may be that there are gaps in communication and training in your practice. And we don't leave you hanging: You'll find helpful insights about using the team to raise parasite awareness, some top team recommendations from the experts, compensation data for comparison, and solutions to turnover on page 82.
While it's no secret that you should be emphasizing service and not products, some key changes are bringing this reality to a head. One is the change in vaccine protocols in recent years, which is prompting many of you to advocate bringing in pets for wellness versus shots. Another change is the growth of online pharmacies: They're clearly not going away, so how do you adapt? Other changes, such as the availability of cheap generics at major retailers, continue to drive the point home that it's you—your expertise, your compassion, your dedication—that pet owners trust and depend on, not what's on your shelves.