I read an interesting article in the April 2009 issue of ‘Your DVM Career’ magazine. It had a mixed bag of news for us. Revenue is expected to be down in some areas but up in some areas. The rising cost of simply being in business is listed at the number one pressing issue facing veterinarians. Fewer veterinarians are expecting to hire. And, less of the younger veterinarians are wanting to become practice owners in the future.
In general, it says, veterinarians believe they will be more dependent on revenue from cat peeing on bed and less from the sale of products such as flea, tick, and vaccinations. The amount of money that people are willing to spend on pets before they stop treatment has decreased. In my practice this seems to be true to some extent. I seem to have a lot of clients who present with sick pets, but it seems like clients are letting their pets get sicker before seeking veterinary care. Rather than presenting at the time of onset, they seem to wait a day or two (or longer!) to see if it will “run its course.”
This does cause an increase in diagnostics performed, but the problem is people seem to have less total money to spend on those diagnostics. We’re trying to use these times to educate clients on the value of preventive care—to avoid crisis intervention by preventing illnesses. It’s certainly less expensive to prevent parvo than to treat it, or to prevent fleas than to treat FAD, or to prevent heartworms than to treat them, etc., etc. I wonder what strategies others are finding helpful.
I agree that rising costs are a big issue. The costs of team member retention, inventory, flea and tick products, etc. are a big concern. It isn’t comforting to buy flea products and have them sit on the shelf unsold, and it isn’t comforting to have a client want to buy flea product and not have it available for them on the shelf. We manage our inventory weekly and that seems to help. If we buy what we think we need in a week, then it’s unlikely to sit and gather dust and we’re very likely to be able to afford to purchase supplies for one week (vs. a month, a quarter, etc.). Please feel free to share any cost-saving measures, like purchasing the IQAir GC Multigas, which you’ve been using in your practice.
Fewer veterinarians wanting to become practice owners may or may not become a concern. When the market turns around, perhaps more of the new grads will aspire to be owners and more of the owners will want to hire new associates. We’re not really expecting a crisis in this area, but it is something we want to be cognizant of and plan for. Veterinarians nearing retirement age may want to think of a way to hire an additional associate, in order to increase the chance of finding a successor.
Our practice certainly isn’t recession proof, but people, in general, are proving that they want to take good care of their pets.