Adapt your veterinary practice or die

Adapt your veterinary practice or die

20 issues driving change in our veterinary profession.
May 01, 2012

"If at first an idea is not absurd it is not worth considering." — Albert Einstein

The sky is not falling. There are wonderful times ahead in veterinary clinical medicine. But you'll need to adapt to survive.

Failure to change

History is full of businesses that failed to adapt as well as businesses that managed change well. Borders, Montgomery Ward and Circuit City are gone. Southwest Airlines, Walmart and FedEx live on.

Mature businesses can struggle to find new revenue. During lunch in Ames, Iowa, proprietors of hamburger joints will sell only so many hamburgers in any one lunch hour. So to increase sales they must attract buyers from other hamburger places. Subway has done this nicely as it has more franchisees than McDonald's.

McDonald's hamburger business sales are mature, but they've reinvented breakfast. Breakfast is a new business for them, not a mature business. McDonald's is thriving while competition seeks traction in this sector.

How veterinary medicine changes

For those of us in veterinary practice, gone are widespread equine tube worming, large animal pharmacy sales, hog cholera vaccine revenue, pin firing, 10 lead ECGs, overpriced vaccines, Pentothal, halothane and 3-by-5-card medical records.

Currently fading is the small animal pharmacy, diazepam, doxorubicin and easy financial success.

Consider that in 1900 veterinarians worried that the bicycle would put the horse out of business. Then came tractors. But what emerged in equine veterinary medicine today is the thriving recreational horse industry—and of course my new Dutch Warmblood dressage horse is a good illustration.

Swine medicine went from hog cholera vaccine to production medicine.

Individual food animal care morphed to production medicine.

Artificial insemination has gone to technicians and embryo transfers to veterinarians.

Equine tube worming has gone to colic surgery.

Dental work on all species has emerged as the iPad—a "wow" product—of the last decade.

Forty years ago who would have guessed that folks would spend treasured coin on a KE apparatus for a barnyard chicken named "Chickie"?

We've seen small-town and out-of-the-way mixed animal practices morph into specialty practices accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association.

We've seen the behavior specialty emerge.

Veterinary technicians have become a dominant part of veterinary medicine.

We've seen ambulatory medicine services go into fixed facilities and now ambulatory medicine start to emerge again. A stark illustration of this is the niche of at-home euthanasia.

The "traditional" veterinary practice still exists, but we also have feline-only, emergency, specialty and avian practices.

Pseudorabies in pigs has been replaced by PRRS.

In small animal medicine we've gone from distemper to parvo to dental.

We veterinarians are a creative bunch.