Analyzing veterinary data: It's all about the 'why' axis
I want to address this apparent contradiction—why the AVMA is conducting more research when its efforts to this point have not prevented the problems we're experiencing—both here and in upcoming issues of dvm360. In the AVMA Eye on Economics column, I'll outline how the AVMA is approaching the economics of our profession, both in terms of data analysis and the crafting of solutions.
The current situationEven before I arrived at the AVMA as economics director, I took stock of the data that was being collected and found it to be generally of sufficient statistical quality to perform a basic economic analysis. But I also found considerable gaps that made it difficult to analyze the markets adequately. For instance, when I started hunting for information, I found that the price and quantity of veterinary services (taken together) was unavailable.
I also noted that AVMA data was routinely "cherry-picked" to deliver a specific message. To quote an old adage, the data was used the way a drunk uses a lamppost: for support and not illumination. In most of the published literature regarding veterinary medicine, I found that the hypothesis often steered the collection and use of data in its own support, rather than the data being objectively collected and analyzed to prove or disprove the hypothesis.