AVMA, Pfizer explore details of major business-practice study

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Apr 01, 2005

Las Vegas — Officials from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Pfizer Animal Health unveiled more details from a major study of best business practices to about 650 attendees at the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).

Dr. Bruce W. Little, executive vice president of AVMA, says, "In recent years, we have been paying increased attention to economics of veterinary medicine." Little says increased demand from technology and medical advances propel the need to understand business practices for the profession. In addition, Little says there is the need to "attract the best and brightest talent."

Robert DiMarzo, president of U.S operations, Pfizer Animal Health, says the study sheds new light on what it takes to be a leader in veterinary medicine.

"A highly educated and motivated profession needs economic resources to support technologies, facilities and staff, and deliver high-quality veterinary medicine. Without business success, the profession will fail to attract top talent," he says. "But financial success doesn't happen automatically."

The survey shows three key trends:

1. Major improvement in incomes of veterinarians from 1997-2003, which have increased 41 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

2. Opportunities for improvement, including insights to help veterinarians manage their businesses.

3. Gender gap in incomes. Future studies will be important to find causes and close the gap.

Dr. Malcolm Kram, director of U.S. Drug Safety for Pfizer Animal Health told attendees the study identified three pillars to economic success, including employee management, client relations and finance.

Consider these results; the survey shows:

  • 36 percent have a structured interview and hiring process.
  • 40 percent have written job descriptions.
  • 29 percent perform annual performance evaluations.

Kram says, "Simple things make a difference."

The survey measured mean income by the respondents ranking of importance (high, medium or low) on this topic.

The mean income for those veterinarians ranking it of highest importance was $110,610, followed by $97,120 medium, and $76,140 low.

For client relations, the survey sought to measure business practices in three areas, including new client development, client retention and client loyalty.

The survey shows:

  • 47 percent encouraged client referrals.
  • 39 percent sent out letters welcoming clients to their practices.
  • 31 percent reward referrals.

Do they make a difference?

Incomes for veterinarians that ranked new client development of highest importance earned $115,110 a year, while the low category dropped to $100,270.

Results from respondents when asked about client retention included:

  • 35 percent of respondents say they track visits.
  • 23 percent solicit suggestions for improvement.
  • 18 percent ask why clients don't return.
  • 16 percent solicit complaints.
  • 16 percent use after-service surveys.

When measured by mean income, veterinarians earning $89,660 cited client retention lowest, while DVMs earning $105,220 ranked it most important.

A detailed summary of the study was published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.