DVM Newsmagazine Survey: Medical delivery evolves as clients, returns develop

DVM Newsmagazine Survey: Medical delivery evolves as clients, returns develop

State of the Profession, 2006
Jun 01, 2006

Editor's note

Table 1 More veterinarians offer high-quality diagnostics and surgery for clients that don't consider cost a major factor (left) instead of giving clients whatever level of service they request (right).
Society is truly demanding. As medical delivery evolves, so too do pressures on general veterinary practices to improve standards of care. In turn, as costs escalate, so too do client pressures to keep fees in check. Are we in an age where the cost of equipping a veterinary practice outpaces the cost of building and land? Are the costs needed to run an effective service exceeding your client's means to pay? Conducted every three years, our 2006 State of the Profession Survey and coverage seeks to offer a snapshot of veterinary practice today. The ensuing editorial coverage probes some of the poignant business problems and opportunities faced by veterinarians. Next month's exploratory looks at professional issues will include ethics, euthanasia and achieving a sometimes elusive work/life balance.

NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinary practices are trending toward higher-quality medicine that serves higher-quality clients.

Table 2 Diagnostics, surgery challenge annual exams and vaccines as revenue streams.
Since 1997, more respondents to the DVM Newsmagazine State of the Veterinary Profession Survey (methodology) say they provide high-quality diagnostic medicine and surgery services for clients who tend to base care on need instead of price. In 2006, 31 percent of respondents say they fall into this category, a steady rise since 1997, when just 19 percent of DVMs noted this type of practice (Table 1). Conversely, those who report accepting all paying clients and perform whatever level of care their clients request dropped steadily from 74 percent in 1997 to 64 percent in 2006.

The increasing reliance on diagnostics and surgery translates into a greater share of revenue than in years past as well. Although annual exams and vaccinations combined are still the leading source of revenues for most generalists, diagnostics and surgery combined are expected to constitute 40 percent in three years, veterinarians report (Table 2).

Table 3 Pharmaceutical, vaccine mark-ups slide; pet foods climb.
The trend might help offset diminishing returns on vaccines, biologicals and some other products. Mark-ups on vaccines and biologicals have declined steadily from 373 percent in 1997 to 143 percent in 2006 (Table 3).

Practitioners increasingly separate their exam fees from vaccine charges. Three-quarters of all respondents now break out their exam fee from vaccinations; about half did so in 1997 (Table 4).

Table 4 Practitioners increasingly separate vaccination charges from the physical examination.