As the veterinary industry moves into 2012, here are four key trends to watch next year and beyond:
1. Niche markets: "Everyone's trying to be all things to all people," says Karen Felsted, DVM, CPA, MS, CVPM, and chief executive officer of
the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. "You have to decide: Who is my market? It's impossible to provide high-end
medicine and high-end service and charge minimal fees. It's the difference between shopping at Nieman Marcus and Walmart."
2. Focus on preventive care: The creation of the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare and its recently released guidelines should offer a niche for
a rally. "For a couple of years here, the emphasis is going to be back to basics," says American Animal Hospital Association
Executive Director Dr. Mike Cavanaugh.
3. Referrals: As practices evolve to find a financial sweet spot, look for more practices that focus on basic veterinary services to develop
stronger relationships with specialized practitioners to create a pet healthcare team. "Just like in human medicine, where
your doctor may send you to a specialist or an imaging center," notes Cavanaugh, there is a place for such an infrastructure
in veterinary medicine.
4. Mergers: Although some independent practitioners have sold their businesses to consolidators, Cavanaugh says that he expects to see
independent practices thrive through mergers of one- or two-doctor practices with like-sized entities to create mid-sized
Using simple communication techniques can enhance a client's experience during a veterinary visit, which could encourage them
to continue to bring their pet to the clinic, says American Animal Hospital Association Executive Director Dr. Mike Cavanaugh.
Tailor your questions. During an exam, ask a client open-ended questions and allow the client ample opportunity to speak. After hearing a client's
response, use reflective listening during the dialogue. For example, say, "If I'm understanding you correctly…" and restate
what the client explained to be sure both parties are on the same page. "It gives the client the opportunity to know they
are being heard, but also [to find out] if something has been misrepresented," Cavanaugh says.
Sit down. When a person is standing, it conveys to the other party that he or she is about to leave. "You could spend 15 minutes with
someone, and if you're sitting down versus standing, they'll think you've spent more time than you have," Cavanaugh says.
A stool offers a simple fix.
Eliminate barriers. "If a veterinarian has to turn their back to type on a computer or if there is a large examination table between the client
and the veterinarian all the time, that's a barrier," Cavanaugh says.
- Emphasize shared decision making. When making recommendations, talk through the finer points so a client fully understands what needs to be done. That way,
a client will feel like they have a say in what is occurring and that he and the veterinarian are working together to take
care of the pet.