Specialty practices merge

New collaboration focuses on increasing efficiency in niche market
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Aug 01, 2010

Denver — Five veterinary specialty practices from across the United States have joined together to form MOON (Member Owned Organizational Network) — a collaboration designed to improve organizational efficiency, promote growth and profitability, increase equity value, and help ensure sustainability, all while preserving the veterinary ethos in the practices.

MOON's business model will enable member practices to maintain local independence while implementing select shared management services (finance, marketing, IT) and enterprise-level applications (HRIS, HIS), and build partnerships with organizations from both in and outside the veterinary profession.

"The network will provide improved sustainability for businesses (in both human and financial terms), and allow some of those who've helped build this segment of our profession to increase their chances of having a voice about the direction of this segment of the profession, going forward," says MOON Executive Director Brian Cassell, DVM, of Dynamic Veterinary Concepts in Denver, Colo.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in specialty practice consolidation, largely driven by the presence of private equity groups with a focus on acquiring veterinary referral practices. MOON's founders believed there was a way to achieve the benefits of consolidation without losing the local presence on which the practices were built, Cassell says.

Cassell, who leads MOON's professional management team, says the network "doesn't impose policy or business protocols from a distant power center, but instead focuses on education, facilitation, capacity development and information sharing with respect to benchmarking and best practices, both from within our profession and outside our industry."

Using those tools to increase operating effectiveness will lead to an increase in profitability for its members. "This increased effectiveness can come from increasing our business literacy, from using 'higher-level' business tools that are within our reach as a group but that none of us would be able to afford individually, and even through more conventional efforts such as economies of scale/aggregated buying power in our supply chain systems," he says.

The network is governed by a Stewardship Board of Managers, and includes one representative from each member practice, each of whom has one vote - regardless of practice size, duration of involvement or amount of MOON equity that is held.

Representing 13 veterinary specialty hospitals and more than 900 employees across the United States, the founding practices include IVG (InTown Veterinary Group), located north of Boston, Mass.; Animal Emergency and Treatment Center, located in and around Chicago; Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Denver, Colo.; Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego, Calif.; and Veterinary Surgical Associates, Veterinary Medical Specialists and Tri-Valley Animal Emergency Center, all located in the San Francisco Bay (Calif.) area.

According to MOON, the network's first goals are to execute the strategic priorities established by the Stewardship Board and the Strategic Business Development Council. Formation of nine new Functional Councils - collaborative opportunities for those within the member practices who have expertise or interest in education, finance, human resources, marketing, IT, medical quality, service, sustainability and supply chain management - is under way, and work is proceeding on the development of a Hospital Information System and other major initiatives.

Down the road, MOON will look to add new members. While no specific markets or numbers of practices have been targeted, Cassell says membership expansion will be focused on attracting a diverse geographic representation.

"We believe that the MOON model can accommodate involvement of a much larger number of practices than it has currently, in effect that it is scalable. It's about finding practices with a compatible mindset around veterinary ethos, vision, values and leadership," he explains. "And simply, we'd like to have other practices in MOON with us given that we believe we can do more and better together than we can alone."

For more information on MOON, visit http://www.mooncollaborative.com/.