Expanding Your Veterinary Practice - Livestock & Equine
The number of large animal veterinarians continues to decline. How can large animal practices expand services without losing revenue?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture reports that only 5-8 percent of veterinary school graduates opt to enter livestock private practice. This represents a monumental shift dating back to the end of World War II, when nearly half of all AVMA members worked among food animals.
Better hours and higher salaries attract many veterinary school graduates to pursue careers in urban or companion animal practices, but livestock veterinarians are vital to maintaining the health and safety of food and herd animals in the U.S. With fewer practices and record meat production levels forecast for 2019, how can livestock veterinarians efficiently and cost-effectively expand their practices?
Do you have a defined plan for growth?
Expansion can include the addition of new services and/or the extension of existing services. Deciding which path to pursue involves evaluating where the practice is today and where you want it to be tomorrow. First, take stock of what services your veterinary practice offers now. Many practices’ service offerings evolved over time without following a well-defined, written strategic plan to get from where you were years ago to where you are today.
For example, many veterinary hospitals operate like human hospitals, providing emergency, diagnostic, surgical and medical services to accommodate the needs of a wide sampling of clients. Do you have the space and human resources to add specialties such as emergency or diagnostic services? Are you in a rural area that could support the treatment of both large and companion animals, rather than specializing in one or the other? Mixed animal practices are gaining popularity, especially in more rural areas.
Before you make a decision, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you continue a service because you’ve always done it?
- Are you especially adept at a specialized service or animal type?
- Is someone else (a boutique provider) better equipped to handle it?
- What are the risks and rewards associated with its discontinuance?
The next consideration involves understanding the principal differences between a veterinary hospital and a free-standing clinic/practice. The former is set up to accommodate more complex cases and provide inpatient or overnight care, specialized (versus generalized) surgery services, emergency care, dental services, and on-site diagnostic, radiographic, laboratory and pharmacy services. Veterinary hospitals may have the financial resources or space to expand into ever more specialized care, while vet clinics might be more limited in what services they can offer, how much they can afford or how much space they have to expand.
Clinics, however, are generally better positioned to expand into areas such as advanced grooming, day care, boarding, funeral, transportation, house calls and enhanced merchandising services. Mobile clinics or diagnostic equipment provides another option for veterinarians to expand or offer services to large producers who can’t bring their animals to a clinic.
Keep in mind that just because everyone else seems to be offering some new or improved service does not mean you should be jumping on the bandwagon. A great resource for those considering an expansion of their services is dvm360.com, or by consulting your Covetrus rep to learn more about prescription, reporting and client outreach offerings.
Contact your Covetrus North America sales representative at 855-724-3461 to learn more about taking your practice to the next level.
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