Vet Futures

Ambition 5 – Sustainable, user-focussed businesses

The reality is we’re in the midst of a huge sea-change in the way society functions… and we need to play catch up and future proof our professional services:

  1. The economics of veterinary practice are under pressure in several ways that threaten the sustainability of traditional veterinary business. BVA members responding to our survey perceived the greatest threat to the future of the profession to lie in changes to the marketplace“.  This includes corporatisation and the expanding referral sector.
  2. There is a recognition that the pricing of veterinary services has to change, and especially that practices need to be more transparent on pricing, and charge more appropriately for time and professional services rather than relying on product sales“.  Historically, the competition commission ended the professions monopoly on vet medicine dispensing.  This hit the farming sector particularly hard, where services were under-charged and subsidised by medicine sales.  We created a climate where clients weren’t used to paying a fair price for services.  Now we face the prospect of neighbourhood pharmacies stocking vet drugs as well as human; a one-stop convenience shop (fancy picking up your script at Tesco?).
  3. Only around 15% of cat and dog owners in the UK have pet insurance (Association of British Insurers, 2014).  The uptake of pet insurance is reported to be declining, whilst the number and size of claims has been increasing.”
  4. Pressure to demonstrate an ethical approach in charging for professional services is likely to increase, and there are opportunities to strengthen standards guidance for the profession to this end.”
  5. The advent of Dr. Google means we’re no longer the purveyors of knowledge, but we are there to curate and action it.  Our client communication therefore has to change from a traditional doctor-client to a team-based approach.

Several times, a mismatch between clients and vets perception of their charging and services are highlighted, especially in the farm animal sector.  Having a better understanding of the ‘market’ and our clients is the basic tenet of service businesses, and we have been weighed and found wanting.  The key to future-proofing the profession lies in gaining a better understanding of our clients.

Recommendations include more business training for students, encouraging innovation sharing; changing the regulatory framework to ensure equal opportunities for different business models; the possibility of compulsory practice standards inspections; and regulation of para-professionals.

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