Trending Issues in Veterinary Medicine for 2023 and Beyond
On the surface, 2022 appears a successful year for veterinary practices, with many reporting strong revenues as pandemic restrictions and mandates receded. However, dig a little deeper, and you'll see a range of trending issues veterinary practices will need to address through 2023 and beyond if they want the success to continue.
While none of us has a crystal ball, we can make an educated guess at what comes next. Read on for the issues in veterinary medicine that we see in our practice now and expect to see in the future.
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Veterinary Trends Today
Some issues are perennial, from finding and retaining the right team members to keeping clients happy. Some of those issues have been, and will likely continue to be, made worse by factors well outside of our industry.
- New team members: The historically low unemployment rate continues to affect our ability to find and hire qualified team members. For veterinarians, the problem is even worse: Mars Veterinary Health estimates that by 2030, a shortage of nearly 15,000 doctors in veterinary medicine will exist. It's time to get inventive and engage with the community to build relationships before you need people. You might also involve your team more, paying bonuses for new hires they bring in.
- Veterinary burnout: Adding to the challenge is the loss of people from the industry through burnout and compassion fatigue. As owners, we need to support and retain our teams, recognize the consequences of expecting them to do more with less, and protect them as best we can in conflicts with pet owners. Even with everything else we have going on, keeping a regular pulse on your team's morale should be a top priority to avoid losing people.
- Product shortages: It's not just new team members that have been hard to find this year. Several major products have also gone on long-term backorder. Supply chain issues are hitting even the biggest vendors—and that affects our practice's protocols and revenues. It's certainly frustrating, but you can minimize the damage by streamlining the process to approve new products and protocols with your medical team. Nurturing relationships with vendors also can help get sought-after products on the shelves faster.
- Online pet pharmacies: Online commerce isn't going away, and the allure extends to pharmacies, which can offer lower costs and more convenience online. With Walmart entering the market and Amazon increasing the range of products it provides, it's going to become increasingly difficult to justify preventing our clients from buying online. Rather than creating extra conflict for your team to deal with, it might be wise to partner with one or more pharmacies to capture at least some revenue there.
- Inflation and recession: It seems impossible to talk about short-term trends without considering the elephant in the room: the current inflation rate and other macroeconomic factors that are driving up costs. This makes it essential to keep a close eye on your practice's finances, identify where you save money, and make sure you are passing costs onto clients so that your profit margins don't plummet.
Veterinary Trends for the Future
While our current issues in veterinary medicine may seem daunting, there are reasons to be optimistic. The following trends will hopefully lead to exciting changes that make the industry more rewarding right now and over the long term:
- Medical advances: The last few years have seen incredible advances from the pharmaceutical industry that are changing the way we practice medicine. I'm particularly excited about monoclonal antibody therapies; the ones we have witnessed so far seem game-changing for our patients. Working with your medical team to assess new products and ideas—including new veterinary software—as they come to market is a critical way to ensure you're not only offering the best service to your clients and patients but also encouraging the development of new products by providing an end market for them.
- Transition to services: As with human medicine, we are seeing a transition toward a service-based model within our facilities. We expect to see a continued decline in pharmacy sales as we focus more on delivering in-practice treatments and building long-term client and patient relationships. Think of this as an extension of the transition from annual vaccines to yearly comprehensive wellness checkups.
- In-house labs: Using in-house machines in conjunction with our reference lab can help us work more effectively with clients. Not only can we present results to the client while they're still in the practice, but it increases the uptake of treatment recommendations. With continuing advances in artificial intelligence technology, I expect more and better in-practice and cloud-supported diagnostic tools to become available.
- Pet insurance: With all of the advances we're expecting, costs will continue to challenge our clients. Pet insurance may fill that gap. As managers, we're going to have to figure out how we interface with an industry expected to grow by the billion. As such, it's important to work with our clients to understand their coverage and payment options.
Becoming Leaders, Not Followers
While we may not understand—or even like—the trends we see in veterinary medicine today and the ones we expect tomorrow, it's nevertheless essential as industry professionals for us to watch and learn from developments in the space and incorporate the best of them into our practice management. In that way, we can cultivate a practice that leads, not follows.