Whenever the year’s about to end I always feel the urge to write lists. There’s something cathartic about it, don’t you think? This time, however, I felt compelled to pen a list of pet issues I’d like to see the veterinary community take on as 2013’s New Year’s resolutions.
While this personal exercise in wishful thinking might not feel so cathartic once I start fielding readers’ commentary, I do believe my opinions are well considered, rankle you though they may.
So here goes…in no particular order:
#1. Seek or devise and adopt community-wide, low-income solutions.
This means we need to get smarter about offering a minimum standard of care to every single animal in the community. It’s not good enough to give it away in your place of work on occasion (or even routinely). As veterinarians we have a duty to help our communities build better systems for managing pets of the indigent, disabled and destitute. Which also means we should…
#2. Get out of the way of low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
If they really are charging much less for what amounts to the same service (and a great many are), I strongly support this business model. After all, since when did we have the right to flex our regulatory muscles in the face of legitimate work? We wouldn’t tolerate the same lien on our own practices simply because we represent formidable competition.
So let it go! Accept that until we find a better way to sterilize pets, those who do it en masse really can do right by our patients––even if these pets are owned by cheapskates in many cases.
#3. Support a wide range of financial options for all income levels.
Be more proactive about recommending pet insurance, CareCredit (and its ilk), and whatever other financial alternatives are coming down the pike. Our clients need more options!
#4. Accept that non-veterinary ownership of practices is both positive and necessary.
We’re graduating too many people with too much debt and too few financial resources to expect them to want to own practices at the same rate as in years past.
It’s a fiction to believe in the automatic pre-eminence of veterinarians as practice owners. Non-veterinarians are every bit as capable and ethical as we are and states that continue to back these laws do so at the peril of the younger set—not to mention our reputation as ethical professionals.
#5. Mentor someone.
Make a real difference to your profession’s future: mentor someone!
#6. Outsourcing the veterinary pharmacy is a win-win.
I know, I know. You all hate me now. Truly, though, I do believe in the power of the external veterinary pharmacy for its low prices and the ethical separation of prescriber/profiter scenario it offers.
As long as I’ve done my best to educate my clients about the drugs’ details, I’m happy to see my pill-pushing days slip away in the rear view mirror.
#7. Therapeutic diet sales are NOT worth the headache.
Given the state of the economy and the big squeeze we’ve been suffering over the past five years, this has been the case for a while now. But this point is even more pressing now that the FDA is making noise about regulating diets that make specific therapeutic claims … without requiring they prove safety or efficacy.
Among other issues, this raises concerns about who’s on the hook when the diets we recommend have adverse effects.
Will I still carry them? Yes. But only because PetSmart won’t.
#8. Raise fees on services.
The writing’s on the wall. You can complain all you want about your loss of income on items 2, 6 and 7, but nothing’s going to stem the tide of an ebbing profit margin like raising fees on services can. What are you waiting for?
You can’t claim you’re practicing at the highest level of your profession if you don’t offer your clients the option of a referral to board-certified specialists (for diagnostics and procedures specialists are better-equipped to handle).
#10. Work on your image.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been taking a beating in the media lately (the Alabama spay/neuter clinic fiasco, Dr. Pol, etc.). Work on your image as antidote. Do everything you can to offset the perhaps-growing perception that veterinarians care more about income than they do their patients.
Blog. Use social media. Contribute to your local paper. It’s good karma that pays off quickly in the guise of a larger, more engaged client base … and a healthier profession overall.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Khuly is a small-animal practitioner in Miami and a passionate blogger at drpattykhuly.com.