A recent AVMA article asked an uncomfortable but important question facing anyone working in the veterinary profession. Comparing the current global economic downturn from COVID-19 to the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which saw some practices close their doors, the article asked, “The question now is whether the profession is pandemic proof.”
The comparison and question (while sobering) are certainly fair, given some parallels. Where the OVMA, for example, reported in April of 2020 that monthly revenues in Ontario companion animal practices saw average revenue falls of 26%, the AVMA similarly reported on Feb. 15th, 2009, that practice revenues dropped about 28% from the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2008.
As difficult as it was for many practices to navigate out of the Great Recession, the economy eventually recovered. The return to stronger labor market conditions led to the return of jobs, household income stability, and consumer confidence, and with the recovery, veterinary practice revenues eventually grew. According to the AVMA’s 2018 Report on the Market for Veterinary Services, gross revenue for companion animal practices increased “by approximately 17 percent between 2011 and 2017. For mixed animal practices, the average revenue has grown from $604,000 in 2011 to more than $700,000 in 2017, equivalent to a 32 percent increase.”
Similarly, economic experts predict that veterinary practice revenues will soon rebound from COVID-19.
Indeed, Packages Facts’ Senior Pet Market Analyst David Lummis sees the rebound as already having begun. “We expected [veterinary care] to be harder hit earlier on because of social distancing and people delaying nonessential procedures,” says Lummis in a Sept. 16th, 2020 article by Packaged Facts. Despite the hit, Lummis says, “the market has continued to grow.”
The article adds that “analysts like Lummis predict a substantial rebound in all segments in 2021 thanks to the underlying strength of the pet industry.” In terms of numbers, the Business Research Company issued a report on July 29th, 2020 predicting a recovery and economic growth rate of 5.1% for the veterinary and animal health industry in 2021, and continued growth until 2023.
In other words, given current economic predictions and the evidence of veterinary market resiliency from past economic downturns, the question for veterinary practices weathering COVID-19 appears less about whether they can survive and more about how to bridge the interim until the rebound happens.
In terms of the how, the three most important things a veterinary practice can do during this time of crisis are “communicate, communicate, communicate,” according to John Volk in a recent interview with the AVMA. As Senior Consultant for Brakke Consulting, the management consulting firm that has served companies in the veterinary and pet care industries for 30 years, Volk says, “This is a time when a small business can really build relationships with their clients by making sure they communicate clearly.”
Volk stresses the importance of ongoing communications about things like changing hours and protocols due to the pandemic—details that can understandably be forgotten by busy practice teams. Yet as the saying goes, “little things matter.” Keeping clients informed through your practice website, social channels, and Google My Business listing strengthens client trust and encourages repeat appointments by showing clients that you understand and care about what they need and have them in mind.
Such unwritten, important messages to clients accompany any form of information provided to clients, like tools and resources provided on your practice website to help clients with pet health questions and concerns. By providing such resources, you ultimately communicate the unwritten message that, in a time of uncertainty and conflicting information, pet owners can trust your practice as the go-to source of trusted pet health information.
To solidify your practice’s go-to position in the minds of pet owners, WebDVM custom veterinary websites come complete with a suite of industry leading pet health content and online resources to help your practice communicate and educate pet owners more efficiently, strengthen client relationships, and improve compliance.
A few tools and resources available with WebDVM:
- With Pet Health Checker, pet owners can enter their pet’s symptoms and determine the urgency of any required veterinary attention. As a tool that serves physical distancing, Pet Health Checker always encourages pet owners to contact your practice and improves patient outcomes by helping to eliminate “Dr. Google.”
- The ClientEd library features expert-written pet health content designed to educate and increase compliance by helping pet owners understand their pet’s medical conditions using pet owner-friendly language and illustrations.
To further assist practices during these challenging times, LifeLearn is currently offering 80% off setup fees on the Plus and Pro editions of WebDVM until Dec. 31st, 2020.
WebDVM’s proven no-fuss setup means all the LifeLearn team needs is a quick call to learn more about your practice and website goals, then a review call to make sure your website vision has been captured. And LifeLearn’s commitment to ongoing toll-free support means the team is there for your practice every step of the way—even after your website goes live.
To get started, book your WebDVM consultation.