Business Better at Most Vet Hospitals

AAHA documents a 5 percent jump in practice revenue in 2014 and says communication is key in retaining veterinary clients.

Revenue surged an average of 5.1 percent at U.S. veterinary practices in 2014 as the economy continued a post-recession rebound, the American Animal Hospital Association revealed Friday.

AAHA’s 2015 State of the Industry report also showed that a sizable number of veterinary hospitals are doing very well. One-fourth of practices in 2014 grew revenue by more than 10 percent, and half of those so-called “Outgrowers” did so two years in a row.

Furthermore, AAHA labeled 7 in every 100 hospitals as “Power Outgrowers” because revenue climbed by more than 10 percent three straight years.

Financially successful clinics have more in common than just rising numbers. They also do well at strengthening the bond with clients, AAHA stated during the organization’s conference in Tampa, Fla.

Flourishing hospitals:

  • Explain things to pet owners in an understandable way.
  • Share test results with clients and take the time to review a pet’s diagnostic history.
  • Treat the pet owner as a partner and recommend online resources for additional health information.
  • Promote preventive care by scheduling the next visit before the client leaves the office and offering preventive care payment plans.
  • Minimize stress to pets during routine checkups.

Ninety-three percent of the 1,001 pet owners surveyed reported that having a bond with their veterinary practice is important.

Poor communication and weak customer service were more likely to send pet owners to another clinic than were cost issues, the survey noted.

“Clear communication far outweighs cost as a driver of defection for pet owners,” said AAHA’s CEO, Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, Dipl. ABVP. “The level of medicine you provide will not be appreciated if you can’t make it understandable and relevant for the pet owner.

“It is essential to describe the value of your medicine in a manner that the pet owner can understand,” he added.

More than half of the pet owners were interested in booking the next appointment while in the office, and most of them preferred getting a date reminder by mail.

Among other findings:

  • Revenue growth ranged from 0 to 10 percent at one-half of hospitals in 2014. 
  • Revenue declined at 25 percent of practices.
  • Clinics reported a 1.4 percent increase in patient visits in 2014. Canine visits rose by 1.9 percent, but feline visits fell by 0.4 percent.
  • 6 in 10 clients research their pet’s health online before or after visits, but veterinarians recommend trusted online resources only 30 percent of the time.
  • 90 percent of pet owners value preventive care discussions, but just over half recalled having such a talk at the last checkup.
  • Given a choice, 81 percent of pet owners would choose an AAHA-accredited hospital over a non-accredited clinic.

The surveys of pet owners and 5,726 practices were conducted in coordination with Idexx Laboratories Inc.

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