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Trends In Mobile Veterinary Clinics

A tight economy can encourage practical changes in the way some equine practitioners travel.

Cris Kelly

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A tight economy can encourage practical changes in the way some equine practitioners travel, store medications and supplies, and organize their practices.

Mobile clinic and insert manufacturers can help veterinarians make the most of their chassis-mounted or insert clinics, whether new or reconditioned inventory.

Steve Sinnard says veterinarians are choosing more versatile trucks for their practice vehicles. He is executive vice president of mobile veterinary clinic manufacturer Bowie International of Lake City, Iowa.  Bowie and Porta-Vet joined forces some time ago and the Porta-Vet units have been manufactured in Iowa for more than a year now.

“Veterinarians tell us they want more storage space,” Sinnard says. “They are buying trucks with crew cabs and extended cabs, so they not only have their mobile clinic in the back, they have more room in the cab for larger equipment such as ultrasound or digital X-ray equipment.

“Shock wave and laser therapy equipment seem to be growing in popularity,” Sinnard said. “A bulk storage compartment in an insert unit will easily accommodate specialized equipment.”

Dennis Van Roekel, DVM, owner of Van Roekel & Associates, an equine practice in Alva, Fla., has a Bowie insert clinic mounted in the back of his pickup. He likes the convenience the unit affords him.

“All of the drawers and compartments fit our needs,” he says. “The unit is mounted inside the truck bed, which makes it easier at trade-in time, either getting a new truck or a new clinic.”

Jody Blais, president of Magnum Mobile SUV Inserts of Phoenix, frequently gets calls from veterinarians switching from a full-size truck to an SUV.
“They’re simplifying their inventory,” he says. “Frequently, their trucks have more space than they need. They want SUVs for fuel efficiency and passenger versatility.”

“SUV passenger compartments have about as much room as a truck,” Blais says, “but, especially with the back door up, an SUV offers more shelter from the elements.”

His customers have told him of rain getting into their uncovered boxes and taking days to dry out, or commenting on the difference standing in the shade of an SUV’s back door for a few minutes can make.

Owner of her own practice, Lisa Atckison, DVM, of Napa and Sonoma Counties, Calif., has Magnum’s middle design vet box in her SUV.

“It’s functional and looks professional,” she says. “It allows me to be overly neat and organized. The drawers are made well, and one locks so I can keep track of my controlled drugs.”

She says manufacturers of mobile equipment “put a lot of thought into what a veterinarian needs in a box.”

Dr. Atckison says the configuration provides adequate storage space yet allows her to be able to see out the back window, making backing up, parking and driving around town safer.

Bowie and Porta-Vet inserts are priced from $3,000 for SUV-sized units to $21,000 for the top-of-the-line chassis-mounted Monarch mobile veterinary clinic.

“The used and reconditioned market continues to be a strong part of our business and offers a lower entry point into the clinics,” Sinnard says. “These units have been in particularly strong demand during these challenging economic times.”

Magnum Mobile inserts are priced from $2,995 to $5,995.

“When reconditioned units are available,” Blais says, “they go fast because we give a one-year warranty and they usually cost 50 to 70 percent of the new price.”

With the economic difficulties of the past few years, Blais says veterinarians shopping for new insert units are telling him they’re waiting to see what the economy does before making many major equipment purchases. But his vet boxes are getting the go-ahead.

Some truck manufacturers still offer all or some financing of the truck and mobile clinic/insert package for new vehicles, Sinnard says, though he adds that more customers are getting private or dealer loans to pay for the units than in years past.

“The total amount of allowable financing is determined by credit and other factors,” he says, “such as the unit cost, whether there is a trade-in, current incentives and total price, which could be limited to a certain percentage over the MSRP of the vehicle.”

Bowie’s customer profile ranges from new graduates opening their own equine practices to those joining an established practice as an associate, Sinnard says. He also sees some veterinarians expanding their brick-and-mortar practices by adding mobile units.

“It’s another way to grow their business,” he says. “The demand for small animal practices may be growing quickly but large animal services will always be in demand. Veterinarians are adding large animal mobile practices as another revenue source.”

Blais says Magnum Mobile’s customers are mostly equine practitioners, though small animal practice veterinarians and mixed practices are also buying the inserts. He also counts the occasional veterinary hospital or specialty facility among his customers.

“They want better inventory control,” he says. “They are getting frustrated because they are repurchasing items, supplies and drugs that they can’t locate, only to find them later after they rebuy them.

“Boxes can be configured in a number of ways, allowing for good organization and better inventory control,” Blais says. “Each practice has different needs. A racetrack veterinarian who gives more injections needs more dividers than a veterinarian on a farm call. The flexibility of these units lets each practitioner be better prepared.”

Both Bowie International and Magnum Mobile representatives will solicit feedback from veterinarians at the American Association of Equine Practitioners conference in Baltimore Dec. 4-8. Bowie will also exhibit at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Jan. 15-19.
Bowie International will introduce some improvements to its clinics soon, says Sinnard.

Expected to be ready for the winter equine meeting to get practical feedback from those who use their trucks every day, Sinnard says, will be a hands-free remote keyless entry system that locks and unlocks a veterinarian’s vehicle from 15 feet away.

The digital system will be programmable for increased flexibility and according to a veterinarian’s personal preferences. Though now only available on the chassis-mounted Monarch mobile veterinary clinic, Sinnard said the feature is planned to be available on all units.
Also to debut from Bowie soon—a digitally regulated heating system to keep water temperature consistent.

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