Resurrecting the personal model of veterinary medicine | Boulder veterinary clinic

Jul 31, 2020

Resurrecting the personal model of veterinary medicine | Boulder veterinary clinic |

You can break business practice models in veterinary general practice down into “low cost, high volume” and something I’d call “standard general practice”.  There are also specialty practices that have board certified surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, dermatologists, etc. and 24-hour emergency practices.  But here again I’m focusing on general practice – the type everyone thinks of when saying “I’m taking my dog to the vet”.

Low cost, high volume clinics are inexpensive.  They often do 80-100 surgeries per day.  Without question this is a valuable service, and in many cases, they are working with rescue organizations to spay/neuter animals before being placed for adoption.  It’s good, necessary work. The downside is that there isn’t any time in the day to sit down with clients that need some real face-to-face time regarding their sick or injured pet.  The customer service isn’t there, but it’s not really designed to be.  Those services are more for the animals, not the people.

“Standard general practice” covers just about every other small animal veterinary practice.  Basically, it’s a vet hospital that’s not high volume, at least they used to not be high volume.  25 years ago, before the dawn of the massive veterinary corporation, these practices had much more of a family feel.  Vets and clients had time to discuss cases.  Then outside managers came along, focused on efficiency and profits, and worked to squeeze in appointments every 20 minutes.  That old family feel went by the wayside and many practices started looking more like a higher priced, high volume clinic.  Now, as a result, patient care suffers, staff turns over, and many clients end up confused and frustrated.

At Rise Vet we are resurrecting that more personal model of general practice.  We want to allow for face time to discuss options.  We want to allow time to follow up the next day and discuss the direction your pet’s case is going.  We want to give our doctors time to research and discuss these cases, without walking into a new one every 20 minutes. We want to pay our staff more than minimum wage, so they can make a career out of caring for our clients.  Most of all, we want to you see a stark difference from the corporate veterinary model where the owner is the only one profiting.  We want you and your pet to feel seen, and we want you to be heard.

The current model has devalued the vet’s time.  Some practices will offer “Free, Unlimited Exams!”  Without a doubt this looks like a fantastic offer.  But consider this; there is a finite number of vets in each practice, and a finite number of potential appointment slots. These over-worked veterinarians who are plugged into this scenario have practically little time to spend with clients or return phone calls, let alone dive into research or consult colleagues on difficult cases.  With hardly time in their day to use the bathroom, a lot of vets end up frustrated and tell clients what to do without giving them any choice.   This comes out sounding like “you need to do this or you’re not a responsible pet owner.”  It’s a lot easier to sell something when you can make the customer feel negligent for not buying it, whether it’s conscious or not.

At Rise Vet we have a different perspective on how the vet business should work.  Our exams and consults are higher priced than the surrounding practices, yet still remain much below a typical hourly fee for any other professional service.  For example, most lawyers in Boulder County are $300-$350 per hour.  Vet’s aren’t even close to this number, and our time is often even less expensive than many other service industry jobs.  I had a washing machine repair man come to my house the other day to replace a broken door latch.  The part was $15 and the labor was $100.  The repair took 6 minutes.  I don’t fault him at all for this pricing, because it’s not really about the time; it’s that he knows how to do the job.  And I didn’t have to spend $1000 on a new washing machine.

In my industry I see how corporate veterinary medicine has devalued the veterinarian’s time in order to book more appointments in a tighter time frame so people will buy more stuff they may not need.  My alternative is this; for marginally higher priced and longer doctor visits, our clients will have a much better understanding of the options on the table in order to make the best possible choice for their pets and their family.  This may actually save clients’ money following the consultation depending upon the products, diagnostics, or treatments they decided to pursue.

An article from the Journal of General Internal Medicine titledTime and the Patient–Physician Relationship; …it appears that, in the United States at least, visit rates above 3 to 4 per hour may lead to suboptimal visit content, decreased patient satisfaction, increased patient turnover, or inappropriate prescribing”.  This is human medical publication, but it can be applied to the veterinary field.  The old saying “sometimes the best medicine is no medicine at all” comes to mind as well, but it’s a longer conversation to arrive at this conclusion than your typical appointment allows.

We believe the extra time spent with you is worth it; that the most important service our hospital offers comes from words and conversation, not necessarily tests.  With a little more input, we can all gain a lot more understanding of what’s going on, what should or shouldn’t be done, and what’s best for everyone involved.

“Do as much as possible for the patient, and as little as possible to the patient.”

Resurrecting the personal model of veterinary medicine | Boulder veterinary clinic

Rise Vet Boulder is Boulder’s new veterinary clinic specializing in medicine and surgery for cats and dogs. We will be opening late summer. Serving pet lovers in Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Longmont and along the Front Range. Contact us for an appointment today.