3 reasons animal hospitals will be busier than ever this fall (and how you can prepare)
By Michael Raphael
Back in May, as we predicted that animal hospitals would be thriving this summer. It turns out the stellar results were even better than we thought – veterinarians have been busier than ever, and national data shows revenues up 23 percent year over year through the week ending September 12.
As we move into fall, the industry shows no signs of slowing down. Here are 3 reasons to expect to see big profits this fall, plus some tips on coping with demand.
1. Quarantine puppies and quarantine kittens.
Back in May, we noted that puppy and kitten adoptions were up – and they continue to stay high. From exam rooms to our Instagram feeds, new furry family members are everywhere, and each new pet requires vaccines, heartworm prevention, spay/neuters, and more.
“It’s crazy, in a good way,” said Dr. Margot Vahrenwald, a Denver veterinarian interviewed by the New York Times in August.
Teresa Hershey, a veterinarian in Minneapolis agrees. She tells the Southwest Journal:
When the shelter-in-place order first went into effect, we started to see more puppies. … I went from seeing one puppy a week to two to three a day. After several weeks, we were getting overrun with new puppies and new pets in general.
2. Pet owners are working from home, and thus more tuned in to pet ailments.
When you’re at home with your pets all day, you start to notice things you might have missed before. Those concerns are driving increased appointments.
Dr. Jennifer Quammen, immediate past president of KVMA, posits that, “people are definitely observing their pets more.” She tells Kentucky outlet Spectrum News, “They’re noticing their arthritic dog or cat can’t get on the couch anymore. Maybe they notice their cat is skinnier than it used to be or their puppy is chewing on things.”
The New York Times calls this “staring at your pet syndrome,” an apt name for ailments that might only appear to the quarantined owner.
IndeVet Cathy E. agrees. “I see all these things… plus pet owners telling me ‘I have nothing to do except for go to the vet.’”
3. Revenues are up compared to this time last year.
More pets and more tuned-in pet owners means more appointments… which in turn lead to increased revenues. VetSuccess reports average revenues up by 23% nationwide year over year, for the week ending September 12. Despite the overall economic downturn, the veterinary industry is thriving.
So how can hospital owners prepare for another busy season? Here are some tips.
Tips to prepare
- Establish firm Covid protocols. Having protocols in place to ensure safety and efficiency during Covid – and effectively communicating those protocols to both staff and clients – is key as we navigate this new normal. Protocols should include appointment workflows as well as defined roles for each staff member.
- For more on maximizing efficiency and safety during Covid, see our 5 Tips for Curbside Vet Care During Covid.
- Make customers’ lives easier. Communicating your Covid workflows with clients is the first step – next is implementing changes that can make vet visits easier for pet owners. Today’s Veterinary Business offers suggestions such as implementing touchless payments and offering telemedicine appointments as easy ways to keep things flowing.
- Test additional hours or appointments. Curbside appointments and other COVID-related operation changes continue to limit the number of available appointments. Before COVID, animal hospitals could operate at peak efficiency, with multiple appointments per hour. Today, changes such as increased cleaning demands and calls to owners waiting outside in the parking lot have decreased the throughput of many animal hospitals. Hospitals that may have seen three patients an hour previously may now only be able to see two.
- This leads to backlogged demand and an increased need for additional staff and veterinarians. Hospitals that can take advantage of these opportunities by adding staff (if temporarily) will be able to materially increase revenues – and profits.
- Try temporarily increasing hours, or adding another veterinarian, to work through the backlog. Consider a relief vet, or a flexible staffing solution like IndeVets, so you’re not taxing your current staff by forcing them to work extra hours in the meantime. To learn more about how flexible staffing works, see our blog on Flexible Staffing: A Free Guide.
- Don’t forget about your support staff! According to our August survey of support staff, many techs, assistants and front desk workers feel overworked – and like they’re doing more work for the same pay. Make sure your support staff have time off too, and you’re appreciative of their efforts.
Michael Raphael is CEO of IndeVets.