Pivot or perish: Veterinary leaders speak trade traits

Powerful forces are influencing change in the veterinary landscape. Animal and animal keepers are demanding more from veterinarians; There is a growing interest in making the profession more diverse, fairer and more inclusive. Technology is evolving and affecting medicine, goods and services alike.

Matthew J. Salois, PhD, chief economist at AVMA, pointed to e-commerce, automation and telemedicine, and diversity, equity and inclusion as particularly important trends in the profession. He and other veterinary industry leaders spoke on these topics during AVMA’s annual business summit, which was held virtually October 26-28 and was attended by more than 410 people.

Be where the customer is

To be successful, veterinarians need to adapt with agility and use innovation and technology to be successful. Increased collaboration between the entire veterinary industry ecosystem will be required to successfully deal with the tides of change. These thoughts were shared during a panel discussion among veterinary leaders representing companies and organizations involved in animal nutrition, diagnostics and analytics, pharmaceuticals, and the distribution of animal health products.

Kathy Turner, corporate vice president and chief marketing officer of Idexx, said her company had seen interesting diagnostic implications during the pandemic.

With roadside check-in at veterinary clinics becoming the new norm and less time spent discussing the health of pets in the exam room with customers, the company has found that first-time veterinarians are putting more emphasis on diagnostics to assess the health of each patient and determine a better final treatment.

If we develop and promote this profession to what we want, if we survive the storms of life, if we become everything we can become, we cannot do it alone. We must devote to each other. There is no set of rules for this. There are no instructions on how to transform yourself or create more meaningful collaborations.

Matthew J. Salois, PhD, AVMA Chief Economist

“In the past, veterinarians may have relied more on the client’s assessment of their pet, they may not have completed a full diagnostic panel, or they may have taken a wait and see attitude to see if the pet gets better on their own, especially if the condition doesn’t seem critical – all to save customers money, ”said Turner. “But these days, pet owners don’t want to return for a second visit. They want their pet’s health to be corrected immediately. And in all honesty, since practices are so busy and in some cases even low-staffed clinicians don’t want to see the same pet twice for the same condition. “

She added that diagnostics is a service that can only be performed by a veterinarian, making it an effective way for them to build lasting sources of income. Turner mentioned that Idexx’s Vet Connect software enables clinicians to review diagnostic results from the comfort of their own home and share them with clients via email, a service they may already have for their own doctors.

Doug Brooks, vice president of business development for Compassion-First Pet Hospitals, said one of the biggest trends that will change the industry and require veterinary collaboration is that more drugs and other products will be available outside of the veterinary channels.

“With the advent of Chewy and Amazon in this space, as well as the Walmart opening practices in some of their facilities, I really think this enhanced access will be really good for the inpatient veterinarian, whether they change that or not focus on telehealth and how we get clients to be seen before they go for their first consultation, or is there any way we can use technology to diagnose pets instead of having them trained? “

He also stressed that more and more veterinary customers are looking for ways to get things done online.

“You sit at home and make healthcare decisions. Kroger delivers to my door. It’s only 2 miles away, but it’s easier for me to dial my phone. Veterinarians who don’t focus on e-commerce are going to miss out, ”he said.

For those reluctant to do so, he advises them to change their mindset about how profitable it must be to offer products and services online.

“A little bit of something is much better than a lot nothing. The increased volume will offset the price hike, ”said Brooks. “Crumbs are still bread.”

Bob Betz, vice president of sales at Royal Canin, said diversity, equity and inclusion are also ubiquitous issues that need to be addressed inside and out in the veterinary profession.

Outwardly, minorities are customers of veterinarians. “We have to communicate in a way that works for them. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, talk to them and understand them so that they feel comfortable when they come to us, ”he said.

Internally, the profession has grown from almost exclusively white men to more than half women and will continue to do so. There is still some work to be done in terms of race and ethnicity, which means making more concerted efforts to reach out and connect with different populations.

“Whether it’s a clinic or a pet food company, if you want to hire the best talent, they have to be comfortable with you and know where to look,” said Betz. Royal Canin asked, “Why aren’t we getting more different pools of candidates?”

The company had to go to historically black colleges and universities. “And if we take a closer look at the schools where we hired, we didn’t reach the full diversity of the population just because we showed ourselves that way,” said Betz, because the company was promoting itself.

Royal Canin has also worked to promote more women in leadership positions by sponsoring the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Forum.

Betting on new technology

Rick DeLucaRick DeLuca, Executive Vice President and Global President of Merck Animal Health, will give the keynote on the first day of the virtual AVMA Economic Summit.

If Rick DeLuca had one piece of advice it would be this: Make yourself comfortable when you feel uncomfortable.

Whether it does something new or challenging once a day, a week, or a month, the executive vice president and global president of Merck Animal Health said he is pushing forward. “If you don’t feel uncomfortable, don’t grow.”

On the first day of the AVMA Business Summit, he gave the keynote address “Transformation in Action: Lessons from Rick DeLuca’s leadership”. On October 26th, Dr. Christine Royal, head of the veterinary division of Merck’s United States Horses and Pets Business Unit, and Dr. Salois, chief economist at AVMA, in a question and answer session.

According to DeLuca, technology is and will remain an important driver for the transformation in the industry.

“It’s our job as a company to get data from everything we do,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you are doing the future a disservice.”

Whether information is collected from dogs or cattle with tracking collars or from clinical work, the collection of this information will improve the product offering, allow our colleagues and partners more time and better compliance, and allow longer lifespans and better treatments for the animals, that they take care of. “

He referred to Merck Animal Health Intelligence, announced in early October and supported by Dr. Jeroen van de Ven – a specialized operational unit that includes the Allflex Livestock Intelligence, Sure Petcare and Biomark brands, which provide digital animal identification and monitoring technology and intelligent data management for farm animals and pets; Vaki, a company focused on fish farming monitoring equipment and wild fish protection; and the most recent acquisitions, IdentiGen and Quantified Ag.

IdentiGen’s technology combines unique DNA and data analysis of each type to provide an animal traceability product called DNA TraceBack, which applies to cattle, aquaculture, pigs and poultry. Quantified Ag is a data and analytics company that monitors cattle body temperature and movement to detect disease early.

He said the creation of Merck Animal Health Intelligence will help transform the company from being a well-known company selling biopharmaceutical products to a “true solutions provider.”

What veterinarians do best

Practitioners and veterinarians are still so busy running veterinary clinics, especially during the pandemic, that the idea of ​​big new ventures like setting up an online shop for the clinic or implementing telemedicine seems overwhelming.

Brooks said, “One thing we need to be aware of is that veterinary technicians with fewer staff are being asked to do more. Everyone in the veterinary clinic is set for burnout. In the middle of the COVID period, we have to adjust even better to the stress level of the doctors and the support staff. It has definitely increased, especially as the (patient) volume has increased. “

How do clinics turn in the midst of uncertain times? Dr. Salois said in his keynote address that in order for people to remain adaptable, they must have principles that enable them to respond to the changes that lie ahead (see story). Specifically, the path is to maintain excellent customer service – be it in person or virtual – as well as making incremental changes and collaborating with others.

He gave the example of concerns he heard from veterinarians about Chewy’s announcement of Connect With a Vet telehealth service in late October. Through the service, pet owners can chat with veterinarians and get answers “to some of the most frequently asked questions”, “get advice” and “discuss concerns about their pet’s health and wellbeing” Tough.

Dr. Salois said customers still don’t know what to do with telemedicine because they are trying to figure out how it works in their own health care.

“But they want to be connected to their vet. Not a random vet in their community or nationally. They want their vet. “

He later added, “What I hear from vets is that I can’t keep up. I can’t be amazon. I can’t be tough. ‘You’re right, you can’t. But Amazon and Chewy can’t be you. The vet has the most valuable asset in front of him, namely the customer. You have closeness, trust, and a relationship Chewy could never capture if you did this well. They think about products and practices and what Chewy and Amazon are doing. But think about what you are best at, and that will always get you number 1. “