Too many vets or not enough clients?

Posted by Mark Olcott, DVM on Jul 30, 2015 1:30:00 PM

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I recently returned from the AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, IL after attending the most recent Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee meeting. We had two days of discussions about the future of veterinary medicine and, as always, it was very enlightening. While I can’t summarize the entire conference in one blog post, a few things stood out.

From the supply side, I want to clarify something that many veterinarians are unsure/confused about, namely, that the AVMA has the power to affect the supply of veterinarians.  I’ve heard colleagues say things like, “The AVMA should stop accrediting new vet schools/make the national boards harder/reduce class sizes”.   In short, the AVMA can do NONE of these things as the Federal Trade Commission would construe them as being anti-competitive. Take veterinary school accreditation, for example.  If an entity wants to create a new college of veterinary medicine and they properly fill out the paperwork and meet all the requirements for accreditation, the AVMA MUST grant them approval.  The state of the veterinary marketplace is entirely irrelevant and considering such factors would be an anti-trust violation.  I’m most definitely not an attorney, but the AVMA has excellent in-house counsel to help everybody be clear about what is and what is not possible for the AVMA as an organization to do.  Check out the AVMA’s website for more info.

From the demand side, I came away from the meeting more convinced than ever that we are at an inflection point in our profession.  Some practice owners “get” the Internet and the opportunities it provides for improved medical care and enhanced marketing. These practitioners know their limitations and are open to taking advice about how to market their practice just as they would welcome advice on how to treat a unique case of Cushing’s disease.   I believe the future is very bright for these veterinarians. 

Sadly, there are some practitioners who are either too busy or too burned out to legitimately meet their CE requirements, let alone learn about Facebook and the explosion of mobile technology.  I suspect that fear plays a large role in this decision to disengage (and doing nothing IS a decision) or perhaps the misguided beliefs that the Internet isn’t relevant to small practices or that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Whatever the causes for this disconnect may be, the future is hurtling toward us at an incredible pace. We must ALL fight the urge to be ordinary.