Insider Scoop from Veterinary Innovation Summit and VetPartners Mid-Year Meeting

I wouldn’t call myself a glutton for punishment, but I am a junkie for continuing education. So, I booked myself a flight from Myrtle Beach to Portland, Oregon, and attended five straight days of meetings. I have to say it was well worth the effort.

First – The VIS. This meeting rarely disappoints as this is the space where all the really cool new tech innovation appears on the stage. For example: The winner of the attendee pitch contest was Pocket Pathologist. This tool allows veterinarians to take a picture of a cytology slide and have it read and reviewed by a board-certified veterinary Pathologist all over a mobile phone app. No more waiting weeks to have slides read!

Then a wonderful new company called Pet Peace of Mind. This company works with hospice, home health organizations and hospitals to help them understand the importance of the bond between animals and their humans. They provide a care model for pets of seriously ill patients and even help them find loving homes for pets whose owners can no longer keep them or who pass away.

MentorVet is a personal favorite of mine as they provide new grad vets up to two years out, an experienced, trained mentor and a peer group to help grow and guide beginning career DVMs. They are also looking to grow in helping new Licensed Technicians. The data shows their mentees have better practice experiences and actually stick with their career, all because they got off on a good foot. The cost is minimal and I highly recommend this for any practice hiring newly graduated doctors.

Here is a really cool one – VetMeasure. This is a harness you can place on a patient that reads vital signs and alerts if something is wrong. How much time can a practice save by not having to go into or get out a cage a patient just to take vitals? WOW!

Now VetPartners MidYear. Many of you may not be familiar with this organization. We are the association of consultants and advisors who serve the veterinary profession. Whether CPAs, cybersecurity, management consulting, architect or media experts – all are members. You probably would recognize many of us as speakers at national and local conferences and from articles in trade magazines. I am the current President.

This year our program was interesting and varied. We had a panel discussion on the changes in expenses and revenue for veterinary practices. All those raises we gave resulted in a 1 – 2 percent increase in practice labor costs, per our panel consisting of valuation experts and CPAs reviewing the books of hundreds of hospitals. We discussed the sales of private practices to corporate groups and see a slowdown in purchasing. Corporates are “cherry picking” larger 3+ DVM hospitals in urban areas with strong management and bottom-line revenue and profit. Multiples are dropping to more reasonable numbers. Smaller hospitals that are good, profitable hospitals should focus on selling to an associate or an independent practitioner who desires to live in that area.  

Dr. Tierra Price gave us wonderful information about what new graduates seek in their first jobs. LOCATION is the number one factor. Salary and time off come in second. Our recruiter experts tell us they have not seen a new graduate hired for less than $110K in the last six months.

Where have all the veterinary technicians gone? Meagan Parks, BS, RVT shared the results of her study within the technician community. Low wages and poor culture are the key to the migration of talent out of our profession.

Want to know what says is a fair wage for the U.S.? A minimum of $17.70 per hour not including health insurance or benefits and based on 2000 hours a year of work time. Obviously, this is an average and location is going to have an effect. But if you aren’t fairly compensating your employees, consider them at risk for leaving. There are currently 18 openings for every available DVM and it is just about as bad for licensed technicians. You can’t change your location, but you can change your wages and your culture. Communication is the key to both. Why? Because the better we are at communication with our clients the better they care for their pets. The better we are at communication with our team, the better our culture. Learning communication skills is VITAL to the success of any practice. Those hospitals who do it well have low turnover, happy clients and healthy patients. Here is a link to my online workshop if you are interested. COMMUNICATION WORKSHOP

Finally – Dr. Phil Nelson and Dr. Peter Weinstein closed the meeting with their talk on “uncomfortable conversations.” As a black man raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Nelson, Dean Emeritus of Western University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, shared his story of growing up combating racism and bias. Dr. Weinstein, who grew up in a liberal community in New Jersey, had a totally different childhood. Peter and Phil were good friends so when George Floyd was murdered, Peter called Phil to gain some insight. The result of this phone call became the basis for a podcast. For almost two hours some of the most influential people in veterinary medicine held their collective breath as they listened to this revealing talk of racial profiling, harassment and even assault. The final message from Dr. Nelson – progress has been made and HOPE is not lost. We can do better when we understand and learn.

Here is my advice – Question everything, listen with an open mind and heart, examine your thoughts for unconcise biases including those you were raised with, be uncomfortable and embrace change, and most of all BE KIND. The only people who can make the world a better place are the people who inhabit it.