What were the biggest trends and stories of 2018? What can veterinary medicine look forward to in 2019? Vet-Advantage asked Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, CEO of AAHA, and industry veteran and business consultant John Francis to weigh in.
Vet-Advantage: What do you think were the biggest stories in veterinary medicine in 2018, and why?
Cavanaugh: Mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs involving animal health companies continue to be big news as the playing field continues to shift for veterinary practices.
Ongoing consolidation of veterinary practices. It seems every week there is another group looking to purchase practices.
AAHA’s focus on accredited practices, changing its conference model through launching Connexity by AAHA, as well as AAHA’s Healthy Workplace Culture Initiative certainly kept my attention!
John Francis: Investment capital has a love affair with the animal health business – especially companion animal, small animal – and that’s significant. It enables us as an industry to have resources to pursue growth and development. It’s evident in some of the new technology we’ve seen. There is a continued emergence of corporate groups, with private money continuing to buy hospitals and form entities. That reflects the presence of investment capital.
Also, the emergence of technology. The world is becoming app based. At the recent e-commerce summit, the comment was made again that the phone we use will become our computer. We’ll become less and less reliant on laptops, although we will still use them. The marketplace says create an app that will do what I need, and I’m going to rely on my phone. From personal experience, I consider myself user friendly, certainly not advanced, but I live for apps. If I live for apps, the people two generations younger than me are even more reliant on apps. We’ll continue to become app based.
Vet-Advantage: Looking ahead, what trends or storylines do you anticipate to be big news in 2019, and why? What top issues will the industry need to deal with?
Cavanaugh: I suspect we’ll be hearing more about major players like Amazon, Wal-mart and others moving into the veterinary space. Technology will drive exponential change in our industry which will be interesting as many of our colleagues seem resistant even to linear change.
Top issues will continue to involve:
- Veterinary professional wellbeing and culture
- Attracting and retaining veterinarians and veterinary nurses
- Cost of veterinary care creating a division in terms of a pet owner’s ability to provide quality veterinary care.
- Can veterinary teams develop effective pricing strategies that drive profitability without continually raising fees?
Francis: We might anticipate a couple of changes. Consolidation is likely to show itself in 2019 with the corporate veterinary hospital groups. It would be logical to me if some of the smaller hospital groups consolidate to form larger entities.
App technology will become much more common. There will be a shakeout. For instance, there are some digital applications for small animal digital day care. Some will take, and some won’t. Just like with 2018, I’m convinced that in 2019, technology will take an increasing role and come in the form of apps.