We surveyed 25 veterinarian-owners and practice managers across the US to find out what has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though 25 submissions is far from a significant sample size, there have been interesting patterns and the answers run the gamut from heartfelt and sad to (intentionally) very funny.
But before we get into it, I want to thank everyone who took the time to participate and share their experience. $5 was donated to Feeding America for every participant and while a $125 donation isn’t going to change the world it is going to change hunger for one family.
Lastly, I want to be clear that there’s nothing good about COVID-19 and the destruction it’s causing on human lives, the economy and the world as a whole.
But I did try to find some positive in the survey answers and those are highlighted below. I want to make it 100% clear that at no point was the intention to minimize the impact of this virus on all of us.
Instead, my hope is that we can all find at least a few insights that are actionable, relatable and maybe just make us a laugh a little.
With that in mind, let’s get stated with the first observation.
Table of Contents
- 1 #1: Pet Owners Are Paying Close Attention.
- 2 #2: Client Volume Is Inconsistent
- 3 #3: Telemedicine Still Isn’t Universally Implemented
- 4 #4: The Types Of Appointments are (Obviously) Changing
- 5 #5: Marketing budgets Are Sticking Around
- 6 #6: This Isn’t easy…
- 7 What Do You Think?
#1: Pet Owners Are Paying Close Attention.
Very close attention…
A little more than 20% of respondents shared something like this:
“We are also seeing things that I think would have gone unnoticed normally (even silly things like, yes, male dogs have nipples)”
Overall, this shouldn’t be too surprising. With 95% of Americans on some kind of stay at home order, people are spending a lot more time with their furry friends.
Which is a good thing for pets.
While it may slow down some exams, it’s positive for pets when practitioners are sharing that, “We are noticing an increase in the amount of medical issues being identified by pet owners.”
Some respondents also mentioned other benefits of more time at home:
We’re really seeing an uptick in client compliance. I think it’s because they’re home with their pets so they’re more likely to adhere to medication schedules.
#2: Client Volume Is Inconsistent
Participants were asked how overall client volume has changed since COVID-19 and 50% of respondents noted a decrease in clients.
However, 25% indicated that they’ve seen an uptick in clients with another 16.7% saying that’s it’s really just all over the place.
“We’ve had some extremely busy days but also some that were 10% of what we normally do. It’s really been crazy and quite the roller coaster.”
Outside of the survey, I’ve been closly monitoring search volumes on Google and I’ve only seen a (very) slight drop in searches for veterinarians.
I think one survey taker said it best:
“Realizing we really are essential!”
How has overall client volume changed?
#3: Telemedicine Still Isn’t Universally Implemented
Only about 50% of respondents have implemented telemedicine for their practice.
This is especially surprising when you consider that some states have temporary suspended VCPR requirements which opens up telemedicine to new patients.
We’re also seeing about 10% of respondents mention telemedicine as a positive outcome from all this.
What services have you added?
But if you weren’t already sold on telemedicine the chaos of COVID-19 probably doesn’t feel like the right time.
Still, if you’re interested in a simple DIY solution we released a blog post in early April that walks you through a veterinary telemedicine set up.
Curbside service seems to have a mixed response with DVMs but many noted that staff and clients seem to like it.
“I hate curbside service but it makes staff and clients feel safer. It is so hard to examine a pet with a minimal history of problems”
And of course one of the biggest benefits of curbside protocols:
“Staff like the curbside service where they can cuddle the pets without the owner around.”
#4: The Types Of Appointments are (Obviously) Changing
With many states restricting anything besides critical care, the types of appointments are obviously shifting and as Dr. David Luaces points out:
I think there will be some interesting statistics on net profit for practices given we are only (or mostly) doing “essential services” (ie, working like hospitals, not clinics).
This is also impacting scheduling as one respondent describes:
We aren’t seeing routine care appointments, but our schedule is still filling up with more urgent cases. Instead of booking out farther in advance, our schedule fills up for the day in the morning.
Some clinics are having to respond to changes within the community as mentioned by one respondent who has started offering discounted cat spays because
Cats in heat are NOT sheltering in place!!!
#5: Marketing budgets Are Sticking Around
70.8% of respondents have kept their marketing budget the same while 16.7% have decreased it.
Within any downturn, it’s been shown that companies that play offense are the ones that stick around and it’s good to see that most practices are continuing to stay active on the marketing front.
“Playing offense” that doesn’t mean you have to double your budget or add 5 new marketing channels overnight but it does mean that a “lay low” approach should not be your go-to. Especially when you see that most practices are maintaining marketing efforts with a few even increasing spend.
If you’re in a position where there’s no choice but to decrease you marketing efforts then it’s time to get creative. That means asking clients for reviews, creating referral programs, seeking partnerships and trying to enhance the overall client experience should be high on your list.
How have you changed your monthly spend on marketing?
#6: This Isn’t easy…
I know that isn’t news for anyone.
Everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 especially essential industries like veterinary medicine.
While this can bring people together, it can also test us in ways we never expected.
“We’ve discovered just how hard it is to work in PPE for 12 hour shifts, especially since we only have 1 set per person bc of shortages. I have an N95 mask and have used it nonstop for a month now. I wish I had a new one. I cook it in the car in the sun on my off days in an effort to dry it and help sterilize it. This situation would be so much easier if we had adequate PPE.”
This kind of stress will build a stronger team.
But unfortunately, it’s what happens during crisis.
“The team is tighter than ever before. Stress will do that though =(
So is there anything good about this?
This isn’t an attempt to sugarcoat COVID-19 or try to present false, flowery optimism.
But as one respondent put it:
“We have to laugh as a staff together about this because otherwise the stress is overwhelming”
Many of us are great at looking at the “half full” side of things.
“Positive is my commute to work is substantially easier!!!!!
And there are plenty of leaders who are taking this as opportunity to show their staff extra appreciation when they need it most.
But however we’re handling all this chaos and stress, one thing is true…
We are going to be stronger on the other side.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear what you think of our survey results. Feel free to share in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Thank you again to everyone who participated and if you found this interesting please click one of the buttons below to share!
If you’d like to download all the survey results in a PDF you can click here