Ten ways the veterinary profession is changing

The modern veterinary profession has changed dramatically from when I qualified as a vet thirty years ago, and changes are continuing apace. The top ten trends for change in the profession were specified succinctly in a recent editorial by Adele Waters, editor of the Veterinary Record. This was written as thousands of vets gathered to meet in Birmingham last month for the BSAVA Congress, the biggest pet vet conference in the world. The list provides a useful summary of future expectations for young vets entering the profession.

1. Pet owners’ expectations will continue to rise

We live in an “always on” culture: pet owners expect a prompt service, available when they want it. They want a high quality of care at competitive prices, with good continuity of personalised attention. If they get this, they’ll sing their vet’s praises on Facebook, Twitter and online review sites, but equally, if they’re disappointed, they’ll be just as quick to post negative feedback. The veterinary businesses most likely to succeed are those who manage to match these high expectations.

2. Standards of care and service will continue to rise

The increasing competitive pressure imposed by online sharing of pet owners’ experiences will act as a magnified “word of mouth”, with news about good – and bad – service spreading more rapidly than in the past. This will lead to higher service standards, reinforced by formal accreditation under the increasingly widely recognised RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.

3. Vet businesses will grow in size

There has been significant transformation of the UK veterinary practice ownership by corporatisation over the past decade and this trend is likely to continue. Currently, around 30% of vet practices are owned by corporates, and this is expected to rise to 50% by the end of 2018, perhaps peaking at 70% within five years. So most pet owners will soon be taking their pets to vet clinics owned by a corporate entityrather than by the traditional independent vet running his own small business. This change will bring benefits (e.g. economies of scale, efficient protocols, standardisation of care) but may have drawbacks too ( e.g. arguably a higher focus on profit, less clinical freedom for vets, more remote management of day to day clinic happenings).

4. There won’t be enough British vets to man the consultation tables

Pets – or companion animal as they are now known – have been the largest sector in UK veterinary care for some time, and this trend will continue. There are already recruitment issues, with a severe shortage of UK-educated vets (as many pet owners may have noticed, with the new vet in town often qualifying in a non-UK vet school). There are big questions about the impact of Brexit on the veterinary workforce: if Europeans cannot stay in the UK, there will be serious staff shortages for the industry. Veterinary wages would need to rise to attract job applicants, which would lead to escalating veterinary costs for pet owners.

5. There will be increasing specialisation by vets

From soft tissue surgeons to ophthalmologists, an increasing number of vets are educating themselves further after vet school, developing expertise and obtaining qualifications in niche areas. Vets see this as a route to attracting more lucrative referral work from colleagues in general practice, and furthermore, there’s a deep professional satisfaction in carrying out work at the highest possible level of skill and knowledge.

6. There will be greater use of technology

The level of technology in daily use has grown significantly in the past decade and will continue to grow, with advances in diagnostic equipment, monitoring (during anaesthesia and also during daily activities), and also for therapeutics. Telemedicine will have a greater impact, and wearable technology (“Fitbits for dogs”) is beginning to build big data that will be increasingly useful for monitoring health. Technology is also starting to have an impact on workload management at vet clinics, creating efficiencies and improved service for pet owners.

Read More at Telegraph


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