Veterinary Practice is a business that sells pet health and well-being to humans. To understand how to increase the value of the veterinary practice, you must first understand the driving force to veterinary value creation. Most veterinarians are focused on the illnesses and injuries and how they are repaired. This is a valuable product of our work, but is not the only value that we deliver. The value that we really deliver to our clients is pet companionship, friendship, and loyalty. The medicine and surgery are essential in this function, but they are only two of the by-products of our knowledge. Our knowledge of pet care and husbandry issues, of behavioral, reproduction, socialization, disease prevention, wellness and diagnostics are also valuable to our clients. Pets have ascended from a utilitarian function of protecting the flocks, and farm to the social equivalence of a family member. In this respect, the value placed on these loved companions far exceeds the actual cost or utilitarian value. Our profession is therefore obliged to offer more of our knowledge now to promote wellness, disease prevention and resolution of behavioral issues than ever before. This adds stress to our delivery model - which is presently very inefficient.
Veterinary Delivery Model
The delivery model is the manner which we convey the value of our knowledge to our clients. The current historic or agrarian delivery model is a one-to-one communication between the veterinarian and the client. This model is very effective and accurate for communication of vital, technical, complicated information. Such information might be about a surgery or medical therapy for the treatment of a severe disease or illness. Our profession evolved because of the need to feed the populous as well as provide transportation (horses) for the armies. This "one-to-one" or "large-animal" model of delivery stemmed from these early roots and these functions were well served by this model for our profession. Small animal medicine and surgery are relatively new on the veterinary landscape and require a different delivery model. This new model focuses on the health care team member (Nurse) supporting the veterinarian in the dissemination of his or her "knowledge asset" thereby creating a "multi-tasking" delivery system that is more efficient for small animal practice today. As a society we are embroiled in the Information Age and this age is exemplified by wealth creation through information dissemination. Empowerment of the health care team member to the point of knowledge dissemination requires a structural change to most animal health care delivery models. This structural change is transformational which requires not only a new way of doing things but also a new way of thinking about why things are done. Once implemented, however, this process creates value orders of magnitude above the norm.
Wealth creation has progressed over the centuries through three phases. The first wealth was created through the Feudal Lord System. Land ownership with slave or indentured servitude enabled the amassing of huge wealth by the Kings and Queens of Europe. This was largely replaced by the Industrial Age, which produced wealth from the machine. People, who worked as mindless cogs in factories, served the machines and created wealth for the tyrants of industrial capitalism. The severe conditions in these factories eventually led to the creation of Trade Unions and the Industrial Age now is giving way to the Information Age. The Internet, the PC, cell phone and PDA's now exemplify the Information Age. People in businesses are now asked to use their brain to communicate knowledge about the product or service they sell. These people are now referred to as "knowledge workers".
Knowledge workers differ from factory workers in that they do not require the machine to perform their task. They just need their brain coupled with the desire and ability to communicate and they can create wealth for their business. This wealth creation has several major differences to the previous "Ages of Wealth". Previously, if something was scarce, it was valuable. Gold and diamonds are scarce and therefore valuable. Traditional economics is based on the law of scarcity. The law of supply and demand dictates that if something is plentiful, it is of less value than something that is scarce. With the Information Age, knowledge is what creates wealth and with knowledge, the more it is shared the more valuable it becomes. Furthermore, I can own knowledge and you can own the same knowledge at the same time. Not only that, but, the value of the knowledge grows exponentially as more people have it, creating a "network effect". For example, if I have knowledge about a new veterinary drug and I share that knowledge with a client, I create value for that client equal to me squared (1 X 1 = 1). On the other hand, if I first share that knowledge with three other staff members the value of that knowledge is four squared (Me plus three staff members equals four squared) or sixteen. The laws of plentitude and network effects start to dictate the value of knowledge. It is within this context that we must evaluate the value of the health care team member within veterinary practice. In general they should be used to help share the "Veterinary Knowledge Asset" or "Veterinary Intellectual Capital" with our clients. This will create value to the clients as well as wealth to the veterinarian. Before we get to the Health Care Team Training, let’s examine in more detail how veterinary wealth is created
Veterinary Wealth Creation
Veterinary wealth comes in two flavors, one is the Financial Wealth that everyone is familiar with, the other however, is Emotional Wealth and is unique in many ways to veterinary practice. This "emotional pay-check" drives the productivity of the veterinarian to the point that when many veterinarians are given the choice, the "emotional pay-check" may be more appealing than the financial pay check. Many have characterized this behavior of veterinarians as being the result of poor self-esteem when it is actually the result of a higher calling -- a service to society over one’s-self. This sacrifice has made veterinarians the most trusted of the professionals. We have dedicated our time, energy and most importantly, our knowledge selflessly to society for decades, endearing the public to our profession. As the demands of the pet-owning society change, so must we. In the past, this profession has tended to the illnesses and injuries of our pet animals as its major focus. While this focus is still important, new demands are being made on the profession. Our clients have embraced pet animals as a part of the family, and as such, they are demanding human level care, not only for illnesses and injuries, but for wellness and longevity issues as well. Our model for how these services are delivered must change to become efficient enough to satisfy this tremendous new demand. People who own pets and bring them into the family need information on behavior, and training on husbandry and social development, and information on preventative medicine and geriatrics in addition to illnesses and injuries. The good news is that many of these topics can be communicated by empowered health care team members creating client value, and building financial and emotional wealth for the practice along the way.File:Veterinary Knowledge Flow.bmp
Client Education Process
The veterinary store of knowledge is the principal asset that generates wealth in the veterinary practice. This knowledge is used to evaluate the needs of the pet and then communicate those needs to the pet owner. This knowledge is also what gives us the ability to perform surgery and prescribe treatments. Before these procedures can be done however, the client must understand what the diagnostic and therapeutic plan is, as well as the likely outcome and cost. This is what we call Client Education. Education is a four-stage process.
- The first stage takes the client from a position of being unaware of a medical condition or health recommendation to being aware of it.
- After the client is aware of the issue, more information and explanation helps them have understanding of how the recommendation or issue affects the health of the pet.
- Understanding of the health issues and placing those issues in context of their pet leads the client to conviction. The client has conviction that something must be done.
- Conviction creates a need that must be satisfied by a medical recommendation that is clear, concise and easy for the client to act on. If the hospital creates a client with conviction but does not satisfy this need, the client will go elsewhere to take action.
Client education prompts the client to take an action that will benefit the health of their loved one. Once this action is taken, the client will perceive a value from the results of this action. If the client perceives that the value received was worth the money paid, there will be a continued long term relationship that develops. If the client receives poor customer service or the pet becomes ill, the value is lower and the client may not develop a long-term relationship with the veterinarian. Most client transactions involve some form of education and recommendation that requires the client to take action as described above. The rule is, “He who has the smartest client - wins!” This is another reason to follow through with a recommended easy action after education. Most veterinary transactions create wealth of both kinds and result in continued motivation for the veterinarian to work to service his or her clients to maximum capacity. This ability to educate and serve clients is defined as the "capacity for service". This "capacity for service" becomes the rate-limiting factor in the growth of a veterinary hospital. Increased capacity for service can be achieved by empowering your staff to handle a portion of the client service and education.