Measuring the impact of COVID-19 on veterinary practices
Most states treat veterinary practices as essential businesses. This allows them to remain open even during pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions. Yet, veterinary hospitals experienced significant drops in pet care compliance in several key areas in the first months of the pandemic.
Early on, some public health agencies limited veterinary services to sick-pet and urgent care. They asked companion animal veterinary practices to forego elective procedures and wellness care to conserve personal protective equipment and limit potential spread of the virus. Even when some restrictions lifted, some clients continued to stay away, either due to their own health concerns or their dislike of new protocols such as curbside visits.
Drops in companion animal veterinary care compliance
Courtney Carter, AllyDVM's National Accounts Manager, dug into early pandemic data. Accessing information from nearly 800 practices that represent a subset of platform users who participate in the Synergy Partner Program, Carter looked at five categories. Her analysis compared the first few months of the pandemic, March to June 2020, to the same period in 2019. She found significant drops in compliance, with the biggest decrease, 31 percent, in dental services.
Signs of recovery
As companion animal veterinary practices remained busy with pandemic-driven hubbub and retooling of protocols, Carter explains that many clients postponed routine care. “Once practices got their sea legs about the new way of handling business, they were able to communicate better with their pet owners about how to maintain those services, " she says.
In early December 2020, Carter pulled data again, this time for the period from June 1 through December 2. “The numbers are very, very positive."
The updated data set represents closer to 1,000 practices, as more have joined the Synergy Partner Program, and a slightly different breakout of categories.
Again, Carter compared year-over-year data. In addition to growth in category revenue, practices also saw increases in the number of pets receiving these services. Senior wellness bloodwork showed the biggest increase, 24 percent.
“Overall, the numbers are very promising because they represent growth even above the same time period last year, which means not only are clinics rebounding from the spring but they are seeing revenue and patient service count growth percentages in the double digits for important areas like dental, wellness, vaccines, and just look at the senior wellness numbers," Carter says. "More senior pets are spending more time with their owners at home, so more are getting the annual check-ups that they need."
Practices that focus on compliance, communication, and retention provide a steady service to patients and their families. Financial consistency and even growth of the veterinary business itself remains. For example, AllyDVM users focus on compliance daily, thanks to the built-in retention calendar and real-time alerts at patient check-in for overdue items.
“I think most practices, right now, understand that they only have that short window of time," Carter says. “If clients are willing to bring that pet into the practice, whatever their internal protocols are, they should be doing the things that support compliance."
With revenue overall up at the end of a tough 2020 and with dose dispensing up too, Carter notes, “it's just a byproduct of a very resilient industry." It's further proof companion veterinary medicine is living up to its reputation for being recession-resistant.