Updated: Jul 28
Do you remember the first time you got a prescription fax from 1-800-Pet-Meds ? I remember. I was in the owner’s office at Douglassville Veterinary Hospital where the fax machine was located. The prescription request came through and fell to the ground. I picked
it up, read it, and laughed. Who gets a prescription through the mail? Most of our clients lived within a 15-minute radius. They could just come in and pick up their medications. The year was 1999, back when fax paper came on rolls, we still had an X-ray film developer, and I had yet to get my first cell phone. I did not realize at the time how much Pet Meds and online pharmacies would take away from our industry.
Fast forward 20 years and online pharmacies are the norm. In addition, we have seen the rise of big box retail for pet parents. Amazon, Chewy and now even Walmart and Target are in the Veterinary Pharmacy game. I don’t think many of us saw this coming.
Nor did we see the Covid-19 Pandemic coming and how much it would change and disrupt our lives. We were only supposed to be on lockdown for 2 weeks to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Now it’s 2 years later and we are still dealing with the effects of Covid. Different strands popping up as it mutates and over 3 million deaths in the US alone. This pandemic has changed the way we work, play, learn and live. It has also changed the way consumers obtain OTC diagnostics. Prior to 2020 most people did not have any diagnostic tests in their homes. Aside from an occasional pregnancy test, diagnostics were performed at your doctor’s office or in a lab.
A Change In Diagnostic Testing
2020 changed everything. Consumers are more comfortable testing at home now. Abbott, one of the largest providers of OTC Covid-19 tests is seeing continuing demand for at home testing. Do you see where I am going here? Is the veterinary industry on the cusp of losing another large revenue stream? The move to consumers using online pharmacies cost veterinary hospitals about 1/3 of their revenue.
Diagnostics now makes up an average of 25% of veterinary hospital revenue. How can we as an industry embrace what consumers want without losing out? By adapting to change quickly before another behemoth conglomerate from outside our industry comes in to snatch more profit.
I was recently appointed as the Vice President of Sales at QSM Diagnostics. During my interview process, the CEO, Ed Goluch, told me they had created mail-in testing for ear and urinary infections in dogs and cats. My first reaction was, “that will never take off in veterinary medicine”. Then I looked above my fridge and saw my stack of Covid tests. Maybe he was on to something.
After doing some research, I found out that there were already companies in the space doing mail in testing. But they were aligned with big box retail, essentially cutting the Veterinarian out of the equation. Again, I thought about 1-800-Pet-Meds. I used to have to look up a client’s chart number, find the chart, ask the doctor’s permission to fill a medication that the client requested via Pet Meds, call the client if there were any problems and make $0 for the clinic while doing all the work for Pet Meds. We cannot let this happen again. If consumers want an easier way to run diagnostics outside of the veterinary hospital, we need to embrace it and make it work for us.
Mail-in testing is a way to lighten your burden. Most clinics are booking out an average of 2 weeks for non-emergency visits. During that 2-week waiting period, the pet’s condition is getting worse, the client might be calling you daily to see if you can fit them in or trying to find a local emergency or urgent care hospital to see their pet. Either way, everyone is stressed, and no treatment has begun.
The Benefits of Mail-In Testing
Consider this example instead. A pet owner calls to make an appointment for an ear infection, and your staff suggests they come by and pick up a mail-in test for ear infections. The owner picks up the test, you make a profit on selling it to them, they obtain the sample, mail it in and in 2 days, you have a diagnosis. If you have an already established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) and have seen the pet within the year, you can dispense medication and get treatment started. The previously scheduled appointment now turns into a progress check appointment. The pet gets treated sooner, you don’t lose out on revenue and the client is happy. Sounds like a win all around.
The same can be done for a suspected urinary infection. In this scenario, the client buys the test directly from QSM and you get reimbursed for it because you have an account with us. The test kit gets mailed to the client, they collect a sample, send it in, and you have a diagnosis in a matter of days. Again, you can dispense medication if there is already a VCPR and treatment gets started right away. The appointment can then be used as a progress check or can be moved back to when the antibiotics are finished and used as a recheck. No one loses, and the pet gets treated faster.
I know this new process challenges the status quo. But so was the start of on-line pharmacies and we fought that. Look where it got us. We as an industry are notoriously averse to change. I cannot tell you how many sales meetings I have been in where this has been stated. It’s time for us to be open to change and make it benefit us. Let’s be at the forefront of innovation. Let’s start a new way to do things for which consumers are requesting so we don’t get left in the dust.
The industry is struggling to keep up with the demand right now, so why not use technology to help while also protecting your revenue. I realize that we can’t change decades of habits over night, but I think we should try to embrace a new workflow and way of practicing in order to help veterinary staff, clients and patients.
Reach out to learn more about QSM Diagnostics can help!