Can vets work better together by playing to our strengths? ask guest Vet Futures bloggers Erwin Hohn and Adi Nell

In this month’s blog, Erwin Hohn and Adi Nell, Senior Partners at Medivet, argue that the way forward for veterinary practices large and small is to work better together by following nineteenth-century economist Daniel Ricardo’s stricture – stick to what you do best.

In Medivet practices, say Erwin and Adi, “we play to our vets’ strengths by allowing each one to do what they do best. We’ll refer to each other internally or between branches in a group. That’s just what Ricardo suggested.”

The innovation suggested by Erwin and Adi is for individual vets to expand this principle out to work collaboratively with external parties – even “those we think of as competitors, both veterinary and non-veterinary. This would serve to advance the health and wellbeing of our patients, not just cure or prevent disease.”

Taking on board the Vet Futures ethos of the veterinary profession shaping its future for itself, Erwin and Adi argue for an extension of what, to a certain degree, happens already, such as the sharing of out-of-hours work or referrals to specialist centres. The pair argues:

“We can apply this more widely. Breeders could refer puppies to a small vaccination clinic. That branch does the vaccination, but sends the puppies to a larger practice for x-rays when they’re lame. In turn, the larger practice sends its inoculations to the vaccination clinic or small satellite, and they refer clients who want to buy puppies back to the breeder. I could, for example, support your investment in an MRI unit and you could support my laparoscopic surgery.

“This is how many human community health programmes work all round the world, right now.”

Refuting the claim that such working might be ‘pie in the sky’, Erwin and Adi make the case that such a collaborative approach deals with many of the challenges the profession  has identified, including reducing costs and enhancing financial viability as well as offering a way in which corporates can become part of the solution for smaller and independent practices. Erwin and Adi argue:

“It’s easier to develop business skills for a narrower range of services than a much broader one – and it’s easier to choose your own hours. That same focus makes regulators and legal compliance easier. Non-veterinary competitors become collaborators. Rising costs are controlled by the same narrower focus, and evidence-based medicine is enhanced by sharing outcomes.”

In relation to Erwin and Adi’s blog this month’s Vet Futures poll asks “To what extent would you be willing to work collaboratively with others if it would benefit you all: Not at all, To some degree, A lot or Completely?”

Last month’s poll focused on the balance between business skills and veterinary practice as a caring profession, asking “Can vet practice embrace the need for better business skills without damaging its reputation as a compassionate profession?” This was based on the blog written by John Sheridan, a management and business consultant to the veterinary profession and former BSAVA and VPMA President, who argued that veterinary businesses must be viable to continue to care and that “better business is essential for better medicine.” A significant majority of those who responded to the poll agreed that veterinary practice can embrace better business skills without damaging its reputation as a caring profession: 81% of respondents answered “Yes”, 14% said they were “Unsure” and only 5% answered “No.”

  1. Sanjay Mangabhai
    Sanjay Mangabhai says:

    Well said, I agree that the future of our profession lies in working together. Small animal practice has become too broad to do everything well especially with such high customer service and marketing pressures in today’s highly competitive climate. Trying to do everything under one roof is too costly and very inefficient. It’s time to realise we’re all in this together and we can make pets, client’s and our lives better by working with one another and to our strengths.

  2. Stephen Barabas
    Stephen Barabas says:

    I think one of the major issues still in our profession is not identifying skill sets in staff within practices and allowing them to grow.
    The happiest practices and most prosperous ones I visit up and down the country are those that embrace new ideas and adopt new technologies or services from all the working vets and nurses within it regardless of status.
    Empowering individuals and letting them flourish (with guidance and experience provided by senior staff) results in loyal staff and better business for customers and the practice itself and improvements in the care for the customers animals. We cannot be king of all within the massively expanding knowledge base that is veterinary medicine and surgery – but we can allow other individuals to fill spaces and grow in confidence and knowledge benefiting all within the practice.


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