Bringing clients back—examining your prices (Proceedings)

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Bringing clients back—examining your prices (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

"All of a sudden, the price just skyrocketed. You could go when it was 60 bucks, now I can't get out for less than $150"; so said a pet owner interviewed for the recently released Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. Sound familiar? Are your clients complaining more about price than ever before? We all know the recession has impacted spending at veterinary practices but is it more than that?

Let's go back a few years and look at the change in veterinary fees. From 2004 to 2006, 76% of the fees included in the AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference increased above the rate of inflation. Sixty-seven % of anesthesia fees increased about 18-31%; 72% of treatment procedure fees increased 13-29% and 60% of surgery fees increased, some by a whopping 61%. No wonder pet owners have noticed! The rate of increase hasn't been as dramatic as this since then but fees are still going up. Veterinary care has also gotten more expensive for some pet owners because of the availability of more sophisticated medical options and the extended life span of pets which results in more routine care spending as well as an increased likelihood of the pet developing a serious and/or chronic disease.

What we don't know about the pet owner quoted above is whether or not she got a greater bundle of services and more value for $150 than she got for $60. She apparently doesn't know either; all she perceives is that going to the vet costs a whole lot more than it used to and she's not convinced its worth it.

The impact of "shock" is just one of the findings from the recently released Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, a research initiative conducted by Bayer Animal Health, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic issues (NCVEI), and Brakke Consulting. Concerned that the number of dog and cat visits to veterinary clinics was decreasing at the same time the pet population was increasing, the study's authors set out to measure what exactly pet owners thought about the need for veterinary services and whether pets were getting adequate care.

The study identified six key reasons that visits have been declining; in addition to this sticker shock issues, other reasons included the U.S. recession, the fragmentation of veterinary services, the Internet, a lack of understanding about the need for care, and feline resistance.

Pet owners had more to say about price in the Bayer study. 53% of the survey respondents completely agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement "The costs of a routine visit to the veterinarian are usually much higher than I expected." Only 44% of pet owners disagreed (either completely or somewhat) with the statement "I am always on the lookout for a less expensive option for veterinary services or products." And only 45% disagreed with the statement "I would try another clinic if they had a coupon or special." Many pet owners also indicated they didn't find value for the price paid when they visited a veterinary practice.