2020 was a year of change and swift innovation for the veterinary sector. New restrictions and demand brought with them new expectations and lasting impacts on how veterinary practices must operate to succeed. Keeping an eye on the latest trends and developments will prove critical to preparing your practice for what’s ahead.
As demands on veterinarians grew, so did calls for increased flexibility, accessibility and seamless, on-demand care. Those veterinarians who could adapt quickly, stay tuned into their clients’ expectations and pivot to new ways of working and providing care were those who succeeded. Not only did this bring short-term success, but in demonstrating this swift adaptability, they also built a more resilient and future-proofed business for whatever challenges lie ahead.
It’s no overstatement to say that this adaptable approach to practice management and care will be one of the most important vet trends in 2021. Adaptability makes every other innovation possible, whether it’s evolving your practice alongside new safety measures, operating virtual consultations or implementing new clinic designs to accommodate new ways of working.
2. Taking care of wellness
Vet Life Australia (the website of Australian Veterinary Mental Health Awareness and Suicide prevention) reports concern around the profession’s increasing level of stress and burnout, stating that vets are four times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population. Findings also indicate that stress and anxiety has increased among veterinary students and graduates with ongoing uncertainty and reduced opportunities for practical training due to COVID restrictions.
With unprecedented rates of change and increased pressure, many veterinary leaders have recognised the need to prioritise wellness within their team. 2021 will likely see a greater focus on wellness from leaders with training and support around employee wellness programs, including training mental health first aiders to support a healthier workforce.
Find help at Vet Life Australia – a health promotion charity, promoting and supporting positive mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession.
3. Embracing Technology
Technology will continue to be a big driver of change in the veterinary industry, with a shift in how quickly new technology can be adopted and how rapidly practices can innovate in order to provide vital care during crises.
Telemedicine emerged as an effective, convenient way of delivering care where safe and possible. Over the coming year we can expect to see this type of technology play a deeper role in the modern veterinary practice, facilitating both remote and triage to in-person consultations. Virtual visits are likely to be further woven into various aspects of routine care and follow-up, and more readily offered and advertised where appropriate.
4. Digital Client Experience
Offering the best possible client experience in practice has long been the focus for veterinary professionals. With much more of the client experience moving into virtual spaces, the focus will also extend to the optimisation of the digital customer experience.
The next generation of pet owners are increasingly looking for veterinary services tailored to their preferences, with care and advice delivered to them digitally, conveniently and where they are. To succeed, veterinary practices will also need to take full advantage of their digital presence by optimising for mobile audiences and encouraging online reviews detailing positive customer experiences.
Read 10 tips for creating an exceptional customer experience for inspiration and practical advice.
5. Championing veterinary sustainability
Recent years have seen a much greater emphasis on sustainability within the veterinary world. Veterinary professionals have been making moves to champion environmental initiatives and introduce new objectives focused on making their business more sustainable. 2021 will see more practices either taking their first sustainability steps or ramping up efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
The sustainability shift will likely also come from veterinary teams calling for their employers to lead the way for change in areas such as:
Changing client demands would help shape these initiatives as more pet-owners consider pet packaging recycling schemes or plastic free pet products or toys, for example. Want to know more about veterinary practice sustainability? Visit Vet Sustain.
“Leadership is not about being in charge, leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”
Simon Sinek, author
6. A focus on leadership
We have seen a renewed passion around leadership within the veterinary industry. In 2020, veterinary leaders were challenged to respond quickly and support their workforce through initiatives which focused on health, safety and the delivery of essential care. However, as businesses begin to recover, there will likely be a new set of challenges as teams call for even more support and flexibility.
To thrive, businesses will have to:
Increase focus on employee engagement
Establish leadership and culture to support a new “enlightened workforce.”
Collaborate to redefine the future of their work
Boost morale and build team resilience.
Download our free eBook, Navigating What’s Next: How to Manage Change in Your Veterinary Practice, for insights and practical tips to help you lead your practice through change.
7. The entrepreneurial mindset
We have seen an increasing awareness and adoption of the entrepreneurial mindset within veterinary practice management – thinking outside the ‘clinical’ practicalities to approach veterinary services as a business. While many veterinary businesses have been quick to pivot to new strategies during the pandemic, innovation must continue long-term, proactively seeking opportunities for change and development.
As veterinary professionals begin to reimagine how their business will thrive in a post-pandemic world, they must adopt new ways of thinking, solving problems and identifying opportunities to meet changing client needs. This entrepreneurial mindset will be key to tackling tomorrow’s challenges.
8. Virtual events
2020 saw the events industry change all over the world. With the majority of live events cancelled or postponed due to safety concerns, the challenge for many event organisers was to take their events online. In the veterinary space, event organisers have been making progress in developing digital events and interactive learning experiences to keep audiences connected and informed. These include:
Live content streaming
Last year saw the success and uptake of virtual events increasing, with many virtual congresses receiving a surge of interest from international delegates.
With live event restrictions still in place, we can expect to see this trend continue. As event organisers seek new opportunities to expand their reach and engagement for live and learning events this year, veterinary professionals will likely continue to adapt their attitudes and expectations for event engagement.
9. The value of community
One positive from the events of 2020 has been the sense of community, care and collaboration demonstrated within the veterinary industry, practice to practice and peer to peer. In the coming year, it will be vital for this support to continue.
Building community bonds and ‘supporting local’ have been huge trends nationwide. Community, even beyond the individual customer, acts as a support network for businesses, and veterinary practices looking to thrive should take note and focus on building these relationships.
10. Pet ownership
The COVID period saw the most significant spike in new pet owners in modern history. With more people spending more time at home, 2020 saw a demand for “pandemic puppies,” with a notable spike in demand for small, apartment-friendly dogs according to The Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders.
A recent survey from CM Research has also revealed that 74% of Australian vets now have more clients than before the pandemic. This increase and ongoing fluctuations will impact veterinary practices over the coming year, with a growing demand for veterinary advice, vaccinations and remote consults for new pet owners. Veterinary practices should look for opportunities to target their services and market to attract and retain these new pet owners for longer term growth.
With all the change we’re facing today, Covetrus has created a simple How-To resource to help you and your team transform with the times.
Be sure to check out our eBook, Navigating What’s Next: How to Manage Change in Your Veterinary Practice, a free resource full of insights and practical tips to help guide your practice’s change journey this year.