For this inaugural edition of Animal Health News and Views, we are going to take a look at the hot topics at recent national conferences, conventions and innovation summits. Over the past few months, I have attended the Animal Health, Nutrition, and Technology Innovation Summit (AHNTI), the VetPartners mid-year meeting, and the annual AVMA Convention 2023. Each gathering offered up different insights, trends and in some cases controversy. Here are some highlights.

The New Practice Models = Winners. The Traditional Brick and Mortar Practice = Is this a Kodak Moment?

Are we seeing a paradigm shift in the veterinary industry? Are client preferences driving new patient/patient volume to de novos  and alternate care models? This was debated at the VetPartners midyear meeting. My conclusion is that Yep, it is happening right before our eyes. Data from AVMA Veterinary Industry Tracker1, VHMA Insiders’ Insights2, and VetWatch3 report negative client and patient visits. Karen Felsted called it “anemic visit growth over the last two years” in one of her summaries. Why the anemia? The answer requires a deeper dive into client expectations and experiences offered by other veterinary service providers, others not always included in the data.

It is very important to note that the providers of the data, in most cases, are not capturing de novo practices and alternate care models. Why? Most of these models are using a cloud PIMS that does not report into the data sources cited above. We are missing their data. So whether you buy into a shortage of veterinarians does not matter. What matters is that the practices we are monitoring, the traditional practice model, is losing clients and patients.

Technology Continues to Drive Change Via Convenience, Engagement and Price Transparency

For example, de Novo practices break the business model mold and offer a different veterinary experience. Many of them were exhibiting at the AVMA conference. Practices such as Petfolk, Adobe Animal Hospital, Sploot Veterinary Care, BondVet, and BoosterPet, just to name a few, give clients a different experience in accessing care, communicating with the veterinary team, and budgeting for a pet’s veterinary needs by utilizing virtual care, remote veterinary teams, membership models, apps, real-time appointment scheduling and other non-traditional methods of delivering veterinary care. While some may roll their eyes and say these aren’t for their business, they are affecting their business in the form of competition.

I’m proposing that client preferences are driving change, as evidenced by the continued decline in new patient volume. Let me give you an example from one of the panels at the recent AHNTI meeting. The panelists asked the audience: When you last traveled, how many of you called the airlines or a travel agent to book a trip? We just don’t do that anymore. We book our tickets online. If that is the case, why in the world would you assume that it is ok for your practices to not offer online 24/7 booking of appointments? If your practices are not offering this, you will not gain new clients because they are choosing locations that offer this service or they are choosing an urgent care or alternate care model like PetIQ.

Evolving Expectations – Membership Models Front-and-Center

As much as we hate to admit it, we are a service industry, and the client dictates how we do business. Today’s client wants to schedule an appointment immediately, from their couch, late at night, and without making a phone call or waiting for a callback. They want more access to care and transparency in what it will cost. They are prime for membership models (yes, pun intended) and like spreading the cost of veterinary care out over twelve months. Modern Animal is a great example of a successful membership model.

New AI Vendors – Big at the AVMA Conference

Companies using AI provide opportunities for veterinary practices to meet client expectations and deliver a great experience. For example, an easy addition of an automated virtual assistant called “AVA” by VetPawer handles client phone calls 24/7. Not only is this better for the client, but it also helps to take some work off the team. And speaking of the team, they, too, are looking for a better veterinary work experience. Also at the AVMA Convention were companies like and Happy Doc that listen to conversations and write medical records into your PIMS  like a scribe. Digitail was making big moves, too, at the AVMA Convention, talking about their new AI features. Lots of exciting innovations to come here.

Cloud-based PIMS are partnering with others to automate routine tasks and create efficient workflows. Shepherd Veterinary Software has partnered with Fear Free to do exactly that. AI is also helping the veterinary healthcare team to more efficiently and accurately interpret radiographic images, diagnose diseases, monitor patients, and perform procedures. In today’s employment environment, having extra help – be it a person or AI – can positively impact how the team experiences daily work and delivers veterinary care.

Are any of these on your radar for your next strategic planning session? Of course, not everyone is comfortable changing from the traditional veterinary business model. AI does present a new set of concerns – although manageable. And it can take a lot of work to teach an old dog new tricks. But what is the cost of inertia?

No Response is Still A Response

Remember years ago when the industry was frustrated by companies that sold vaccines directly to clients? How many discussions occurred about refusing to write or charging for a prescription for a client to purchase a product from an online company? How about the irritating involvement of Dr. Google in exam room conversations? Look at us now – most veterinary practices have some form of an online store, and many practices are replacing Dr. Google with the hospital’s own social media presence. Live and learn – and grab an opportunity to improve the veterinary experience.

Here is where the “yeah, but…” enters the conversation. Not responding, not having dialogue, and not changing from traditional ways is still a response. Right or wrong, not taking action has consequences. It may appear in patient visits, new client numbers, or talent retention. It may affect the bottom line or impact the sale of the business. Open dialogue about options is necessary for the growth and success of the veterinary industry and your practice’s growth and success.

Where are you now regarding the veterinary experience of your patients, clients, and team? Are you meeting client expectations? What can you change to improve the experience? Sure, there are trends to look at, but even the experts disagree on the trends. Just look at the supply of veterinarians.

The AVMA recently stated that it does not support the projected shortage4, while another industry leader says it is time to address the shortfall.5 Trends can be confusing – so again, consider the expectations and experiences at your practice. Are you having trouble filling positions? Are your YoY visits anemic? Have you looked at opportunities in emerging AI companies to improve efficiency, productivity, and the veterinary care experience at your practice? Be open to change, don’t roll your eyes and shut down dialogue.

Remember, you now have different expectations when booking a flight or ordering a gift from an online retailer. A lousy experience means you are looking for a new company – and there are plenty to choose from. The same is happening between your clients and your veterinary practice. Will you go down without a fight because change is too difficult or involves AI?

Winston Churchill said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Choose to be an optimist and look into AI technology and digital transformation to improve how your clients and team experience veterinary care at your practice.



1  Veterinary Industry Tracker | American Veterinary Medical Association (

2  Insiders’ Insights Benchmark Reports – VHMA

3 – The veterinary profession’s premier resource center for information on the issues that matter most.

4  Fountain Report Excerpts Jul 25, 2023 – Animalytix

5   Fountain Report Excerpts Jul 18, 2023 – Animalytix