TUESDAYSeptember 27, 2022

Dear Veterinary Student,

Whether you have considered practice ownership or plan to enter the profession as an associate, veterinary business education has never been more crucial to your career. This weekly publication is designed to supplement your education by providing information on veterinary business including ownership and management, finance operations, communication, team building and emerging technologies that will shape the future of veterinary medicine.

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Our managing editor, Breanna Demaline, writes below on the pros and cons of pet insurance. We'd love to hear your thoughts. Is pet insurance a viable way to make care more affordable? What have you learned about it in school?

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Is pet insurance the answer to rising costs or is it out of reach for too many people?
By Breanna Demaline, Michigan State University Class of 2023, managing editor of the Veterinary Student Insider

Unlike in the human medicine world, pet insurance has historically not won any popularity contests. Many households have never heard of or considered pet insurance. Why is this? As a fourth-year veterinary student, I have had a number of family members and friends reach out to me about pet insurance. How does it work? Is it worth it?

Truth be told, many current veterinary education curriculums do not teach students about pet insurance. Often, education about the innerworkings of pet insurance comes from "lunch and learns" and organizations such as the VBMA (Veterinary Business Management Association).

After learning about pet insurance, it may seem like a no-brainer—everyone should have pet insurance as soon as possible! However, is this realistic? Pet insurance, to no surprise, comes at a cost. Like human medicine, insurance rates are dependent on preexisting conditions, certain breeds, the pet’s age, etc.

As a veterinary student armed with the knowledge and experience of how beneficial pet insurance can be, I have struggled to budget insurance for my own furry family members. With most insurance policies, the owner must first pay the pet’s medical bill and is then reimbursed. While this program may work for many with emergency funds set aside or with relatively high incomes, when it comes down to it, pet insurance is not accessible or a reality for all.

While I plan to educate and advocate for my future patients, encouraging all who can afford pet insurance to invest, I believe we may need to relook at how pet health care insurance policies are structured before considering it an answer to affordable veterinary care.

U.S. pet owners have been slow to adopt pet insurance. Will that change? 
Despite promise, pet insurance in the United States has yet to pick up, with only 2-3% of U.S. pets covered. That compares to 25% and 50% in the United Kingdom and Sweden respectively, Dr. Jeff Rothstein writes in dvm360.

According to Rothstein, low uptake of pet insurance is due to several factors: Veterinarians were slow to get onboard; pet owners often wait until their pet is already sick before they ask about it, at which point it’s too late; and media and consumer review platforms often say it’s not worth the price.

But the future may bode well for pet insurance. Many pet owners are willing to invest in preventive care plans for their pets. According to one industry expert, offering pet owners preventive plans to which they can add health insurance later may be a solution to increase uptake.

> Read more of this article here. 

National Association of Insurance Commissioners passes Pet Insurance Model Act 
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners last month announced its members passed a Pet Insurance Model Act to establish regulatory guidance for states on pet health insurance.

The model codifies consumer protections in areas such as policy renewals, required disclosures of waiting periods, policy limits, conditions and benefit schedules. It includes limits on how insurers can deny pet insurance claims related to preexisting conditions and requires them to clearly differentiate between noninsurance pet wellness programs and insurance policies.

“Now it is up to the states to see if they would like to adopt or modify the model law for this regulatory framework to be in effect,” said Beth Dwyer, superintendent of insurance for the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

Commentary from Terry Sheehan: As pet insurance is often a discussion topic in the Fountain Report, this seems to be an important and necessary step to potentially broaden the appeal of pet insurance to more pet owners.

> Read more of this article here.

Pet insurer launches platform to help dog owners assess their pets’ disease risk 
Pet insurance company Fetch by The Dodo has created a disease database meant to help dog owners learn what medical conditions their pet is at risk for so they can take preventive steps.

Dog owners will be able to get a comprehensive health report on their pet by entering the breed, age and zip code where the dog lives when they visit the company’s website. The report will draw from 150 million clinical data points pulled from more than 725,000 dogs over the 16 years that Fetch by The Dodo has been processing medical claims.

The company is offering the free reports beginning later this year in an effort to reach millennial and Generation Z pet owners. It’s the first offering from a predictive health platform Fetch has been building with plans to expand it for other uses, according to Forbes.

TS: Another database to help pet owners make decisions to determine which breeds are susceptible to certain medical conditions.

> Read more of this article here.

The building blocks of a successful veterinary career 
If you want to be successful after you graduate, it’s vital you establish yourself as reliable and credible as well as having integrity, veterinary industry recruiter Stacy Pursell writes in a column this week.

These three traits “should serve as the foundation of your career,” Stacy says. “That way, no matter what happens—and unexpected things are going to happen—you will still have a firm foundation upon which to rely.”

In her column, Stacy explains why these qualities matter so much and how to show you have them. 

> Read more of this article here.


Customers cutting back spending are still investing in pet care: Packaged Facts 
Most U.S. households say they’re cutting back spending amid inflation, but health care for pets and humans has been relatively spared.

“It is reassuring but not surprising…that pet care spending is showing its recession-resistant mettle, at least in relative terms, even in this newer phase of high consumer inflation,” Packaged Facts publisher and research director David Sprinkle wrote last week in fellow Antelligence newsletter the Fountain Report.

An August survey by Packaged Facts found that while 45% of pet-owning households cutting back spending are doing so on grocery food items and 71% on going out to eat, only 15% are cutting back on pet care products or services.

Within the pet care category, pet food as well as veterinary services and medications are the expenses pet owners indicated they’re least likely to cut. 

> Read more of this article here.

How to create successful wellness plans 
Veterinarian and industry consultant Karen Felsted wrote in the Fountain Report about how veterinary practices can successfully implement wellness plans.

“In order for these plans to be successful, doctors and staff must genuinely believe preventive care is critical to the health of a pet, believe your plans help clients provide that care at a fair and affordable price and be able to talk knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the plans,” she says.

Karen offers several strategies for practices to try to get clients onboard, including creating plans that cover a range of services, preventive and otherwise, and making sure clients can pay monthly rather than having to pay for the entire year upfront.

She also notes that even once they start offering care plans, practices still need to ensure clients have a positive experience when they come in the door.

> Read more of this article here.

New Colorado law regulates who can call themselves a veterinary technician 
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis this summer signed into law a bill that will regulate the state’s veterinary technicians.

Beginning January 1, 2023, only veterinary technicians registered with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies can use the title veterinary technician. Professionals not interested in registration can continue doing their job as long as they don’t use the title of veterinary technician.

The law passed with support from the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians. 

> Read more of this article here.

The Vet Watch Weekly Insight Report 
For the week ending September 17, year-to-date revenue was up 4.9% over the same period last year at veterinary practices across the country, according to the latest Vet Watch Weekly Insight Report.

The report is compiled by Animalytix, whose VetWatch platform each week provides metrics on practice revenue and purchasing trends for thousands of practices across the country.

According to the data, total year-to-date veterinary practice invoices for the week ending September 17 were down 2.2% from last year. Unique clients and patients were also down. 

> Read more of this article here.


Breanna Demaline, managing editor of the Veterinary Student Insider, is a fourth-year veterinary student at Michigan State University. Originally from Wauseon, Ohio, she is deeply passionate about veterinary practice ownership, culture, communication and team-building. She’s served on the executive board of the Veterinary Business Management Association for four years at both a local and national level.

Stacy Pursell is a leading executive recruiter and search consultant for the animal health industry and veterinary profession. She’s considered a go-to expert providing the most effective talent-centric solutions and is a thought leader in animal health and nutrition, pet technology and veterinary medicine. She’s the founder of The VET Recruiter and Therio Partners and hosts “The People of Animal Health” podcast.

Terry Sheehan, who offers commentary for Antelligence publications including the Veterinary Student Insider, is currently the CEO of Aniconsilia LLC, an animal health industry consulting firm he founded in 2009. Prior to the founding of Aniconsilia, Terry had a more than 30-year career in the animal health industry with a strong record of achievement in sales, marketing and commercial operations.
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