Why did you become a veterinarian?
More than a decade ago, Simon Sinek gave one of the most-watched TED Talks that instructed us all to “start with why”. No matter what business you’re in, whether it’s practicing medicine or building software, why are you spending your time and effort doing the things you’re doing?
For the vast majority of veterinarians, that answer is simple – to provide healing and care for multitudes of lovable living creatures. This why is the reason veterinarians go through years of additional schooling costing tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the reason veterinarians often work tirelessly outside of business hours until all that can-be-done to heal and care has-been-done. Innately empathetic, it’s the reflexive nature of veterinarians to apply their knowledge, skill, and experience whenever possible, sometimes even at the expense of their own well-being.
Who takes care of you?
The question then becomes, “Who takes care of the veterinarians?” Seeking the answer to this question was a catalyst for creating TeleVet, and continues to serve as the why behind all we do.
In 2015, my co-founder and I launched TeleVet with a desire to allow pet parents to more easily communicate with veterinarians. After more hard lessons than we prefer to admit, numerous coding courses and a few gallons of redbull, we were excited to have 10 practices (if I round up) using our service by 2016. While the customer base was quite small back then, the lessons learned were enormous as we got to know the veterinary profession and the challenges experienced each and every day. It didn’t take long for us to adjust our mission to what stands today: Improve the quality of life for veterinarians and pet parents through modern, stress-free solutions.
“Who takes care of the veterinarians? Seeking the answer to this question was a catalyst for creating TeleVet, and continues to serve as the why behind all we do.”
Fast forward a few years and a pandemic later, our company now serves over 6,000 veterinarians, but the stresses veterinarians face have dramatically increased. Pressures including student debt, lack of diversity, decreasing job satisfaction and poor work-life balance are the backdrop of the profession. An entirely new demographic of pet parents with newly-adopted pets expecting on-demand care have emerged, and the challenges of COVID aren’t going away anytime soon.
As a result of these shifting trends in the veterinary space, giant e-commerce companies have begun to capitalize on the on-demand care gap that exists today. The news of Chewy’s $25 billion dollar strategically-timed entrance into the telehealth space has quickly spread, to the dismay of practices and veterinarians everywhere. These teletriage services offer generalized advice and can provide instant gratification for pet parents needing quick answers. However, since this advice is given outside the bounds of an established veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR), Chewy customers cannot receive true telemedicine services. For full care services such as diagnoses, prescriptions, etc., customers are advised to reach out to their in-clinic veterinarian. For the e-commerce giant, the benefit for them comes in the form of getting more customers signed up for the company’s autoship program – a prerequisite to be able to connect with a vet. None of these offerings, however, help ease the pains experienced by veterinarians and vet teams working tirelessly in the clinic to meet an already-overwhelming demand and schedule.
What can we do?
At some level, the reason for any company’s existence is to be profitable, TeleVet included. However, let’s not confuse this reason with why. If our why truly is to improve quality of life for veterinarians, what is our business doing to support that mission? Furthermore, what can veterinarians do to respond to new companies and services looking to disintermediate pet parents and clinics, when veterinary teams are already working harder than ever before?
If you haven’t picked up the theme of this article yet – the answers have to do with remembering the why – both yours (as a veterinarian) and the motivations of the pet parents (and patients) you serve. Here are three steps each clinic, veterinarian and veterinary team can take to gain, or regain, pet parent trust and loyalty:
- Step 1: Take a wide-lens view of pet parent communication. If you’re like a majority of practices, the pandemic/curbside has severed some of the warm and fuzzy in-person communication you are known for. New pet parents may have never seen you in the flesh (only over the phone). During curbside visits, pet parents watch from the car as their fluffy (or feathered, or scaly?) loved one enters the “black box” of the clinic, only to return after some time with an invoice attached, and little understanding of what’s happening inside.
- Step 2: Remember your why. The Veterinarian’s Oath requires veterinarians to protect animal health and welfare and an obligation to lifelong learning. Veterinarians and their teams must show up to serve patients and educate pet parents. This includes leveraging available technology in cases where its use may benefit patient outcomes and service experience.
- Step 3: Evaluate your process. I’m not going to tell you how to practice medicine, but from an inside-out perspective, there are many inefficiencies in the delivery of veterinary service. According to a 2020 AVMA Practice Owner Survey, more than 60% of veterinary practices struggle with inefficiency in their daily workflows. This is a huge opportunity for veterinary teams to take a hard look at how they work and make some changes.
Where are we going next?
I have been grateful enough to witness the growth of this company we founded just 5 years prior. Much of that growth can be attributed to staying committed and focused on our why. When we often ask veterinarians why they’ve chosen to do business with us, we frequently hear it’s because they believe we have their wellness and best interests in our hearts. This desire to take care of those who take care of others is innately part of who we are, it’s the biggest reason why our employees want to join our team, it is what intrinsically motivates us every day, and it is embedded in the DNA of all the products we create and services we offer.
Our product names even carry this why as a badge of honor. “Connect” allows vet teams and pet parents to schedule appointments in a way that reduces the workload for front desk staff. “Flow” allows for greater efficiency and coordination of team workflows, providing time savings and revenue generation.
We’re also excited to announce that in January 2021, “Care” is a modern veterinary experience that supports day-to-day operations, enables 24/7 healthcare advice for your customers through your brand, all while minimizing veterinarian stress.
This is the first of a series of posts where we will be diving deeper into our why, our products, and the current and future state of veterinary medicine over the coming months. Subscribe to our newsletter in the footer below to learn more!
Interested in Connect or Flow? Schedule a time to talk to us today.