Davis, Calif. – The present depression in the economy may have spared veterinary medicine for a while. But it is starting to be felt now, according to a survey of Veterinary Information Network members.
The survey found that 46% of responding veterinarians had a decline in revenues for the month of October, compared with the previous October.
That appeared to reflect a worsening of the situation. Only 29% of respondents reported that their practices had a decline in revenues for the month of September, compared with the previous year.
Overall, 34% of the respondents reported they had a decline of revenues for the entire year, and 15% had a decline greater than 5%.
The survey had responses from 469 veterinarians.
Still, some familiar with the survey results interpreted its findings as fairly “neutral,” and they tended to think that indicated the survey was premature. The survey asked veterinarians about their experience in October, and it was not until November that the tightening of purses became pronounced.
“I think if you did that survey again now, you would find a very different story,” said Jon Dittrich, a practice management consultant from Knoxville, Tenn.
For instance, this survey found that 65% of veterinary practices were reporting an increase in revenues for 2008 compared with 2007. But, Mr. Dittrich says he tells his clients to expect a 5%-10% decline in revenues in this coming year, given the projections about the economy.
In fact, he said he is telling his clients to cut out their display advertisements in the phone book, to attend continuing education locally, to reduce the number of professional memberships they have, and to take other measures, or to expect a reduction in income.
He has never told his clients to expect declining revenues before.
“It is something people aren’t used to seeing,” he said.
Dr. Mark Rishniw, director of clinical research for the Veterinary Information Network, agreed that the survey did not find any dramatic impact and that was probably because the survey was done too early.
“There are certainly some warning signs in the results, but I would have thought a larger proportion would have been reporting a decrease,” he said.
“We may have just caught the start of the plummet,” he added.
One fairly pronounced finding of the survey was that large practices seemed to suffering more than small ones, Dr. Rishniw noted. For October, the reports indicate that over 60% of practices with four or more veterinarians had a decline for the month from year to year, compared with only about 40% for solo practices.
While there could be a number of explanations, and maybe more than one, Dr. Rishniw said there was one that occurred to him immediately.
“It might reflect the fact that the big practices tend to be specialty practices,” he said.
The survey report can be found at: http://www.vin.com/Members/CMS/Misc/Default.aspx?id=11145