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Monday, June 4, 2012

Multi-Location Pros And Cons

It's not uncommon in American veterinary medicine for a veterinary practice to be part of a larger group.  Though single-location clinics are the norm, multi-location practices are not rare.  The number of locations can vary from 2-3 in a network within a single town or county to a practice with hundreds of locations such as Banfield Pet Hospitals and VCA.  

My own practice has multiple locations, as I've mentioned before, and I've found many benefits to such an arrangement.  I have a network of many doctors that I can talk to as colleagues, bouncing cases off them and sharing opinions.  It's a lot more interactive than online resources such as Veterinary Information Network.  It's also easier to get coverage when I'm sick or want to take time off, since we can switch locations easily; I haven't had to worry about hiring a relief vet in a very long time.  We're large enough that we have help with business and payroll management beyond what I've seen in single-owner practices.

Now there are some down sides to such a practice.  We have a process by which we decide which products and pharmaceuticals we will carry, so I can't just order something I saw in a journal.  Change in practice policies and habits happens slowly since there's not a single person making the decisions.  And I sometimes find that I get asked to go to a location not my own in order to help out.

I manage the location where I work, and am responsible for both business and medical supervision.  I have a great staff and clientele, and prefer to be in that clinic since I'm used to it.  Tomorrow I have to go to a different location because they had a doctor call out and are short-handed.  As one of the main leaders in the practice, I feel an obligation to help out and make sure the larger practice succeeds, not just my own little corner of it. And since I always hope to get help when I need time off, it's a bit of tit-for-tat.  I don't really look forward to it since it's a longer drive, but at the same time I don't feel that I can say no.

In the end, despite the problems I may face I really like working at my practice.  I've been here for 13 years (other than a 9 month stint teaching) and believe that I've found my niche.  It's something that many vets don't experience, but it's a good fit for me.

2 comments:

  1. Spending 13 years at one practice almost seems weird in that job changing every few years seems so common for associate veterinarians who are employed "at will" by many practice owners who will be hurting when they try to sell their practice.

    The problem comes when the medical decisions in a practice are being overly influenced by the business decisions of large corporate practices to put the business performance ahead of the medical performance and ethics. The future direction of companion animal practice needs to be decided by veterinarians. I would love to see veterinary medicine move to a group practice/ownership model but it seems very hard to get individual veterinarians to cooperate effectively in a larger group that could provide benefits for both veterinarians and the clients. The current mom and pop vet shop model just doesnt work well anymore.

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  2. I agree with your assessment, Joe. Vets are by nature very solitary, strong-willed individuals and it can be hard to get them to agree and work together. I would also say that the business vs. ethics/medicine is something that applies to every vet, not just large or small corporations. We're constantly in a battle to be profitable while not over-charging or doing unnecessary procedures. The most successful practices find the balance between the two.

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