I've long recommended you give your practice a competitive edge by offering clients something better or different than your
competitors do. Ideally, you'd find a way to do both. Dr. Neil Embleton, a small animal practice owner in Airdrie, Alberta,
accomplished this goal by offering a unique, much-needed service to other veterinarians and their clients.
Operating as Helivet Mobile Orthopedic Surgical Services, Dr. Embleton flies his own helicopter, with all the needed equipment
and supplies, to small animal practices throughout the province. He provides orthopedic services that other veterinarians
don't feel comfortable doing or aren't qualified to do. He's certified in ASIF techniques, external fixators, spinal surgery,
and total hip replacements, and he's completed extensive continuing education over the years. He deals with all types of fractures
and is certified in Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).
The other option for a pet requiring specialized orthopedic surgery is a referral to a specialist—and there are very few in
Alberta. This option may require considerable travel for the client, including overnight stays or multiple round trips.
Dr. Embleton's services range from $750 to $2,000 (Canadian) and referring veterinarians retain all nonsurgical income related
to the procedure, including preanesthetic blood work, anesthesia, hospitalization, IV fluids, surgical assistant, post-operative
care, follow-up visits, and all medications. In the typical case, these charges represent 50 percent to 60 percent of the
total case fee.
Dr. Neil Embleton flies his helicopter, equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies, to practices requiring orthopedic
In addition, Dr. Embleton says, clients feel more comfortable when their own veterinarians are involved and present during
the procedures. For their part, referring veterinarians benefit from observing the newest, most up-to-date orthopedic procedures.
And of course, pets are getting top-notch care in familiar surroundings. In short, it's a win-win-win situation. In Helivet's
first full year of operation, Dr. Embleton performed 147 orthopedic procedures with a 98.5 percent success rate.
"I'm passionate about two things," says Dr. Embleton, "veterinary medicine and flying helicopters. By providing this service,
I'm able to combine the two of them. The helicopter has been invaluable, allowing me to travel great distances and arrive
in a timely manner."
Dr. Embleton has found a unique way to serve clients and pets. How can you augment your current services to address the needs
of unserved niche markets in your area?
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a seminar speaker based in Roslyn, N.Y., who focuses on profitability and practice
growth, and the author of 101 Secrets of a High-Performance Veterinary Practice (Veterinary Medicine Publishing Co., 1996).