'Fairness to pet owners' can be a good thing

'Fairness to pet owners' can be a good thing

Don't waste your valuable time feeling insulted by legislation targeting the veterinary industry—do something about it.
Oct 01, 2014

Most of us in the veterinary community are dumbfounded by the very suggestion that we’re unfair to pet owners. After all, our goal on a daily basis is to make our clients happy and our patients healthy. We diligently fill prescriptions from our hospital pharmacies or compounders, and we regularly honor prescription requests from online pharmacies and clients who prefer to go to a big-box pharmacy.Bruce Silverman, VMD, owns Village West Veterinary in Chicago. He also received his MBA in entrepreneurship from DePaul University. He’s pictured here with rescue cat Turtle, who has since been adopted.

With the passage of the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, which requires prescriptions in all cases, we’ll not only be directly competing with every pharmacy interested in carrying and promoting pet-appropriate medications, we’ll actually be forced to tell our clients that they should explore the other options to fill that medication. Sound fair? No. But there’s a better way to look at how this could play out.

Look at your pharmacy. First, a hospital's pharmacy shouldn’t be the profit center it used to be. It's more burdensome to stock pharmacies than ever before. So perhaps it’s a good time for hospitals to decide what medications to stock, what a fair profit margin should be and what alternatives they might carry. Surprisingly, I’ve found that we can purchase and dispense some medications far below prices at human pharmacies. Other medications, supplements or preventives aren’t even stocked by most pharmacies, creating a delay in filling a prescription—which can sometimes be deadly for our patients. Also, don’t forget the rebates and other partnership benefits from our pharmaceutical manufacturers that are available only through veterinarians.

Look at your prices. We should also revisit our service prices for things like exams, lab tests, surgeries, etc. As a profession, we tend to undervalue our knowledge and skills. Since we may be dispensing fewer medications and preventives, perhaps it’s high time to protect the hospital’s bottom line and our professional dignity by charging more appropriately for the services that pharmacies can’t duplicate. I don’t know about everyone else, but despite my pride in choosing the best quality medications for my patients, my pharmacy is less unique than my skills and knowledge that I’ve amassed over a number of years. That has to be worth something, and we should all be more respectful of our professional ability, especially since Congress and the Senate may not be.

Look at your progress. Lastly, don’t forget that those hospitals standing still in regard to skills and service offerings are actually slipping backward. If you’re not adding to your armamentarium of medical and surgical abilities and knowledge, your competitors most certainly are. Don’t let your bottom line and professional standing get eroded by both the pharmacies and your competitors. New tests, techniques and equipment are coming on the scene all the time. Find your niche or deepen your understanding across the board. Take some of the resources tied up in your hospital pharmacy and put them to work in new equipment or continuing education.

As a profession, we can't let this speed bump of an insult get past us without offering a good hard look at our strengths and how we can harness those strengths in creating our own great awakening. Let's call it the Fairness to Veterinarians Act.