Dr. Karen Felsted: A Belief in Marketing Also Drives Veterinary Visits

As mentioned in the last post, the Bayer study identified a number of attributes that practices which continue to grow during this post-recession economy have in common.  Not entirely surprising is that two of those attributes are marketing related:  the first is a belief by the practice owner that marketing and advertising were critical to the practice’s success and, secondly, that the practice is an active user of social media such as Facebook.  The study also looked at attributes associated with practices who are experiencing declines in visits and found that both of those factors were marketing related:  the veterinarian felt that advertising undermines his/her credibility as a veterinarian and the practice lacks referral arrangements with other pet service providers.

What IS surprising is that 74 percent of veterinarians do not completely agree that marketing and advertising are important tools in running a successful practice today.  Without that commitment, it’s unlikely those practices will be effective in using marketing strategies to attract new clients.

What do you think?  How much time do you spend on marketing and advertising?  What have you found to be most successful?

See all of Dr. Karen Felsted’s blog posts.

We're hiring a Marketing Manager

We’re on the lookout for an entrepreneurial marketing manager. Here’s the full job description where you can also apply for the position.

Welcome to the Family Shippensburg & Winding Hill (We Tripled in Size This Year)

In the last few weeks we’ve added four new hospitals to the CVP family, bringing the total number of partnerships to nine. We’ve now tripled the number of CVP hospitals in 2012.

“This has been an exciting year for us at Community Veterinary Partners,” said Daniel Eisenstadt, president of Community Veterinary Partners. “We’ve added six terrific hospitals to the family this year. These are long-standing businesses with deep ties to their local communities. They are a perfect fit for CVP because they share our commitment to excellent medical care and strong business results.”

The four newest locations are in central Pennsylvania. The partnerships are consistent with CVP’s operating philosophy to operate non-competitive hospitals in regional geographies. The hospitals are:  Shippensburg Animal Hospital, Mount Rock Animal Hospital, Allen Road Veterinary Clinic and Winding Hill Veterinary Clinic.

Shippensburg, Mount Rock and Allen Road are part of the Shippensburg Animal Hospital family, which has been serving the Cumberland Valley region of Pennsylvania for the past 60 years. CVP’s partner and director of medicine for the hospital group is John D. Stoner DVM, who has operated the hospitals for 24 years. The partnership with Dr. Stoner closed last month.

“We provide a personal approach to the medical care of our patients,” said Dr. Stoner. Our three small-animal locations deliver comprehensive veterinary care including outpatient medical and routine surgical as well as more advance orthopedic surgical care and diagnostics.”

Shippensburg Animal Hospital and its dedicated staff are active members of the Cumberland Valley community and support the local shelters and animal rescues in a variety of ways. They participate in discount spay and neuter programs and help raise money and increase support for needy and unwanted animals.

“We are excited about our partnership with CVP and the opportunity it provides us to continue to grow and better serve the Cumberland Valley’s animal health needs,” said Dr. Stoner.

Winding Hill Veterinary Clinic is located in Mechanicsburg, Pa.  It has been owned and operated by Drs. Steve Tagg and Doug Brenner since 1982. The hospital is a nine-time and current winner of the “Simply the Best” award, as chosen by Harrisburg Magazine. CVP’s investment in Winding Hill closed earlier this month.

“Partnering with CVP was a big step and an important decision for us,” said Dr. Tagg. Being a partner rather than an employee was a big factor in our decision. We are looking forward to having less administrative responsibilities so we can concentrate on medical management.”

Earlier this year we welcomed Paradise Animal Hospital and Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital to the family.

About Community Veterinary Partners

Community Veterinary Partners (www.cvpco.com) co-owns and manages nine hospitals within 150 miles of Philadelphia. CVP works with veterinarian owners who want to continue running the medical side of their practices, but want help with the day-to-day administrative and team management tasks. CVP creates a long-term strategy and develops sustainable methods for veterinary practices to continue thriving — well into the future. Our staff includes management professionals and veterinarians who bring the resources that busy practices need to flourish. We take care of the important business work and staff management tasks that veterinarians simply don’t have the time to manage.

Want to Learn Social Media, Finance & HR Management This Weekend?

We have five seats left for our Practice Builder workshop this weekend. The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 11th at Seasons 52 in King of Prussia, Pa.

Co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association and the Delaware Valley Academy of Veterinary Medicine, the workshop will present experts in social media, finance and human resource management.

Attendees will work in small groups throughout the afternoon to ensure an interactive experience.

The topics are:

Where’s the money? Real-life ways to improve practice cash flow,” by Gary Glassman, CPA, of Burzenski & Company.

Social Media Marketing: The new word of mouth and what it means to client communication,” by Andy Burstein, CEO of VetJump.

Hospitality in a hospital setting: Does the client ALWAYS come first?” by Suzie Weaver, director of human development at CVP, and Bash Hallow, CVPM & LVT, of Hallow Consulting.

Who can attend? DVM/VMDs in good standing of either PVMA or DVAVM. Because of space limitations, we request practices limit registrants to hospital owners and one guest.

To register, email us at register@cvpco.com. Email Dr. Travis Meredith with any questions: travis.meredith@cvpco.com.

We're Hiring a Senior Accountant

Community Veterinary Partners has an opening for a senior accountant. This person is responsible for accounting and administration solutions for our veterinary practices as well as our management group. Accounting duties include, but are not limited to, management of account reconciliations, cash management, accounts payable, month-end closing, financial reports and related analysis. In addition to the accounting responsibilities, this person assists with new investment analysis, conducts due diligence of potential investment opportunities, and other special projects.

The ideal candidate will have a college degree and 5+ years of experience using Quickbooks and Excel. Working knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) is desirable.

The successful candidate should have a proven track record of being able to adapt to changing priorities, ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines as well as be able to demonstrate professionalism with superior communication skills at all times.

Send a resume and cover letter to Marc Nathan at mnathan@cvpco.com to apply.

Dr. Karen Felsted: Say it in English

The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study made it very clear that veterinarians and their team members aren’t doing as good of a job in communicating with pet owners as we’d like to think we are.

For example, only 57 percent of pet owners completely agreed with the statement “My veterinarian communicates with me in language I understand” and only 44 percent completely agreed with the statement “My veterinarian clearly explains when I should bring my pet in.”

What this tells us is that we are asking clients to make decisions about things we recommend that are difficult to understand, scary because it involves a beloved family member and expensive and we can’t even explain clearly to them what we want them to do!

Without a doubt many veterinarians are genuinely trying hard to communicate with pet owners but it’s clear we need to improve how we do it.  First of all, it is critical that doctors & staff tell the same story.  It confuses clients to get different recommendations from different team members; pet owners expect us to be clear about what we think is best for their pet.  It also confuses technicians and other team members when they hear doctors give different recommendations for the same problem or preventive care situation.  And once team members are confused, we have lost the ability to use them well in the client education process.  If they don’t know what to say, they either won’t say anything or they will try to interpret what they’ve heard and may end up giving the wrong information.

Doctors and other team members also need to remember that people learn in different ways — some adults learn best by listening, some by reading and others by doing.  Communication with a client shouldn’t be limited to the exam room conversation; all of the common recommendations and information should also be included on the practice’s Web site, in handouts, in newsletters and email blasts and in any other web-based communication the practice engages in.  The same message should be conveyed in many different forms.

In the next edition, we’ll talk about some specific language that makes a difference in talking to pet owners.  What has worked for you?

Dr. Karen Felsted

Read all of Dr. Felsted’s blogs here.

Dr. Karen Felsted: The Hidden Value of the Exam

When veterinarians surveyed in the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study were asked about communicating with pet owners about the examination process, 51% completely agreed with the statement that “I talk my clients through the exam, explaining what I am doing in detail.”  Another 37% somewhat agreed with that statement.

Comments made by pet owners in the Bayer study focus groups, however, told a different story.  Many did not know their veterinarian was doing a full nose to tail exam; instead they thought that when the doctor had his or her hands on the pet, they were merely stroking it or keeping it from jumping off the exam table.

One of the simplest things that can be done to educate clients about the physical exam process is to describe it as you go. For example, say things like “I’m listening to Fluffy’s heart — the rate is normal and I don’t hear any murmurs” and “I’m palpating Fluffy’s abdomen now — the kidneys are of normal size and I don’t feel any masses.”

If you are a veterinarian examining 15 pets a day, this may seem very boring after awhile but pet owners generally only get this information once a year max.  To them it is new and fresh information and critical to their understanding not only of the care the pet needs but the value that the veterinarian and his or her team provides to the pet and the pet owner.  This ongoing communication also strengthens the bond between the pet owner and the practice team.

This concept can actually be expanded to the rest of the team.  When an assistant walks into the exam room to leave the necessary vaccines, they should introduce themselves and say “These are the vaccinations Fluffy needs — Dr. Felsted will be in to see you in just a minute.”  When a technician takes the pet to the back to weigh it, they should explain what they are doing.  “I’m going to take Fluffy to the back to weigh him; we’ll be back in a minute.”  Even more important is to say something when Fluffy is brought back to the exam room; for example “Fluffy has gained 2.3 pounds; Dr. Felsted will talk with you about his weight and nutrition when she comes in.”

Do you think your clients appreciate the full physical exam done on their pet?  What do you do to make sure they do?

Dr. Karen Felsted

Read all of Dr. Felsted’s blogs here.

Dr. Karen Felsted: Pet Owners Want More Education

Pet Owners Open to Education

Last time we talked about how many pet owners really don’t understand the need for veterinary care.  Fortunately, they seem to be open to more education and to visiting the veterinary practice more often if they better understood the need for care.

Three of the top four things pet owners in the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study said that would make them take their pet to the veterinarian more often were about education. These top four items were the same for both dog and cat owners although the order and the percentages varied a little between the two groups.

The first change that would cause pet owners to take their pet to the veterinary practice more often was “if I knew I could prevent problems and expensive treatment later.”  The second was “if I was convinced it would help my pet live longer” and the last was “if I really believed my pet needed exams more often.”  These are all points we must include in our client education efforts.  (The fourth of the top four items was about price—”I would take my pet to the veterinarian more often if each visit was less expensive.”  We’ll talk more about price a little later.)

Of course, if we’re going to convince pet owners that preventive care is important, we (as a profession) have to believe in it.  How do veterinarians feel about preventive care?

The majority of those surveyed in the Bayer study agree (either completely or somewhat) that wellness exams are the most important service the practice performs. This belief was one of the attributes that was associated with practices that were experiencing an increase in patient visits.  Obviously, this makes sense; a lack of belief means that practice owners won’t put the time and attention into making preventive care a focus of the practice.

However, while most practice owners find wellness care to be a critical component of their practice, 65% of them also said that pet owners don’t share that belief.  And 43% were concerned that pet owners feel they are only recommending exams to make money.

Clearly we need to focus on conveying the above benefits to pet owners.  What has been most effective in your practice?

Dr. Karen Felsted.

Read all of Dr. Felsted’s blogs here.

Welcome to the Family Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital

Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital, a five-doctor practice in Bergen County New Jersey, is the newest member of the Community Veterinary Partners family. CVP invested in the hospital in May 2012, partnering with Dr. Alan Pomerantz to co-operate the hospital.

Franklin Lakes is a full-service veterinary hospital with a strong caseload of internal medicine, oncolgy and exotics. The hospital has a special connection to its clients and its community. Each year it hosts a well-known Adoption Day supporting dozens of local rescues and shelters.

Dr. Pomerantz was born and raised in New Jersey. He has worked in zoos, on farms, in shelters and for more than two decades in small animal medicine. He received his masters degree and DVM from Cornell University.

“Having someone like Community Veterinary Partners to handle the daily tasks of financial management, allows me to practice the type of veterinary medicine that I want to the best of my ability,” said Dr. Pomerantz. “CVP is helping to streamline the inefficiencies in my practice so that more resources will be available for clients, patients and staff.”

Dr. Pomerantz is joined by four other DVMs: Dr. Wendy Kozak, Dr. Jack Mastrascusa, Dr. Kristin Onesios and Dr. Jill Shiffman.

Franklin Lakes is the fifth hospital to join the CVP family and the first New Jersey hospital. It’s an important part of the CVP’s strategy to invest in hospitals with excellent medical standards. “Dr. Pomerantz has a stellar reputation and we are thrilled to partner with him,” said Daniel Eisenstadt, president of Community Veterinary Partners.

Dr. Karen Felsted: Do Pet Owners Even Understand the Need for Veterinary Care?

One big reason the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study has gotten so much press is that it is one of the most actionable studies ever done in veterinary medicine.

A very surprising finding was the number of pet owners who really don’t understand the need for veterinary care, which of course means we have to do a better job in educating them. This is something veterinarians and team members have been focusing on in the past but evidence from the Bayer study indicates we need to do more of it and do it differently.


Take a look at the above chart; as you can see, many pet owners are confused and misinformed.  About 1/3 of pet owners surveyed in the Bayer study agreed with the statement (either completely or somewhat) that “except for shots, I would not take my pet to the veterinarian.”  While another 1/3 didn’t agree with that statement, they didn’t disagree either.  So that means we have almost 2/3 of pet owners who are not firmly committed to visiting a veterinarian for anything other than “shots.”

Another statement pet owners were asked about was “I would only take my pet to the veterinarian if it was sick.”  Again, about 1/3 of pet owners agreed with this statement and another 18 percent were neutral; that means that over 50 percent of pet owners are not firmly committed to visiting a veterinarian for preventive care.

The last set of bars shows that about 1/4 of pet owners agree with the statement that “routine checkups are unnecessary” and another 1/4 are neutral meaning they don’t disagree with the concept.  Again, about 50 percent of pet owners aren’t firmly committed to the idea that routine checkups are important.

These are big numbers—the majority of pet owners really don’t fully understand why veterinary care, particularly preventive care is necessary.  In addition to the information shown here, it was also noted that many pet owners believe older pets need less care and indoor pets need less care—this clearly doesn’t make sense!  Certainly indoor pets are less likely to get hit by a car or get into a fight with another animal, but they are still just as likely to be diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease.  We all know that as we get older, we are more likely to become ill—things just don’t work as well as they used to.  However, pet owners don’t seem to be translating that knowledge about themselves to their pets and they think that as pets age they need less care.

The responsibility for education falls on veterinary practices—both veterinarians and other team members.  What do you think we should focus on to better educate pet owners?

– Dr. Karen Felsted