This is the first in a series of posts covering the AVA conference held in Cairns last month. This opening plenary session report was written as a guest post for Vetanswers, an online veterinary business community run by Judy Gillespie, as part of their excellent conference coverage.
AVA 2013 began in a blaze of futurism lead by Craig Rispin, a Business Futurist and Innovation Expert . After outlining some of the challenges we all know face the veterinary industry; poor remuneration, decreasing pet numbers and exploding graduate numbers (to name but a few), Craig surprised me by identifying the life sciences as the fastest growing industry in the world. If we can think outside the traditional silo of veterinary practice or think differently from within it, there will be opportunities aplenty.
The session had many themes, but those with the most immediate potential for veterinary practice and business were ‘the Internet of Things’ and practice management 2.0. For more information on other aspects, it’s really worth viewing the full slide deck here.
Globalised acceleration and ‘The Internet of Things’
We’re all aware that technological change is accelerating at a tremendous speed. One area where this will have great impact on veterinary practice is the phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of Things’. These ‘Things’ include, amongst many others, health care devices such as blood pressure monitor apps for smartphones and microchips similar to the ones used for identification in small animals except the newer versions transmit data constantly. This site gives 50 examples of how sensor applications are being used, including some agricultural ones. In the small animal sphere, monitoring apps are likely to change the way we manage patients. The enormous potential for new products made me wonder how different the exhibition hall at future AVA conferences would be. For example, this year for the first time an app, Pocket Vet, had a stand in the exhibition. Such cross-clinic apps (Petly is a similar US-based version) will be commonplace in the future, as will app development by private clinics as the next step from the practice website and Facebook page.
Practice Management 2.0
New York medico Dr Jay Parkinson styles himself as the ‘Doctor of the future’. Using this model Craig talked about what veterinary practice 2.0 might look like – clients emailing, texting, Facebooking, Skyping, sending photos to get advice on their pet’s health from their veterinary clinic rather than using Dr Google to self-diagnose. An interesting corroboration of the potential of this concept is a study confirming that pet owners trust their veterinarian for online pet care education. This new model of practice clearly raises some issues and won’t replace the value of the standard consultation but it focuses on how and when the client wants to communicate and receive service, which can only be good for the industry in the long term. In the short term it would enable a clinic to stand out from its competitors, which we all know is vital.
Another aspect of the practice management discussion was on thought leadership marketing, defined here as ‘the active positioning of you or your company as an authority, resource, and trusted advisor on issues of importance to potential customers… It allows you to earn trust and build credibility and recognition, differentiating yourself as one who clearly understands the business and needs of your audience. It’s a means of nurturing leads, improving customer retention, and expanding your market. ‘ Clearly a concept all veterinary businesses should embrace.
Craig’s take on the industry as an outsider was hugely valuable. He confirmed my conviction that the veterinary industry must embrace technology or the profession risks being left behind by our clients who are moving with the times. We need to constantly look to related fields for new ideas and ensure we give ourselves the opportunity to pass on the benefits of our learning to our clients rather than them seeking information and services from less reliable sources.