Vetri-Science Practice of the Month: Companion Animal Clinic

By Karin Krisher

Tecumsah, Michigan is home to over 8,000 people. Residents have local access to a skydiving operation, an art center, a winery and Vetri-Science Laboratories’ Practice of the Month, Companion Animal Clinic.

Companion Animal Clinic, founded by Dennis White, DVM, opened its doors on May 18, 1981. For the past 31 years, this small animal practice has provided the community with a variety of services; today, it features surgery, dentistry, radiograph, ultrasound and holistic functionality.

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Schoep’s Veterinarian Speaks About Vetri-Science

By Karin Krisher

Vetri-Science takes pride in our clinics. We like to feature a clinic of the month on a regular basis, and this month, we had one very special animal hospital in mind: Bay Area Animal Hospital, a long-running practice in Ashland, Wisconsin that happens to be the clinic of choice for a very special dog.

You might have heard of (or rather, seen) a rare photographic gem published recently in the Huffington Post. In the photograph, a loving owner relaxes in Lake Superior with his 19 year old German shepherd, Schoep. The man, John Unger, takes Schoep to the lake to ease his joint discomfort and allow him to relax in the cool water. He also takes him to Bay Area Animal Hospital.

John and Shoep

We caught up with the owner of the hospital, Eric Haukaas, DVM, to learn more about this beat-the-odds dog, his relationship with his owner and of course, how Bay Area Animal Hospital, John, Vetri-Science and the dog-loving community have come together to make Schoep’s quality of life what it has the opportunity to be: quality.

Facebook Fans and Friends

Let’s start with the phenomenon of the viral photograph before diving into the heart of the practice and what makes it beat. After publication in early August, the photograph of John and Schoep has certainly made its rounds.

Dr. Haukaas first learned of the picture’s viral nature from a friend’s phone call.

“They said, ‘you’ve got to check out this photograph of this dog online’ and I looked at it and said, ‘oh, my God, that’s the dog I just saw two days ago!’” says Haukaas. “And then we started getting phone calls a couple of days later from people around the world seeing it, just seeing this dog and wanting to know what they can do to help.”

Haukaas, who joined the practice in 1993 and purchased it in 1998, has since set up a donation system for Schoep, whom he began working with about a year ago.

“This last saga started about six to eight weeks ago. Schoep came in very painful, very old,” says Haukaas. “And of course we had the discussion…what type of quality of life can we get for this guy? And with limited funds, like everybody has, what can you do? We talked about options and then the wonderful picture came out and donations started coming in, so we have been able to go all out with (care) for him, and the Glyco Flex III supplement is part of (that care). He really enjoys eating those.”

The donations were pouring in, so Haukaas and his crew at the 9,000 square foot facility (which includes grooming, kenneling and daycare areas for dogs and cats) set up a fund to help people donate without having to choose which type of support to give Schoep. (Dr. Haukaas has mentioned a great call for glucosamine supplements in this case.)

Quality of Life is the Most Important Thing

Since Schoep’s instant celebrity began, things have changed somewhat around the office. At least two television stations have interviewed Haukaas and John in practice, and at least eight different newspapers have also been pursuing the story. Bay Area’s Facebook page, which previously boasted “a couple of likes,” has since seen over 1,500 thumbs-up. John Unger and Schoep’s page has seen over 17,000.

“We’ve been trying to, number one, make sure Schoep gets taken care of properly, and we’re having media work around that,” says Haukaas.

To that end, Haukaas and his team have been caring for Schoep by going “slowly and carefully,” as they must with all geriatric dogs and cats. (Schoep isn’t the oldest patient, either; Bay Area also treats a 21-year old pup!)

“There are hundreds of products and treatments that could be done for this dog. But the dog and the person treating the dog can only handle so much,” says Haukaas. “John and I talked about this when it started exploding: The most important thing here is Schoep’s quality of life. And we also are saying we’re not trying to extend his life, we’re trying to give good quality to the life he has left, and in turn that could extend his life a little bit,” Haukaas says.

“But what can Schoep do, what can John do, what can we do without overloading the dog? Therapy laser treatments are great…and we decided that we were going to try this package of pain medication, Glyco Flex and therapy laser and if it works, that’s great. And if doesn’t work, we either reevaluate or maybe it is time to say goodbye,” he says. “And we got lucky! We picked the right things. Schoep’s doing great.”

Bay Area Animal Hospital and Vetri-Science—Friends Indeed

Dr. Haukaas has been in the veterinary profession for over 20 years. That’s enough time to create a thriving practice with 12 employees who truly care about providing animals with the best quality of life possible—at least in this case. Bay Area Animal Hospital has been working with Vetri-Science for about 10 years to support animal health in a new, natural way.

“The style of practice we’ve developed here over the years is that we offer not only the basics, but also non-drug alternatives, and that’s what a number of our clients are looking for,” says Dr. Haukaas.

“As I realized that people are open and looking for this and willing to try this out, I researched recurrent (concerns) we were having and what was available for these. The Vetri-Science line fit into my practice’s needs.” Among those recurrent concerns? Joint support, skin and coat support and liver health.

Because joint support is such a huge category, Bay Area has had tremendous success with Glyco-Flex products, including with their use for Schoep. Dr. Haukaas’s own animals, a 15-year-old Newfoundland mix named Rudy and a 17 year old cat named Minnie, both take the Glyco-Flex to support their mobility. They’ve lived long, healthy lives due to “good care, good diet and lots of exercise,” says Haukaas.

Dr. Haukaas’s staff knows plenty about those health factors. About 70 percent of Bay Area’s patients are dogs and 30 percent cats, so the whole crew is practiced in caring for these types of animals and can focus all attention on their health.

For his own part, Dr. Haukaas says the best part of his job is “seeing the bond between pet and owner.” As for impact, he notes the ability to educate new owners about the capabilities of veterinary medicine of which they might otherwise remain unaware.

However, those capabilities can’t always be realized in the lower income area of Ashland, and Haukaas calls that “the biggest heartbreak” of the profession. Maintaining quality of life in the face of financial hardship continues to be a struggle for some of the pets Haukaas treats, and an emotionally difficult point for the doctor himself.

For some, though, a lucky break is only a photograph away. As a result of a huge outpouring of support from dog lovers around the world, Schoep’s got enough Glyco-Flex and therapy to make his quality of life as pretty as a picture—one that Haukaas, the staff at Bay Area and Vetri-Science are proud to have a hand in creating.

Veterinary Practice of the Month: Aid Animal Hospital

By Karin Krisher

practice of the monthAid Animal Hospital in Kansas City, MO, is one of those practices people just like to talk about. Perhaps it’s the comforting presence of longtime employees who truly care for their clients. Perhaps it’s the holistic approach and willingness to find adaptable solutions for every animal. Perhaps it’s the incredible supplement selection.

 

Or maybe it’s something they just can’t put their fingers on—but know is worth sharing.

Whatever keeps Aid Animal on pet-owners’ radars, we caught wind of it here at Vetri-Science. That’s why we’re featuring Aid Animal as our July Practice of The Month!

The staff at Aid Animal is often a sight for sore kitty and puppy eyes. The tenure of some, like office manager Cindy Pugh, offers comfort to even the human clients. And for the staff, commitment only seems to grow over time. Says Cindy, “I love the clients. I’m there from the first visit to the final visit a lot of times. I remember them as puppies and kittens. Our clients share so many stories, and we get attached!”

Because Aid Animal offers alternative treatments with a demeanor that makes this practice a diamond in the ruff, most clients are repeat clients who are looking for something different—a different attitude and a different approach.

Owner John E. Rowe, DVM, CVA, (who Cindy says is “an awesome vet, boss, person and such a believer in the holistic aspect”), has implemented acupuncture and other holistic practices, including supplementation. According to Cindy, clients are “absolute open” to that type of treatment. Word of mouth also seems to help people bring an open mind to the table.

“Sometimes, we’ll be talking to one client about something and another client sitting in the waiting room will say, ‘Do you mind if I chime in?’ That’s become a valuable part of our practice,” says Cindy. “We used to hear things like black magic or mumbo jumbo, but we encourage people to hold judgment.”

To that end, over the past few years, Aid Animal has developed a fantastic relationship with Vetri-Science.  Says Cindy, “A rep told me about it and then we did a lot more research. A lunch and learn really opened our eyes. But it was the samples that really started it all. Clients can’t believe the outcome, and when we use them on our own pets, it makes it really easy to share your experience.”

Those stories include one about the skepticism of an adamantly holistic client. After his dog got an injury, Cindy, who often counsels the clients on the supplement’s purpose and ingredients, told him about Vetri E.N.S.E.D., which supports normal mobility and everyday activity. “He was absolutely thrilled to find an alternative and has been a repeat client.”

And there’s that tale about the two aggressive, heavyset cats. “They were…difficult,” says Cindy. “I gave the owner Composure and she said, ‘I cannot tell you the harmony in my house.’ And now she always grabs two bags when she comes in.”

These types of experiences are great rewards for Cindy and the rest of the staff. All pet owners and all experienced in animal wellness and happiness, the Aid Animal Hospital staff seems to have what Cindy calls a “soft spot” for great stories, especially those about rescue pets. They often support the cause by offering an adoption program that began in 2004 and has since placed 150 animals.

The Bright Future of our Practice of the Month

In the future, Aid Animal hopes to remodel to create more space for each client and become even more cat friendly through offering a separate entrance. But for now, they’ll stick to talking up the Composure (and occasionally using a crate cover for the nervous kitties) and the simple power of a friendly smile and calming attitude.

Because of their devotion to animal wellness and a desire to open minds to alternative health solutions, we at Vetri-Science are proud to name Aid Animal Hospital our Veterinary Practice of the Month. Check them out online at www.aidanimalhospital.com.

 

Veterinarian Practice of the Month: Pleasant Lake

By Karin Krisher

practice of the monthWe’ve started a new blog feature, which calls attention to a veterinary practice of the month to shed some light on the fabulous efforts of our customers. Our first practice of the month is the New Hampshire hospital known as Pleasant Lake, founded in 1964.

We spoke with Elizabeth Kellett, BVSc, who has worked at Pleasant Lake for three years. Once located in the downstairs area of a house right on the lake, Pleasant Lake now flourishes just a stone’s throw away in Elkins, New Hampshire. With three veterinarians in one location, this hospital has become a popular destination for pet owners in the area, especially for those looking for preventative support or a good referral.

“We are great small animal general practitioners!” says Kellett. “We do a lot of soft tissue and orthopedic surgery…and we work with a variety of referral clinics–specific to each pet’s needs.”

Pleasant Lake’s wellness philosophy is “simple,” says Kellett. “A good nutritional foundation is a great place to start with annual preventative care tailored to individual pets’ needs.”

As a Vetri-Science customer, Kellett knows the importance of nutrition. Pleasant Lake became involved with the company when Glyco-Flex made its debut, “ages ago,” says Kellett. “We’ve carried Glyco forever, and just made a retail space in our practice to be able to carry more Vetri-Science supplements,” she says.

We’re just as glad to be a part of the process as Kellett, who says her favorite part of working at the hospital is the “wonderful clients.”  That kind of attitude toward customers and a commitment to health is exactly why we’ve chosen Pleasant Lake as our first veterinary practice of the month.

To learn more about Pleasant Lake, visit their website.

What Corporate Veterinary Clinics Mean to You and How to Get With the Times

By Karin Krisher

A veterinary clinic might be the last place we expect to find corporate culture, marked by the presence of such concepts and actions as evaluations, business models, reviews, financial goals, and human interest corporate veterinary clinicsand understanding. We’re right not to expect it—most  practices are not corporate veterinary clinics; most focus on medicine and healing, and not on themselves as a business entity. But is this really the best way to stake a name (and a profit) for your practice (or, if you’re a consumer, is this the type of practice you feel best suits your needs)?

The obvious answer is that people want to feel that the culture of healing exists, and need a personal tie to the practice in order to return. However, the obvious answer isn’t always the most correct. The best way to ensure that a practice experience is valuable and successful in creating and maintaining that healing/medicinal culture is to become involved with the business culture, however daunting and counterintuitive it may seem.

Shawn McVey’s recent presentation at the Vermont Veterinarian Medical Association meeting confirmed that veterinary practices spend, on average, more time concerned with medicine than with business. Again, this seems like a good thing—a testament to the value veterinarians place on themselves as healers.  But McVey, owner of McVey Management Solutions and a boon in the world of corporate veterinary guidance, insists that approaching the business elements of the practice is not only helpful in achieving the conceptual goals of the practice, but even necessary to overall success.

McVey noted the importance of recognizing the statistics: In the last 15 years, human medicine has emerged as a corporate entity, and animal medicine has closely followed that lead. In 1999, Veterinary Centers of America owned just 1.5 percent of United States clinics. That number jumped to 4 percent in 2005, and today, VCA owns 9 percent of all veterinary clinic practices in the US.  VCA emphasizes educational outreach, information exchange, and the value of established and enacted techniques and procedures, and is a growing force as a corporate entity in the world of veterinary medicine.

Why the success of corporate veterinary clinics, and how can individual practices achieve similar success without losing their personal values?

VCA has recognized and reacted to some of the most obvious conflicts facing veterinary practices today: veterinarians, by default, spend time working in the business rather than on the business, and practices attempt to function like private medical firms, but do so in a retail space. The retail environment demands more corporate-esque concepts and actions, such as better customer service, the inclusion of salespeople, and attention to details like office hours reflective of retailers’.

VCA has also recognized that it can be difficult to motivate individuals to enter that space, and even more difficult to implement the ideals on the ground level. McVey’s tips for success in implementation span several categories, but all focus on creating a learning culture. Here, we’ll focus on just three categorical ways to foster that culture: finance, employees and education.

Financially, veterinary practices fall behind because of limited knowledge and reaction to their goals (if goals exist). Profit goals are necessary to the measurement of success, and so is an understanding of how finance affects the day-to-day business. This is not to say that we can only measure success based on revenue streams or expenditures, but instead that we have a better opportunity to understand financial success if these types of goals and evaluations are in place.  Improving the ability to discuss money with clients also benefits the financial structure of the practice.

Similarly, understanding employee compensation is necessary to attaining these goals.  How employees are compensated for their work is reflective of the practice’s financial goals. Many practices offer compensation based on longevity or seniority, or even revenue stream associated with the employee, while many practices do not participate in evaluating employees by any standardized system, instead focusing on subjective observance. When leaders focus on individual and team success, and compensation based on this, changes occur.

Specifically, when review exists, learning occurs—and the learning culture is the most important facet of this discussion. If a practice has no system for review of actions, little learning can take place. However, when leaders are active in questioning and listening to dialogue and debate about the business’ success, practice employees feel a sense of encouragement. This sense is carried over into the entire educational environment of the practice.

Becoming educated is no easy task, and learning itself is something that is notoriously difficult to monitor. However, there are steps toward education that any practice manager can take to improve employee understanding and practice function. For example, encouraging discussion and after-action reviews with proper terminology (instead of error or investigation, use terms like incident and analysis) can promote employee confidence and willingness to improve for the success of the practice.

Learning most often occurs when people are exposed to new knowledge in a safe space that encourages reflection. Knowledge within the practice, therefore, must flow both laterally and vertically, with respect to each individual employee and leader. A working flow of information can have a huge impact on the ease of daily operations, and on the ability to review and learn.

These types of fundamental changes may seem impossible to implement at a small practice, but there are tools to help. Researching and incorporating a successful model (like HBR online) is necessary for overall success. Customers (and patients) will be more satisfied with any service that treats them like a valued customer (and that they can identify as a business, first and foremost), and employees will be more satisfied with a position in which success is valued, encouraged and evident.

Changes are imminent in the world of veterinary medicine. As corporations grow and buy, and small practices fall by the wayside due to a simple lack of awareness of their own business model, it can be vital to the health of those small practices to take steps toward acting like businesses, too.

The first step is analysis—stepping back to work on the business instead of in it can be crucial to moving forward. Perhaps discussing the business model with a consultant would save the analysis from falling victim to total subjectivity, which can present roadblocks to change.

Whatever each practice chooses, it is most important that their leaders are aware of a changing animal health environment and make a decision to somehow adjust the practice in the appropriate direction. Veterinary medicine is no longer a totally individualized space—instead, there are standards falling into place that are reflective of both the practice’s and the customers’ needs.

These standards, of course, can be individually applicable to the practice. After all, personal touch has always spoken volumes in the world of animal medicine, and with this new outlook and strategy, so too will organization, communication and efficiency.

Have you noted the struggle between corporate veterinary clinics and small practices? Do you have any plans in place for focusing on the business? Share some tips in our comments section!