You can’t control the economy…

You can’t control the economy, but you can control your practice.

By: Ken DeRouchie

I have recently been interviewing doctors around the country regarding how the economy has been affecting their practice and what they have been doing to keep their practice financially viable. I have found that many of the doctors I’ve spoken to have simply shrugged their shoulders and accepted the down-turn in the economy. Many say there’s nothing they can do about the economy and, because of that, are producing less and making much less money. At the same time, most of them who feel this way have done little to nothing in terms of making any changes in the management of their practice to combat the exterior forces that are impeding the growth and solvency of their business.

This brings to mind an old saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”. Simply put, if everything is changing around you and you don’t change and adapt with it, you will be unable to combat the external forces – very real forces – that are slowing or stopping your practice growth. It is imperative that if you want to continue growing in the economic environment that we are all experiencing, you must be able to adapt the management of your practice to the current state of your area, your local economy, the changing demographics of your area, etc. Most practice owners can grow in a booming economy. We’ve seen that during good economic times. But only those who have sound management skills, either inherently or through training, can adapt successfully to difficult times.

In August of 2007 I conducted a user poll on The Practice Solution Magazine’s web site in which 169 practice owners participated. The survey question was “The economy of the past 6 years has negatively affected my practice?”. 51% of the doctors answered :yes”.

I decided to follow this up with another user poll in November of 2007. 171 practice owners participated.

The topic of this was “When there are slow periods of the year, I …”.

46% of the doctors replied that [they] “live with it until it picks up again”

24% of the doctors replied that [they] “do extra marketing/promotion to make sure we don’t lose money”

16% of the doctors replied that [they] “schedule vacations at that time”

4% of the doctors replied that [they] “have a hard time making payroll”

11% of the doctors replied that [they] “wish there was something I could do to counter this”

You can see that only 24% of the doctors surveyed were actually doing something proactive to handle the slow periods! Obviously, you aren’t in a position to change the country’s economy, but you can , if you know how, make effective changes in your practice to combat slow periods.

Realize that the above surveys’ were conducted prior to the recent economic collapse. I therefore conducted a third survey in the last few months in which 71 practice owners took part. Since effective marketing of a practice is essential during poor economic periods, I decided to ask the question “On your new patient/client forms, when you ask the question “How did you find out about our practice”, what do you do with the answers?”

65% said [they] “Do Nothing”
1% said [they] “Enter it into a data base then nothing”
20% said [they] “Send a thank you card”
2% said [they] “Too busy to do anything with it.”
11% said [they] “Use this info for future marketing campaigns”

As you can see, only 11% were doing something useful with this vital data!

From these 3 surveys I conclude that:

  1. Many practices across the country are hurting from the effects of the economy.
  2. Most of them aren’t doing anything about it.
  3. When they are getting new patients in they don’t even bother to strengthen or further the actions that got those new patients in.
  4. The ultimate result of all of this is most practice owners that are completely the effect of the economic environment and not in control of their practice.

If this in any way sounds somewhat or a lot like what you are going through, read on. .

Things that you CAN control:

The following list includes links to articles written about specific areas in your practice that YOU DO have control over. If you are feeling a negative impact from the economy, I highly recommend that you hunker down and dig in. There’s a lot of ground to cover here but you will find this time well spent.. You do NOT just have to shrug your shoulders and “live with it”, you CAN take back control of your practice! These articles and others in this issue of Solutions can help you.

– Your appointment schedule – Cancellations/No-shows-rescheduled appointments

– Giving Great Service

– Marketing (internal and external)

– Staff efficiency

– Collections and Receivables

– Staff salaries and production bonuses

If you get in control over each of these areas in your practice you can very effectively “out create” the external forces that are negatively impacting your practice. If, however, you simply keep doing what you have always done and don’t change your operating basis, you will find yourself on a slippery slide with a crash at the end of the ride.

How to Survive Today’s Economic Time’s

by Shaw Millerman

Recently the President addressed the nation regarding the economic situation we are all experiencing in this country and around the world. It is very clear that we are now seeing the very obvious signs of a national recession, despite whatever spin may be put on it by the politicians from both sides of the aisle. We know now, because it is becoming very clear to diverse business owners everywhere, that the crisis is not just going to be limited to the finance sectors or the housing sectors. And we know that it is likely to get a lot worse before it gets any better and that it won’t be over for some time. The economic problems go deep and it could possibly be a decade before we’re able to fully recover. That’s a moderate time frame, not overly optimistic or the doomsday scenario that some would have us believe.

That’s what’s happening today.

We have worked with health care professionals for over 25 years and have gone through several periods of down economic times – some called them recessions, some called them “stagflation”, as well as a variety of other names. Whatever cute label one wants to attach to tough economic times, there is no fooling people with the fact that the economy in general, and their specific economic situation is far from ideal. And today, it is stated as being the worst economic situation since the Great Depression of the 1930′s.

What we have seen happen with stand alone health care professionals during a recessionary period such as this is that the doctor/owner “tightens up”. By this we mean that they usually get very worried, get “conservative” and reduce their promotion. They may start letting go of staff people and make do with fewer personnel. They often cut corners and consequently the quality of their service may begin to suffer. When the quality of service goes down patients become unhappy and start looking for another practice. They look for a practice that provides better service. Doctors who act in this manner will begin to lose some portion of their patient base. Thus it can make it a perfect time for doctors who don’t succumb to such thinking to capture more market share and increase their productivity.

Our clients generally thrive during recessions because they know what to do. They have learned how to manage their practice through objective means. They know how to effectively market without it costing an arm and a leg. We’ve been through three of these economic downturns/recessions and we’ve seen how our clients are able to take advantage of the situation rather than be the effect of it. In fact, as part of our surveying, we recently found out that, on average, our clients who are trained and skilled in practice management, have been increasing their productivity by 10% to 15% percent during those years the nation has been in recession. And this includes all socio-economic areas of the country. This type of growth is generally not true for the average practice owner.

Our clients thrive because they are able to prepare for down economic periods. They know how to closely monitor all of key areas of the practice and thus are in control of the practice. They know if they are understaffed or overstaffed, or if they have underutilized staff. Our clients have efficient systems that keep “busy work” off their desks. They don’t have a desk full of backlogged activities. They don’t give new projects to overloaded staff people. They make realistic plans based on objective data and don’t squabble with their spouses over finances. They hire, train, and monitor staff objectively and systematically and they have composed a business plan, marketing plan and financial plan they can refer back to and review and re-evaluate as necessary.

This is called running good control over your practice. And that doesn’t mean, as some people think, that it means not having fun at work or not having relaxed staff people or having people obsess constantly over profit instead of paying attention to people and service. It simply means that you know what is going on in your practice, that your staff know their jobs and work well as a team together and, because of that, you and your staff enjoy the work environment much more.

Objective systems are the component that allow staff people to remain calm and competent. When they know their jobs inside and out, it allows them to respond creatively to unique and unanticipated situations. It allows them to be calm and composed even when work backs up or the amount of office traffic could easily overwhelm them. Staff become accountable and self motivated because their work is measured by objective statistics. They are productive rather than just busy.

Prior to the current economic situation, we have seen a large percentage of practices and businesses supported and inflated by the bull markets. But this often was an artificial inflation, built on credit and people living outside their means. Now that credit is less available, it becomes obvious which offices have the infrastructure capable to handle the change. It isn’t enough to do the same old thing. Every income source must be maximized and must be maximized with the best interest of the patient in mind. Staff must be able to communicate the importance of delivering the highest quality of care without seeming to be solely motivated by profit.

Everyday we work with practice owners to put together plans and implement those plans. We do this so practice owners are able to grow and thrive in a sane manner, in economic uncertain times, and in a time frame that allows the creation of a stable infrastructure. Not only is this possible in these times but it is essential to your financial future.

To survive any activity, you must be trained and knowledgeable in that activity. You wouldn’t be an effective doctor if you weren’t adequately trained in your profession. The business environment is very tough right now. The fact is that your practice is a business and the better you are trained in the running of your business – i.e. practice management – the better you will be able to not only survive this economic crisis, but to actually be able to expand during these tough times.

Letter to the Editor – Sleep Medicine

Letter to the Editor
By David E Lawler, DDS, D. ABDSM
Bloomington, IN

Hello,

This week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for an article in The Practice Solution Magazine by one of your research staff. As a result of this interview, I want to encourage you to step back and look at a different topic with a broader perspective.

You are a practice management magazine whose perspective should clearly be focused on that topic. However, there are opportunities in dentistry that are rarely looked at that, especially in these troubling economic times, should be more widely discussed.

The addition of sleep medicine to my practice of dentistry has been, not only the most rewarding professional thing that I have ever done, it has been a wonderful cushion in a time of economic down-turn. If the absence of pain, bleeding or swelling, a great deal of dental services are highly discretionary and can be delayed. However, people always need air and those people with sleep-breathing disorders have their air supply greatly reduced during the night as well as their quality of life during the day and their overall health. All they need is the proper information and a therapy that they can tolerate to accept treatment.

Last week I was asked to speak to the annual meeting of the Indiana Self-Insurers Association on the management of these sleep-breathing disorders with oral appliance therapy. This was a room full of people who are intimately aware of the cost of medical care. They were wide-eyed as I showed statistics showing the dramatic drop in medical costs associated with the proper management of these disorders. In addition, there were quite a few present that now know that the annoying sound coming from their bed partners as they sleep is the sound of these people fighting for their next breath.

Similarly, yesterday I spoke to a state-wide respiratory therapy conference at our local hospital on sleep-related breathing disorders like snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome and sleep apnea and their management with oral appliances. At the break following my discussion, I was surrounded by attendees at this conference who wanted to tell me that they now recognized in themselves or their spouses, the conditions that I had just talked about. These are people who are intimately and professionally familiar with the process of breathing but who were unaware of the many forms these disorders take that allow them to remain unrecognized. Similarly, there was a sizable number who knew they or a family member had a problem but were unaware that there was an alternative, patient friendly, therapy as a substitute to the traditional CPAP therapy that they could not tolerate.

These sleep-related breathing disorders are epidemic in our society, with as many as one in five adults having a sleep breathing problem significant enough to affect their health. Since these occur only during sleep, the vast percentage of people suffering from these disorders have no clue that they are affected. Occasionally a bed-partner will say something, but usually that is only to complain about the noise disturbing their own sleep. Even those people seeking regular medical care usually are undiagnosed, since only a very small number of physicians question their patients about sleep quality. Those people who are fortunate to get a diagnosis are routinely prescribed a therapy that as many as 50% refuse or fail within the first six months of use. Those who remain undiagnosed, or who are diagnosed and yet unmanaged because they cannot tolerate their prescribed therapy, go on to live shortened lives of diminished quality with medical expenses easily doubling those who are diagnosed and able to tolerate therapy.

Oral appliance therapy can offer life saving treatment to untold thousands of people if they only knew about it. Dentists would gladly add this therapy to their existing practice model if they knew how easy it was for them to recognize these problems in their existing patient base.

Sleep medicine is a very young field of medicine. Because of that, physicians are only now starting to connect the dots between these disorders and many of the problems that they commonly treat. What is necessary is more public recognition of these disorders and this is where I believe strongly you can play a role.

I was very impressed by the amount of time and the intensity in which researcher focused on his interview this week. I am fully convinced that he is more than qualified to develop this topic in order to give it the attention your readers deserve.

Thanks, in advance, for your consideration.

David E. Lawler DDS, D. ABDSM
Diplomate American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine
The Center for Sound Sleep
www.thecenterforsoundsleep.com
2909 Buick Cadillac Blvd.
Bloomington, IN 47401
812-339-4499
812-339-6013 fax
Better health through restful sleep

The Times they are a Changing.

As an employer and a manager, I long ago learned the value of keeping up to date on the ever -changing rules of doing business in my home state.

Recently, I was presented with a concern of an employee that wanted to take maternity leave from work as afforded to her by the Federal Medical Leave Act. Having some familiarity with the act, I was about to point out to her that the FMLA only applied to those companies with 50 employees or more. As our company employs only 40 employees in a private firm, I told her that I would of course look into her request and get back to her the next day. I am very glad I did.

The Federal Medical Leave Act does indeed apply to employers with 50 or more employees. (For further information on the FMLA CLICK HERE.) Had I just left the matter at that, I would have made a grave error and would have created an unfortunate problem for my company and our employee. What I discovered was that my state also has a medical leave act called the Oregon Medical Leave Act. If I had not taken the time to really look into the issue and not just work from one source I would have made a costly mistake.

In a past issue of “Hot Tips!” I mentioned the importance of visiting your state website and encouraged our readers to really take the time to stay up to date on the issues relevant to managing employees. Since we are a management resource for the health care filed, I felt it important to take this a step further for anyone reading this. I therefore did some further research and can now give you the exact website that you can go to find your states labor department. From reading through the site you can find the relevant laws and rules that will apply to a variety of employee situations and decisions you often make, similar to the example I gave above.

Below you will find, listed by state all of the sites in one easy to use location.

 

 
I hope you find your state’s web site just as valuable and informative as I have in Oregon. As always, if you have a specific concern with a legal problem, or if you have a specific legal question, always consult a licensed and board certified attorney in your state.

Ken DeRouchie
Managing Editor
The Practice Solution Magazine
Published by Silkin

For more information about how to better manage your practice and how to attain the goals you first set when starting out in practice, contact Silkin Management Group at 1-800-695-0257 or e-mail us at contact@silkinmanagementgroup.com. You can also ask us about obtaining a free practice analysis.

Click on this link to see a video presentation about Silkin Management Group’s services.

The Problem with Policy

My employee was late 3 times in the last 2 weeks. Per our office policy, I am supposed to suspend her for one day with out pay. We are really busy this week and I really need her to work. What should I do?

The problem that you have here is not uncommon. Unless you enforce the office policy, you will render the policy null and void by setting a precedent. Written policy not consistently enforced is not office policy. Office policy adherence is determined by continued enforcement by management.

Why you should have policy: Policy is the guiding principle behind the operation of any organization. Policy sets the ground rules and develops group agreement of how things “should be”. In order for any office to function most effectively as a team, agreements must be known and adhered to for smooth, efficient coordination and cooperation. As long as people know what the rules of the activity are, and those guidelines are clearly presented as being in the best interest of the activity, the policies will normally be followed. Any conflict can usually be resolved by reference to existing policy within the organization that covers such situations.

By not enforcing the policy, you send a signal to the group that policy is only enforced some of the time. It can open you up to discrimination claims by disgruntled employees who feel you follow policy for some people, but not others. You may also find your self in a situation of not being able to enforce this same policy at a later date.

You need to have office policy. But, if you have policy and don’t enforce it, or only sporadically enforce it, it can be more troublesome than not having any policy at all as it can open you up to legal claims.

The lesson is to have good, understandable, workable office policies and see that they are followed consistently.

Ken DeRouchie
Managing Editor

The Practice Solution Magazine 

Note: This article is not intended as legal advice nor should any statement made in this article be construed as legal advice. If you have any questions about the labor laws and rules of your state, contact your state labor board or labor attorney.

For an example office policy, or for more information about how to better manage your practice and how to attain the goals you first set when starting out in practice, contact Silkin at 1-800-726-1810 or e-mail us at contact@silkinmanagementgroup.com. You can also ask us about obtaining a free practice analysis.

Click on this link to see a video presentation about Silkin’s services.

ECONOMIC WOES LEAD TO EMPLOYMENT DISHONESTY

Employee dishonesty can take many forms. No one seems to be exempt, and tough economic times only make matters worse. Although embezzlement can happen at all levels, we have encountered a number of situations in small to medium sized companies where employees were trusted and often thought of as family. When embezzlement is discovered, there is not only the reality of economic loss, but a real feeling of betrayal. After discovery, your options may be limited. The key is to establish and diligently adhere to a system of checks and balances, to minimize opportunities.

Establish Procedures

The first step is to meet with your certified public accountant, or attorney, to establish the correct procedure for your business. This alone can be difficult, because in many instances your loved and trusted bookkeeper will feel like he or she isn’t trusted. Although the feeling is understandable, you can explain that it is something that must be done because (a) it is the correct business practice; and (b) it will confirm the great job your bookkeeper is currently doing. Furthermore, should your bookkeeper become ill or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties, the procedures will already be in place for the replacement. Don’t get talked out of this step, or you could be talking to us, or someone like us, under more strenuous circumstances.

Follow Your Procedures

Establishing procedures won’t help you unless you are willing to follow the established guidelines. It takes a little effort, but nothing equivalent to the forensic work associated with discovering and determining the amount of embezzlement. Where there is embezzlement, seldom is it limited to one method of stealing. Don’t stop looking after you’ve discovered one source of theft. It is like peeling an onion. In one of our cases, the CPA said he was aware of fifty ways to embezzle money, and forty-eight had been employed.

Remedies

How you react when you discover your loss may have a significant impact on the extent of your recovery. Your emotions will run from anger, to embarrassment, how will you recover your loss. Although our advice is sought with regards to each of the above, our primary focus is usually on how to recover your money.
Acting fast is a proven key. As the victim you have a great deal of leverage. The fear of prosecution is a great motivator. Your initial reaction is to call the police and “throw away the key.” While this knee jerk reaction is understandable, it is seldom a motivation for repayment. Although criminal prosecutions can result in “civil compromises,” these are frequently less rewarding than can otherwise be accomplished.
Strike fast and tie up assets. Locate property and collect what you can. If there is a spouse or significant other, don’t overlook their involvement. If significant amounts were stolen, there is a good likelihood they were  suspicious of what was going on.

Call your insurance carrier. If you don’t have employee dishonesty coverage, get it. Make sure your limits are reasonable. You would be amazed at how much can go missing. We have been involved in cases for small to medium companies where the amounts exceeded $1,000,000.

The banks and credit card companies may be a source of recovery. Under the right circumstances, there can be liability for forgery, negligence and credit card fraud. Third party sources of recovery should not be overlooked, as the embezzlers may not have been a good steward of your money. Insurance claims and claims against banks and credit card companies normally require you to prosecute, but by the time you get to this stage, you normally have little to lose.

If you do not have a procedure of checks and balances, contact your professional today.

Written by:
Bitts & Hahs, Attorneys at Law
4949 SW Meadows Rd., Suite 260
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
503-228-5626
www.bittner-hahs.com

The Second Step: Starting Your Surveys

Surveying is vital to any successful marketing campaign. Surveying takes the mystery out of anything because it enables you to get a very specific idea of what works and what doesn’t work when selling a product or service. It also helps you isolate your publics and enables you to find out more data about them.

Surveying comes in many shapes and forms. The definition of a survey is:

“SURVEY means ‘a careful examination of something as a whole and in detail.”

You might not know it, but you have immediate access to survey information from data that you have been collecting for quite some time. This survey information will tell you who your current publics are and, the great thing is, all the information is in your patient files.

If you have a computer database of patient information, gathering this data will be quite easy. If you only have physical files it might take longer, but is still worth it.

This action requires you to pull information from these patient records. To save time, you only need to look at your new patient files for the past few months as this should give you a good idea of your overall patient base.

Have your office manager collect the information from the files as to age, education, occupation, gender, income and location. This information should be laid out as a tally in different categories. Then put the raw numbers into percentages using the total number of patient files that were gone through. An example of what this might look like is as follows:

(One hundred patient files were used for this)

Age

Under 10 – 8%

10-18 – 20%

18-35 – 30%

35-55 – 30%

55+ – 12%

Occupation

Office Worker – 15%

Business – 26%

Educator – 6%

Service Industry – 13%%

Artists – 10%

Medical – 14%

Retired – 11%

Gender

Male – 65%

Female – 35%

Location

Bonkersville – 70%

Sumner – 10%

South East Connerstown – 10%

Sheridan – 10%

Having this data will help you see exactly who you have as current patients. This data will help you target the areas that are bringing you the most business. For example, based on this data it would be valuable to send out a promotional piece that targets well-educated males in Bonkersville between the ages of 18-55.

Doing the above is not the only survey action you will do, but it is a fast and effective means of locating valuable publics for you to start targeting.

The First Step To A Successful Marketing Campaign: Research

To craft a successful marketing campaign for your practice you must first do some basic research actions that will start to isolate what your marketing plan and your promotional pieces will look like and what message they should deliver. The first step in your research is to work out what general mind-set and styles dominate your particular geographic area. Every state, city, town or area has its own mindset and styles that are unique to that place. If you have lived in the area where you practice, chances are you know the mind-set and general styles well. Additionally it is smart to check with others from the area to make sure your opinion coincides with the general consensus. If you are new to the area, ask locals as they generally have a good idea.

Some examples have been given below to give you an idea of what one might list as the mind-set and styles for their area.

Example #1:

      Mind-set: “Slow and steady pace”

 

      “Friendly”

 

      “Easy going”

 

      Style: Earthy.

 

      Lots of greens and whites used in colors.

 

    Old fashioned.

Example #2:

      Mind-set: “Efficient and Professional”

 

      “Friendly”

 

      “Straight to the point”

 

      Style: Modern and Edgy.

 

      Lots of blues used in colors.

 

    High-tech.

Next, find out what the top three practices are in your area and find out how they market themselves. Doing this will enable you to see what marketing approaches have been successful for your area. Looking at your three competitors’ websites is a good start, as well as looking in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Valpak/ADVO, etc. to see how they are marketing. Look for what words they are using to sell people, what offers they are putting forward and what their designs look like.

The next step is to isolate what successful campaigns or promotional pieces you have created and used thus far. You want to look for any promotional pieces, slogans, brochures, ads, internal marketing campaigns, discounts, and word of mouth success that resulted in notable increases in delivery. Again, look at what words were used, what offers were being put forward and what the design looked like. It is also good to look at the general demographics of your area. A good website that provides this for free is: http://www.city-data.com Gathering this data should enable you to get a good idea both of what worked for you and what works for other similar professionals in your area. It also provides you with a general idea of what people in your area like and will respond to.

This basic homework will provide you a foundation of information that can be used as you work out new marketing campaigns whether internal or external.

From the Editor

For starters, we wish to thank everyone reading our on-line magazine for the massive amount of help you provided in our continual surveying of practice owners. Our survey team was very busy last quarter calling all over the U.S. and Canada. The survey results were very interesting and helped us design the format for this issue of The Practice Solution Magazine.

Given the nature of today’s financial climate, it is not surprising that our survey team found that there is a great deal of attention on the ability of the practice to attract new patients and clients. Our surveys showed that 60% of the professionals we talked to do little or nothing to effectively market for new patients/clients. Therefore we have included in this issue several articles on marketing, with emphasis on internal marketing (rather than fancy and/or expensive advertising) and more specifically, doing effective marketing surveys to find out what your public needs and wants. Knowing the basics of marketing will help attract more new patients – something vital in these economic times.

We have also included a number of articles presenting viewpoints that we think are important for professionals to have during the economic slump we are all experiencing.

As always, we scoured the Internet newswires for profession specific articles that we thought might be of interest and use to our readers.

In the spirit of offering solutions to the everyday business of running a practice, I offer you the next issue of The Practice Solution Magazine.

Cory D. Radosevich
Managing Editor
The Practice Solution Magazine

Veterinary Medicine Contributes to New England Economy

Veterinary Medicine Contributes $3.3 Billion to New England Economy

Newswise – Veterinary medicine contributes $3.3 billion to the economies of New England-and the region faces a shortage of as many as 658 veterinarians by 2014, according to a study released today by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

The study-undertaken by the UMass Donahue Institute and commissioned by the Cummings School, the only veterinary school in the six-state New England Region-reveals that veterinarians and associated staff comprise over 20,000 jobs in the area. Moreover, for every 100 veterinary medical jobs in the region, an additional 59 jobs are created in related industries, the study indicates.

Clinical practice-providing medical services for household pets, farm and food animals, and exotic animals-represents the largest percentage ($1.1 billion, or 65 percent) of direct veterinary expenditures in New England, which total $1.72 billion. Scientific research and development-which require animal health and husbandry services to test new drugs and devices and better understand animal and human health-comprises the next-largest category, with a total of 23 percent of veterinary medicine spending and 14 percent of the industry’s total employment. Laboratory animal veterinarians are responsible for the welfare of as many as 2 million laboratory animals in New England.

The study also highlights a growing critical need for veterinarians in the region. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the study found that the region will have 1,036 vacancies for veterinarians by 2014, both through new job creation and retirement of an aging workforce. With an average of 60 percent of Cummings School graduates remaining in New England, trends suggest that 378 of the school’s graduates will enter the region’s workforce, leaving unfilled 658 new vacancies for veterinarians.

What’s more, the study suggests that the region faces a flood of retirements among food animal veterinarians. Over a quarter of the region’s more than 100 specialized food animal veterinarians will reach retirement age by 2014. With current levels of food animal graduates, the Cummings School will be positioned to replace only half of these vacancies. Overall, 43 percent of New England veterinarians are over age 50; by contrast, 56 percent of livestock veterinarians are over age 50. Until 2014, the study suggests, food animal veterinarians will retire at nearly twice the rate of their companion animal colleagues. With the critical role that food animal veterinarians play in protecting the nation’s food supply, this shortage is especially alarming.

“This study confirms the importance and economic impact of veterinary medicine in Massachusetts and New England,” said Deborah T. Kochevar, DVM, PhD, dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “Cummings School is proud to serve the citizens of this region by educating veterinary professionals, advancing biomedical research, and serving as a clinical and public health resource for animals and their owners.”

The study was supported by the Veterinary Medical Associations of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, the New England Veterinary Medical Association and InTown Veterinary Group. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., was the study’s lead industry sponsor.

“In order to best understand the health of the animals in New England, we need to understand the industry that cares for them,” said Dr. Christine Jenkins, Director of Academic Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the study’s lead industry sponsor. “This study does just that-and we hope it sheds light on the growing need for veterinarians in the workforce to ensure the care and safety of animals in the region.”

The study also revealed interesting findings in each state of New England. Among them:

  • Massachusetts has New England’s biggest veterinary scientific research and development sector, with more than 5 percent of the state’s veterinarians specializing in this area. The state is the fifth-largest in the nation for research animals registered under the Animal Welfare Act and veterinarians support the work of a vital life sciences industry in the state. With 8,000 employees statewide and a total economic impact of $1.3 billion in 2006, veterinary medicine is an essential part of the state economy.
  • In Connecticut, $83 is pumped back into the state’s economy for every $100 spent by the veterinary industry, a multiplier of 1.83. For every 100 jobs in the industry, another 55 jobs in Connecticut are supported. Connecticut boasts a total veterinary economic impact of nearly $1 billion in 2006, the second largest in the region.
  • Maine has the nation’s sixth-highest rate of pet ownership, with 70 percent of households (376,000 homes) owning one or more pets. The veterinary industry represents an economic impact of more than $290 million in the state.
  • New Hampshire residents spend the second-most in the region on veterinary clinical services per capita, at $94. The state also ranks second in median wages for veterinarians, at $78,180. Every $100 of veterinary industry spending in the state supports another $74 of economic activity in the state.
  • In Rhode Island, veterinary medicine employs an estimated 1,110 people, including 189 veterinarians. The industry invests an estimated $81 million on payroll, operating expenses and capital projects, including over $69 million in veterinary clinical practice, $5 million in scientific R&D and $6 million in academia.
  • Vermont has both the highest rate of pet ownership in the region and the nation-74.5 percent-and the region’s highest per capita spending on veterinary clinical services ($97). Additionally, the state boasts the region’s highest rate of veterinary practice ownership (52 percent of clinical practice veterinarians are self-employed).

Several leaders from the biomedical industry in Massachusetts spoke out in support of the study’s findings. “In order for the biomedical and medical device fields to continue to thrive in Massachusetts, we must maintain a very high standard for ethics and care in our research divisions,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, President and CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives. “As such, veterinarians are our greatest resource, and provide a crucial element for the growth of the biotech sector.”

“The economy of Massachusetts is intrinsically linked with the growth of the biotechnical, pharmaceutical, and medical device sectors-and without a ready supply of veterinarians to oversee the clinical trials for these industries, the growth would be stifled,” continued Thomas J. Sommer, President of MassMEDIC. “The Commonwealth has a great resource in the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine-not just as a excellent training ground for the next generation of veterinarians, but also as an economic incubator for small biomedical start-ups. This study brings the contributions of the Cummings School and of veterinarians in general to light.”

“The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is an essential resource for the Massachusetts life sciences super cluster,” said Robert Coughlin, President of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. “The close proximity of this global leader in veterinary medicine is another reason why so many companies and institutions find Massachusetts the best place in the world to do business.”

About the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals that treat more than 28,000 animals each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health. The school has secured more than $23 million in NIH funding to build a level-3 Regional Biosafety Laboratory for work with infectious disease organisms, the anchor tenant of a life sciences industrial development known as Grafton Science Park.

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