Challenges Faced by the Veterinary Industry During the Pandemic
The veterinary industry has been faced with an unprecedented number of challenges over the last twelve months. While circumstances have changed, client expectations have not, and it was the industry’s ability to adapt that has allowed it to remain strong throughout the pandemic.
Response to Lockdown
When strict lockdown measures were introduced in March 2020, vets immediately implemented the measures needed in order to create a safe environment for employees and clients. This required a significant investment in Personal Protective Equipment as well as reducing staff numbers. This is also an industry that deals with expiring goods such as medicines at a time when product cost is increasing.
Understandably, this had a huge impact on smaller practices and specialist referral centres by reducing revenue and increasing expenses. At this point, it was crucial that vets were able to use the Job Retention Scheme and put staff on furlough as practices temporarily closed.
In order to maintain the day to day running of the practices that remained open, a wide range of operational strategies had to be implemented to enable them to provide the best care to the animals whilst still prioritising staff and client safety. The most common approach was asking clients to stay in their cars during animal examination and treatment.
Despite this being relatively straightforward to incorporate, there was an emotional toll, with staff having to cater to both the animal and owner to reduce anxiety throughout the process. Much of the work has been prioritised to emergency and essential procedures only, so staff have had to work hard to maintain the level of trust and care that clients expect.
Another operational change has been contactless collections of medication and the ability for clients to pay over the phone. By using these methods, practices have been able to streamline their services as much as possible whilst also minimising the risk of Coronavirus.
Another major challenge the sector has faced has been the increased shift to remote support. As people are being encouraged to avoid visiting practices, having the ability to assist clients online has been the industry’s single most valuable adaptation yet.
Online consultations can be limited by client access and usability of the internet, however, with the right assistance, it can be an extremely effective and efficient way to assist pet owners. One company to establish itself as an industry leader in this field has been Vet on the Net, who have made the process user-friendly with consultations and advice, as well as a virtual pharmacy with a delivery service.
Remote support has proven to be a been a great way to provide advice to pet owners stress-free at a time when practices might not be able to deal with non-emergencies.
The last year has presented some difficult challenges for the veterinary industry, but with responsive and innovative adaptations, it has been able to recover well and is forecast to experience continued growth.