Business , Columns

2019 was a pretty good year

Veterinary practices administered more vaccines than in 2018, although sales of flea and tick preventives suffered in the face of a competitive over-the-counter market.

2019 was a pretty good year

Welcome to The Vetalytix Report for the fourth quarter of 2019. In the tables that follow, we shed light on the unique economic characteristics of U.S. geographic markets and reaffirm a consistent theme that veterinary practices serving those markets face unique challenges. For a practice leader to think strategically, measure objectively and thrive in today’s hypercompetitive environment, it’s critical to understand that “normal” is defined within each geographic backyard.

As we report fourth-quarter data, we’re able to look at 2019 as a whole and evaluate how different regions fared. As we’ve reported in prior reports, different parts of the country experience various levels of seasonality within individual quarters. In reviewing the entire year, the reader can put all the pieces together and view a final scorecard.

New EnglandMiddle AtlanticSouth AtlanticEast North CentralWest North CentralEast South CentralWest South CentralMountainPacificNationalUS mapHow to Read the Data

The Vetalytix Report highlights the change in volume for seven keystone areas of clinical practice. The percentages represent the increase or decrease in overall volume when compared with the same period of the prior year.

Conclusions

On the whole, the data suggests that 2019 was a very solid year for veterinary economics. A few observations:

  • Overall volume: Fourth-quarter growth compared with the same period a year earlier was positive in all regions, varying between a low of 2.5% to a high of 5.6%. For the full year, overall growth was positive in all regions, with the average region experiencing growth approaching 5% compared with 2018.
  • Vaccine volume: As is frequently observed as a year closes, core vaccine volume slowed in the fourth quarter. However, the slowdown should not mask the materially positive growth observed in both canine and feline core vaccine growth through all of 2019. On average, canine core vaccine volume grew by more than 3% compared with the prior year. For the first time in more than two years, feline core vaccine volume showed positive growth, averaging almost a 6% increase compared with 2018. Both of these values suggest positive economic trends for preventive care caseload volume.
  • Procedural volume and the surgical suite: A traditionally declining metric, growth in the surgical suite was another very positive outcome of 2019. Nationally, surgical suite volume experienced 7% growth (and positive growth in all regions) compared with 2018, reversing a long string of loss in procedural activity. This is another positive metric to carry into 2020.
  • Flea and tick volume: Flea and tick preventive dispensing represents one of the most hypercompetitive elements of clinical practice; that’s not a secret. Nationwide, overall dose volumes through this unique Vetalytix dataset suggest a decline of 9% compared with 2018, with some regions exhibiting greater losses.

Although we’re sometimes bombarded with reports of an impending recession, 2019 was a very good year for companion animal veterinary medicine. From continued growth in overall volume and canine caseload, to recoveries in feline volume and the surgical suite, the past year shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than positive.

What will 2020 hold for veterinary medicine? Let’s wait and see.

Vetalytix is the industry’s largest repository of localized economic insight, regulatory compliance and pharmacy support tools, all of which are designed to help the standalone veterinary practice compete in today’s economy. Vetalytix is sponsored by the NAVC, Today’s Veterinary Business and numerous stakeholders in animal health distribution and manufacturing. Vetalytix pairs aggregated companion animal sales information with an active practice owner to uncover insights to change the way they operate. The more access owners have to the market around them, the better they can meet the needs of their clients and patients. For detailed information about your local market, visit www.vetalytix.com.

Dr. Travis Meredith is a senior business adviser for Animalytix and director of the Vetalytix Initiative.

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