A decent start to 2019
Middling clinical volume aside, the veterinary marketplace is showing promise with canine and feline vaccines. Flea and tick? The competition is exerting influence.
Welcome to The Vetalytix Report for the first quarter of 2019. While 2018 was a positive year for many practices, fourth-quarter data suggested a mild slowing of clinical volumes through the veterinary channel.
As 2019 began, many veterinary practices were hoping to avoid the extended winter weather that impacted multiple areas of the United States in early 2018. How has 2019 started off? Let’s take a look using product consumption data made available through our partnership with Animalytix and its data platform, www.vetalytix.com.
The mid-Atlantic states experienced many challenges in 2018. Fortunately, the 2019 first-quarter data suggest positive changes in the region’s economic outlook.
Overall volume in the first quarter rose mildly — almost a half percent compared with the first quarter of 2018. Core vaccine volume for canine patients (6.4%) and feline patients (13.3%) jumped significantly compared to the growth observed nationally, 2.7% and 7.4%, respectively. The increase in vaccine volume suggests a positive outlook for wellness care in the first quarter and first half of 2019.
The challenges facing the flea and tick component of the veterinary pharmacy were well-documented throughout 2018. And while flea and tick volume decreased again in the first quarter of 2019 nationally, the Middle Atlantic region fared far better than other areas, down only 1.2% compared with the prior year.
The first quarter of 2019 saw positive economic indicators for the New England states. Throughout 2018, the Northeast United States reported below-average metrics in the Vetalytix dashboard, suggesting broader challenges in generating patient visits.
In the first quarter, overall volume (-0.6%) was slightly below the national average of essentially zero growth. However, wellness vaccine volume increased significantly compared with 2018 and with the national averages for both canine and feline patients.
Canine influenza continued to be a material issue in New England during the first quarter of 2019 as overall volume rose more than 20% compared with the first quarter of 2018.
Similar to dynamics observed in the mid-Atlantic states, negative influences on flea and tick volume were barely evident compared with the broader national decline.
The Mountain region observed positive economic changes through much of 2018, outperforming many other areas. However, the first quarter of 2019 suggests a slower start to the year.
Overall, first-quarter clinical volume (-0.4%) slightly trailed the values observed nationally (-0.1%). Wellness metrics were subpar as well: 2.0% for canines patients and 5.9% for feline patients, both below the national averages. Canine influenza volume fell by more than 20% compared with the prior year.
Values for advanced procedural volume suggest a slowdown in surgical and dental suite volume in the first quarter of 2019. While higher than the prior year, the growth observed was about half of that seen nationally.
The West Coast was another region that consistently outperformed the rest of the nation in 2018 but seems to have started 2019 slowly.
Negative effects on clinical volume were more pronounced than in other regions, down almost 4% when compared with a national average that was flat for the same period. Growth in wellness markers for both canine and feline patients trailed the rest of the country as well — up 1.1% for canine core vaccine volume and 1.7% for feline core vaccine volume. Not surprisingly, canine influenza growth was significantly contracted when compared with the broader population.
Flea and tick volume was less impacted (-6.0%) than the nationwide figure (-8.5%) when compared to the first quarter of 2018.
The Vetalytix Report utilizes change over time (growth/loss) as a foundation of the metrics reported each quarter. For the six reported categories, a reader is able to ascertain the answer to a very important question: For each reported period, did the veterinary market in my geographic area experience growth or contraction compared to the same time prior year?
Throughout 2018, we reaffirmed a consistent theme that market dynamics for veterinary medicine are very different depending on your part of the country. No two markets for veterinary medicine are identical, and as a result, practices in those markets must meet the needs of different clientele.
Data from the first quarter of 2019 suggest a possible continuation of the slowing in clinical volumes that were observed as the year came to a close. However, other categories, such as vaccine volume, showed substantial increases in many parts of the United States, suggesting that many areas that were plagued by a poor start in 2018 have not experienced the same challenges this year. Other data for categories like flea and tick reaffirm the consistent challenges veterinary practices face in a hypercompetitive marketplace.
What will the rest of 2019 be like? It will be interesting to see if the marketplace continues to gather momentum or if growth planes out. Understanding what these dynamics are, and how they might impact your business, can enable a practice to be more responsive to the unique needs of your marketplace.
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 oversees veterinary channel intelligence for Animalytix and is director of the Vetalytix Initiative.