The Business of Practice: Changing the Equine Practice Business Model
In this episode, Dr. Andy Clark discusses the perils of discounting for equine practices.
stethoscope money
Equine practice has a discounting problem.
Dr. Andy Clark said equine practice is losing a talent war, and it can only be solved with money, which must come from the client. | Getty Images

In this episode, Andy Clark, DVM, MBA, spoke about his recent opinion piece published online in EquiManagement, in which he wrote about the inflection point he believes equine veterinary medicine is currently facing.

When asked what inspired him to write the piece, Clark said his personal mission is “to make a difference.” He feels strongly that equine practice financial sustainability has deteriorated substantially in recent years and requires a major change in business model. 

Discounting in Equine Practice

Prior to sustaining a life-threatening injury at work that necessitated a career change to business management, Clark was an equine practitioner who specialized in sports medicine. Early in the podcast, he relayed an important financial lesson he learned from his amazing technician, Trish McDonald. After he performed a medical progress examination on a horse, McDonald asked what to charge as she prepared the invoice. Clark replied, “Nothing. He’s a friend.” McDonald immediately exclaimed, “So you PAY him to be your friend?” This was a pivotal moment in his business and marked the end of discounting, he explained. “Discounting is a huge issue for us in equine veterinary medicine,” said Clark. 

In his op-ed piece, Clark wrote, “Somehow equine veterinarians have accepted the responsibility to subsidize horse hobbies and horse businesses that horse owners cannot afford.” In the podcast episode, Clark offered advice to practitioners who need to introduce changes to their fee structures.“There’s a lot of emotion and anxiety in this discussion,” he said. “We largely became equine practitioners because of our passion for horses. It is painful for us to accept that the responsibility for people choosing an expensive hobby that they cannot afford does not rest with us.”  

Clark continued by pointing out that many equine veterinarians look at the total invoice amount and think, “That’s too high!” They then discount the total. If the veterinarian looks at each line item, they will see that the fees are reasonable, but they often have an emotional and compassionate response to the sum of the services, he explained. 

The Equine Practice Talent War

“Equine practice is losing a talent war,” Clark said, naming compensation, emergency duty, and practice culture as the main culprits. “This can’t be solved with good intentions. It must be solved with money, and the only source of money is the client.”

Clark said that resistance to needed change comes from several sources. Most of the resistance comes from the veterinarians themselves, followed by staff. Clark said clients are usually least resistant to fee changes. “There is no magic bean!” he said. Necessary change will be difficult and emotional, and it will cause fear. It is necessary to build the change before implementing it. The veterinarians and staff must all understand and be on board before change can be implemented, he concluded. 

You can read Clark’s op-ed piece here

About Dr. Andy Clark

Andy Clark, DVM, MBA, serves as an advisor to equine veterinary businesses. His focus is to bring clarity to the business of equine practice. Clark has owned a one-doctor practice out of a garage as well as a regional referral hospital. Two decades into his successful career as an equine practitioner, he had a nearly fatal work injury and returned to school for an MBA. In a consulting/advisory role, he has served as:

  • CEO of Avanti Equine Veterinary Partners
  • Interim CEO of the AVMA Professional Liability Insurance Trust (PLIT) 
  • CEO of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute 
  • Virtual CEO of dozens of equine practices
  • Facilitator of 3 Veterinary Management Groups (VMGs)
  • Advisor to 200+ equine veterinary practices 
  • Advisor to 15 companies providing services and products to equine veterinary medicine
  • Advisor/Consultant to three colleges of veterinary medicine 

Disclaimer from sponsor: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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