Editorial: April 21, 2023
Can it be that many years ago that when you needed your veterinarian you called him on your land line and were told to come to the office right away? He knew you by name, knew your dog’s name and even inquired about your family. On those rare occasions when you couldn't get to the office, he would make a home visit as soon as office hours were over. That was pretty much the make-up of the local vet office, one or two doctors who lived in the neighborhood. As the pet population grew, so did the practices with larger staffs to accommodate that growing clientele. This was beneficial to the client, as there was always someone on call, maybe not the original doctor but one who was on staff. The surroundings were familiar and all your dogs’ records were kept there. Then another form of medical care came along: the emergency clinics (where you credit-card information was equally as important as the reason you were there). You could bring your sick dog in at midnight and were told to pick him up in the morning and bring him to your regular vet’s office. While expensive for you, this allowed your regular veterinary office staff to keep regular business hours, regardless of how many vets were in the practice. Love them or hate them, emergency clinics are now the status quo of veterinary care. Another major change: Large corporations are buying up small local practices for large sums of money, offering a work contract to the owner of the practice to keep the same staff for continuity. The cost to the client from this new corporate umbrella ownership most likely raise prices. Then the pandemic hit, which introduced new protocols. Appointments had to be made, waiting in the parking lot of the vet’s office was the norm. You called when you arrived, and an assistant would come outside to collect your dog. Having to isolate yourself, telemedicine … It’s not an ideal alternative for all scenarios, but it does help with certain illnesses. Some states have lessened the rules about telemedicine for treating an animal. But now the newest and most expensive care is gaining ground with veterinarians. It was only a matter of time, following the unique service provided in human medical care and another sign of the times: concierge veterinary care. Modeled after concierge medical care for humans, you pay a yearly fee, and the number of patients is limited to ensure availability when you need help and the veterinarian is available 24/7. It’s a long way from the neighborhood veterinary office to corporate ownership, emergency clinics, video calls, Zoom calls and now concierge care. Who knows what will be next?