Consumer Reports Twenty ways to reduce VET cost

Electronic medical records (EMRs) hold great promise for improving the practice of evidence based medicine by facilitating communication between members of the health care team. The most profound influence of EMRs may lie in their ability to encourage clients' involvement in their own pets care.

Consumer Reports Twenty ways to reduce VET cost

Postby guest » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:39 pm

(In Consumer reports. volume 68 No. 7 July 2003.

1. Pay vet bills of $50 or more by credit card. that gives you federal fair
billing act rights to dispute a bill for unsatisfactory service, which you
don't otherwise have.
2. Choose a vet before you need one. Ask for price quotes for annual exams
plus non-routine big-ticket items, such as repair of broken limbs, surgery
rate per hour, and gastrotomy.
3. Ask for discounts. More than 60 percent of vets cut the cost of annual
checkups if you bring 3 or more pets: nearly half offer a 10 percent
discount for senior citizens.
4. Talk to your vet about giving booster shots every 3 years instead of
5. check for prices for shots and spay/neuter services at a humane society
or SPCA, which can be less expensive than a vet. Some also provide free or
low-cost services to low-income and senior-citizen pet owners.
6. Keep copies of all itemized bills and health records in one folder so you
can easily change vets if necessary.
7. If you must use a higher-priced emergency veterinary hospital after
hours, schedule the follow up visits with your regular vet during business
8. get a second opinion before approving pricey treatments.
9. Research pet disorders and consult a good pet-health care reference. The
detailed Merck Veterinary manual is free on line at

10. Ask for a written prescription from your vet so you can shop for the
best price.
11. Shop for pet drugs at regular pharmacies, which often beat vet prices.
But don't dispense drugs from your medicine cabinet without consulting your
vet. Ibuprofen can kill a dog; acetaminophen, a cat.
12. Ask your vet to prescribe a generic drug when possible. And buy in bulk
drugs that you will be refilling in long term.


13. Get a cat. They are fewer serious health problems and genetic diseases
than dogs.
14. Exercise your pet, and don't over feed it.
15. To fight tartar and plaque, buy dry cat or dog food or specially
formulated treats. Check teeth for fractures and gums for bleeding. Treat
dental disorders so bacteria don't spread and cause bigger problems.
16. Keep pets fenced or leashed when outdoors to prevent them from getting
hit by a car.
17. Store Drugs and chemicals out of your pet's reach.
18. Ask your vet about giving your pet heartworm drugs.
19. Use a flea and tick product.
20. Choose your breed and breeder carefully to reduce the risk of genetic

VIN vet only forum poll for Consumer Reports vet article

Postby guest » Fri Oct 03, 2003 8:20 am

Front Page : Library : Survey Main
Current Results for Consumer Reports, July 2003
1. How did you first hear about this Consumer Reports (CR) article?
a. I discovered it when reading CR this month
17.4 % (61 of 349)
b. A non-veterinary medical friend
1.7 % (6 of 349)
c. A colleague
21.7 % (76 of 349)
d. A client
2.2 % (8 of 349)
e. A relative
4.5 % (16 of 349)
f. VIN
43.2 % (151 of 349)
g. This survey is my first exposure to the article
0 % (0 of 349)
h. Other
7.1 % (25 of 349)
Not Answered
1.7 % (6 of 349)

2. What is the main message(s) you believe the article communicates to pet owners (check all that apply)
a. Become an informed consumer, do your homework, discuss the options carefully with a veterinarian, get second opinions, and think preventive care.
24.9 % (87 of 349)
b. Veterinary care is a commodity that you should shop and purchase at the lowest available price
79.9 % (279 of 349)
c. Veterinary care is an expert service that you should select and purchase based upon quality and service
1.1 % (4 of 349)
d. Veterinary care is inexpensive compared to human healthcare
1.7 % (6 of 349)
e. Veterinary care is expensive compared to human healthcare
15.1 % (53 of 349)
f. Veterinary care is a good value
0.5 % (2 of 349)
g. Veterinary care is a poor value
34.9 % (122 of 349)
h. I don't know, I have not read the entire article.
11.4 % (40 of 349)
i. None of the above
0.5 % (2 of 349)

3. Have any of your clients asked you about the CR article?
a. Yes, and most agreed with the article's message
1.7 % (6 of 349)
b. Yes, and most disagreed with the article's message
4.5 % (16 of 349)
c. Yes, and the reaction has been very mixed
6 % (21 of 349)
d. No
85.1 % (297 of 349)
Not Answered
2.5 % (9 of 349)

4. In your opinion, do most veterinary practices charge appropriately for the medical and surgical services they perform?
a. Yes, fees are currently appropriate
26.3 % (92 of 349)
b. No, fees are currently too high
0.5 % (2 of 349)
c. No, fees are currently too low
70.7 % (247 of 349)
Not Answered
2.2 % (8 of 349)

5. In your opinion, do most veterinary practices charge appropriately for the products they dispense?
a. Yes, fees are currently appropriate
69.9 % (244 of 349)
b. No, fees are currently too high
9.7 % (34 of 349)
c. No, fees are currently too low
17.7 % (62 of 349)
Not Answered
2.5 % (9 of 349)

6. In your opinion, does your practice charge appropriately for the medical and surgical services it performs?
a. Yes, fees are currently appropriate
48.4 % (169 of 349)
b. No, fees are currently too high
1.7 % (6 of 349)
c. No, fees are currently too low
47.5 % (166 of 349)
Not Answered
2.2 % (8 of 349)

7. In your opinion, does your veterinary practice charge appropriately for the products it dispenses?
a. Yes, fees are currently appropriate
77.9 % (272 of 349)
b. No, fees are currently too high
8 % (28 of 349)
c. No, fees are currently too low
10.6 % (37 of 349)
Not Answered
3.4 % (12 of 349)

8. Do you provide written prescriptions to clients who wish to purchase medications elsewhere?
a. Yes, if client asks, and for a fee.
8.8 % (31 of 349)
b. Yes, if client asks, and without a fee charged.
72.4 % (253 of 349)
c. Yes, automatically to all clients, and for a fee.
0.2 % (1 of 349)
d. Yes, automatically to all clients, and without a fee charged.
3.4 % (12 of 349)
e. No, but I will match prices.
5.7 % (20 of 349)
f. No, but I discuss the issues of comparison shopping.
3.4 % (12 of 349)
g. No.
3.4 % (12 of 349)
Not Answered
2.2 % (8 of 349)

9. In general, do veterinarians charge more for products they dispense than online or local pharmacies charge?
a. Yes
35.8 % (125 of 349)
b. No
14.3 % (50 of 349)
c. Sometimes.
45.8 % (160 of 349)
Not Answered
4 % (14 of 349)

10. Please comment further on the above question if wish
(1) As with most mail order services, if you purchase in bulk, the price goes down and the shipping is usually free or cheaper. Some clients purchase in this quantity and get products cheaper. Most pay more if just purchasing for one pet at a time, in my opinion.
(2) By the time shipping is added there is not usually much of a difference as a whole, unless the client is buying in bulk. Often there are coupons available too that is not taken into account when price shopping.
(3) Clients I have spoken with who have tried on-line pharmacies have found that what looked cheaper was actually more expensive when they got the products and saw the shipping and handling charges.
(4) consumers don't realize what shipping and handling adds to the price of the products they see online
(5) Cost to maintain inventory/pharmacy, provide convenience of getting medication right at the clinic and the professional information provided by the veterinarian prescribing the drugs- liability etc.
(6) Depends on the drug and the pharmacy. Most small clinics cannot compete with the purchasing power of a large corporation.
(7) For some products the on-line pharmacies are able to charge considerably less by purchasing products outside the US and illegally importing them. But for many products by the time the client pays shipping they only save a few dollars, but are risking the health of their pet by using illegally imported products.
(8) getting prescriptions filled through us cost more because we pay more than the large national pharmacies or on-line companies - the customer in turn pays more for the convenience of getting their medications here
(9) Heartworm prevention and flea control are priced about the same when taking shipping into account. Other chronically-given medications are often cheaper online.
(10) Heartworm preventives are slightly more at a vet, while flea and tick products are comparable, especially when shipping is taken into account. Some antibiotics (like the very basic Amoxicillin) may be less expensive at a local pharmacy, especially in a large dog.
(11) Hopefully one day we won't have to be a pharmacy too. I would rather write scripts. We wouldn't have to invest in a lot of stock and not worry if we have the drug or have to go to a second choice/back-up drug.
(12) I believe in the 4-star room service model for my product sales. If you want the convenience of buying it while you are here it will cost a bit more. Just like the difference between ordering a meal from room service vs. the same meal at a restaurant down the street
(13) I did read the article or exerpts published online. It seemed to be a rather derogatory article. I do however feel that some of the magazines that I read have rather offensive marketing ideas (at least to me). I can see how some people might get the wrong idea about vets. have not read the article in its entirety but
(14) I do consultations and do not actually dispense any products, nor do I write prescriptions, since I don't have a valid client-patient relationship. Since I talk to clinicians all across the country, I do know that fees vary widely.
(15) I don't base my prices on online pharmacies
(16) I don't know - we don't have a lot of clients using online pharmacies that i know of yet.
(17) I have checked my prices against PetMedExpress and our prices beat or matched theirs without adjustment.
(18) I have not answered question 9 because I am in Canada, where veterinary internet pharmacies are not rampant (or are non-existant), plus our practice is exclusively 24 hour emergency and critical care, so dispense fewer prescriptions. Re question 8, we fit into a different category. We keep routine dispensed drugs on-site; however save shelf space by scripting out most of the less-frequently dispensed drugs such as oxycodone. (We have 24 hour pharmacies nearby) So the clients are often not in the decision-making process. And the drugs are not chronically given, so we do not have the problem of refills.
(19) I have noted that many of these online pharmacies charge less than my cost
(20) I initially supported on-line pharmacies feeling that clients may save money on pet care. Lately our clinic has adopted the policy of adising clients of known procurement policies of these pharmacies, pending lawsuits, and generally decline filling those prescriptions. We are however glad to fill prescriptions through local pharmacies, and have very good relationships with some in our area, especially compounding pharmacies.
(21) I think it is obvious that veterinarians will charge more for products. When suppliers are able to provide drugs to large drug-houses for 1/2 to 2/3 the price we pay before mark-up, it is sometimes difficult to mark-up without looking like we are gouging the general public.
(22) I think it offensive that any consumers feel that we are veterinarians are not entitled to the same quality of life that human physicians achieve. Yet we are held to more difficult standards: we have patients that can't talk to us, have to perform above the medical and surgical levels of general practioner physicians, and work longer hours. Do these people actually realize how much they spend for health insurance every month and what they receive in return? No, because most don't actually write that check; they only see health insurance as a benefit. IF they actually paid for their own health insurance, they would become just as demanding of the human medical profession. They would not tolerate the $5 aspirin tablet.
(23) I think matching prices to those clients who shop around is WRONG. We are giving the less loyal clients a better price than our loyal clients.if people want to shop around for a product that can be purchased and stored by someone with less overhead, more power to them. Good clients will stick with you. some may be forced to buy certain medications at a lesser price to be able to treat their pet.; we should encourage treatment of the pet regardless of where the medication is purchased. With proprer follow up and rechecks, we will sustain our practices. And with good faith aid to help clients if finances are tight (easily allowing them to purchase meds elsewhere) you will retain many of these clients
(24) I think most products are competitively priced.
(25) I think online / catalog pharmacies are often cheaper on price shopped items such as heartworm & flea preventives, but other medications may be more expensive, especially if ordered in small quantities
(26) I think the days of a 300 to 400% markup on heartworm preventatives is over
(27) I think you have to account for shipping and handling and the hope that medication is handled properly. For example shipped under refrigeration. If not properly shipped, medication may be ineffective and thus a waste of money.
(28) I wish we could charge prices comparable to on online or local independent pharmacy. I explain to clients that we do not buy in bulk, are independent and not part of a large chain, therefore for convenience and accuracy want to provide them with medication for their pets but must charge more. I will provide written presciptions when asked or if the client has a financial hardship and cannot afford our medication. Many people prefer the convenience. When I worked in corporate practice where the prices could have been lower, they weren't! Perhaps that was wrong!
(29) I've seen some products on the internet priced at nearly the same as my wholesale price.
(30) In general i feel that vets charge appropriately for service and products, but i have seen vaccines grossly overcharged and over used, and i think the public sees this practice and assumes that all other services/products are aritficially high too. The general public associates vets with vaccs; we need to move away from that association by charging vaccines appropriately
(31) In general we have found that at our practice, clients who attempt to purchase medications from the online pharmacies will find a)the price at the online pharmacy is more expensive; b)they will match our price if told by the client that ours is lower; c) they claim to stand behind the product but will not provide a written guarantee to our client that they will provide the pet with care if it were to become positive for heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, or whipworm as Merial will; With this information and the argument that our client is taking jobs and money away from the local economy by supporting these online pharmacies, we have been able to convert potential online buyers to in-clinic buyers. However, I often wonder if the time spent making these conversions is worth the investment (one of my senior receptionist staff routinely calls every client who submits a request via a prescription authorization to explain why we will not authorize the prescription).
(32) In order to give the client the service they deserve, the hospital must maintain a markup that supports the hospital.
(33) In some cases, local pharmacies can carry prescription drugs at a lessor charge simply because they can purchase those drugs in larger quantities, so it becomes difficult to compete. More times, most prescription prices are pretty close.
(34) It costs veterinarians in general more money to buy these products, because they do not buy in bulk. They have to stock them, and then dispense them using technicians or veterinarians.
(35) It is only appropriate that we charge more since we cannot hope to obtain the products for the same prices as larger buyers such as this get. Plus there is value added since the client receives professional advice on appropriate usage of the products and assistance if there are unexpected outcomes with their use
(36) Local pharmacies often have loss leaders, we do not. Also, for small amounts of generic tablets pharmacy fees are often less than our minimum prescription fee.
(37) Many online pharmacies advertise a lower price, but do not include the S/H costs, which often bring the price above that of most veterinary clinics. Some larger chain pharmacies are cheaper since they can buy in bulk - I do not hesitate to send clients there for long-term medications.
(38) My experience with #9 is zero so no personal opinion
(39) My pricing structure is such that drug costs are higher than the pharmacy but dispensing fee is smaller. Therefore I tell my clients that for most short term treatments it is less expensive and more convenient to buy it from the clinic, long term treatment is less expensive from the pharmacy. I have no problem with this.
(40) Not necessarily more per pill, but we often offer less tablets at a time than bulk retailers do, so the client saves the dispensing fee. The pharmacies have the advantage, too, that someone (the dr) has already figured the dosage for that patient, and is responsible for monitoring, etc. The pharmacist needs only to fill the correct medication at the correct prescribed dosage, and watch for drug interactions. Obviously less time involoved than when we fill it.
(41) Not unlike any service, the client is paying more for the ease of immediate Rx fill and 1 stop shopping.
(42) Obviously we are not able to buy in the bulk that large distributors are able to and so do not get the same volume discounts.
(43) Often times the differences in price are negligible, and except for HW preventative and flea products the wait for shipping can be of serious consequence
(44) Online pharmacies have an advantage over us because they can obtain at bulk prices. We should learn to get our income from our services, not products we sell.
(45) Our prices are competetive with, and in some cases, cheaper than PME. All that advertising can't be inexpensive!
(46) Our prices are higher as we do not buy in bulk quantities as pharmacies do.
(47) Our prices are often highly than online products, but where is the quality control for the online products. I am completely comfortable dispensing the drugs from my hospital, as I know that they are what they are labeled as and are not expired.
(48) Our prices tend to be less then those on line pharmacies.
(49) Petmed express is too cheap for us to compete with
(50) Pfizer offers a free dose with a 3 pack or 6 pack of Revolution which PME does not. This usually makes our price lower than theirs.
(51) Prescriptions are always given for medication we do not carry at the hospital and I am happy to write a script but for pharmacies such as Pet Med and others I am very cautious.
(52) Question 9 is to broad of a statement ("In general") - I can only answer for my practice. The question is also sort of "stupid" - if we weren't charging differently (presumably higher since we provide the "technical bakground" for the medication and the other places may not) then why would we be receiving faxes from Florida on a frequent basis. However, there is the issue of do veterinary facilities have a "legal" right to dispense meds since that would make the facility a "pharmacy" and last I checked I don't have a license from the state pharmacy board, only from the Vet Med Board/Examiners. The only way to truely stop this issue is to convey to the public our "worth and value" of the services that are provided. Although we are a "service orientated" business (unlike human medicine - you feel lucky if the wait for your appointment is less than 4 weeks and that you are in the waiting room <1 hr, etc) too many practices establish business hours/appointment protocols that make us loo
(53) Question 9 shouldn't have lumped on line pharmacies and local pharmacies. Online it depends on the product, yes for heartworm and flea meds. Maybe not for antibiotics etc. I don't know what local pharmacies charge for anything. They have a much lower overhead than my offie.
(54) Shipping and handling may increase the price of small quantity items from the online pharmacies. Local pharmacies cannot dispense "veterinary-only" products.
(55) Some amount more seems appropriate for the convenience and also because a practice can not purchase in volume (comparatively)
(56) some products may seem more expensive, but if you include the rebates from the manufacturers as well as the guarantees (ie for Interceptor) and free doses (Advantage), it is a better value
(57) sometimes but I feel that is becuse we do not have access to some of the same generic drugs. Also because the can charge moer for other products ie toys candy.
(58) The cr article was written by people who clearly do not understand veterinary medicine. Their perspective on medical problems displays a ignorance that is likely impervious to other points of view. I feel that the AVMA's and AAHA's response has been appropriately tempered by subdued contempt and patience. Time, common sense and the continued striving for quality of graduates and practice will help defeat this publication's insulting representation of our profession.
(59) The prices vary. I have found that some drugs are cheaper on-line or at a pharmacy while others are not. PetMed, when they honestly add their shipping charges, normally sells for a higher price than at our clinic. At in-town pharmacies, some prices are far higher, while others are much lower.
(60) The same or less as most pharmacies and more the online pharmacies
(61) There was a small attempt to make a balanced evaluation by the author. The ecomonmics of Vet practice are beyond the interest and comprehension of the public. The part on vaccines was appropriate and perhaps understated.I feel strongly that Veterinary Medicine is overall one of the best values in America today.
(62) These companies seem to have loss leaders like grocery stores. Something at low prices to get you in and them higher prices on impulse items, less frequently purchased items, and foods.
(63) this "savings" is often negated by shipping fees
(64) This article did contain a positive message approving of annual physical exams and early intervention for medical/surgical problems but the overall tone was cynical. The case histories they presented had unusually high fees for the procedures described (I'm sure there were complications that were not mentioned in the brief reference). It's a shame the article wasn't more balanced by providing a few references to the bargains veterinary medicine offers (I couldn't get an MRI with anesthesia administered by a boarded anesthesiologist for anywhere near $850 but my clients pets can!)
(65) This article points out the misplaced charges that veterinarians charge for services. We do not charge for our expertise, knowledge and recommendations. To take a example from our friends the lawyers, we would be outraged if a lawyer charged us $10 for copying a piece of paper but accept $250-500 per hour consultation-research fees. We charge $15, $18 even $25 for a product that costs us 50 cents (vaccines) in order to charge a low exam or consultation fee. We as a profession have our priorities and self-image all wrong. We are not technicians pushing vaccines, flea products and heartworm preventatives. We are highly educated health professionals that absolutely should charge for our experience and opinions. The article is not remarkable for its "slant" or bias against veterinarians but rather for its tardiness in criticizing the profession for its pricing policies.
(66) This article sounds like it was written by a disgruntled client.
(67) This is appropriate for veterinarians.
(68) This varies with the drug involved. The very low cost products like prednisone or phenobarbital are often priced higher than local pharmacies. THe online services have artificially lower prices and make up for this in volume.
(69) Veterinarians are competitive with local pharmacies and provide much better customer service/consultation than internet pharmacies.
(70) Veterinarians may sometimes charge more for pharmaceutical products than online or local pharmacies, but we are also able to provide more service when dispensing that product compared to them. Pharmacies do not have personnel trained to answer questions about pharmaceuticals used in veterinary medicine, or how they act differently in the animal compared to a human. We also generally have higher costs in purchasing drugs since we usually do not purchase in the bulk quanitities that pharmacies do. The veterinary office will also carry products not readily available at a local pharmace if the drug is not used regularly in human medicine.
(71) Veterinarians provide the time or the people to intellegently discuss the pets needs and fit the appropriate medication or product to the needs. People are the biggest cost of veterinary medical care and they increase cost over the "Buy It Now Button" on a web site.
(72) veterinarians usually charge more for the products but do not charge shipping/handlingl, which often makes the total price higher than at a veterinary hosp. we also give personal advice with the products, which is worth $ also.
(73) We are a large 12-doctor practice, so we get good discounts on most products, so our prices are comparable or often times better than on-line.
(74) We are actually lower when considering that Bayer, Pfizer and Merial provide a free dose of flea product when buying six doses.
(75) we are getting out of the pharmacy business altogether. It was always maintained as a convenience to the client. It is too labor intensive tobe a profit center. If the clients now view it as a rip-off, it is no longer a convenince.
(76) We are retail not wholesale. We have higher overhead.
(77) We can't beat the prices on the most popular products like Heartgard and Frontline, but as for actual medications we beat them hands down.
(78) We cannot compete with online pharmacies simply due to the volume discounts they receive from wholesalers
(79) We chatge appropriate markup for what we do-inventory coverage, time it takes to place and process orders, and conveinence as well.
(80) We consistently charge less than petmed, so when my clients here their ad they are being lied to.
(81) We did an extensive cost comparison for online products and found that most often our cost to the client was lower, especially when adding shipping charge. Most clients don't even bother to ask us, they just automatically assume our cost will be more expensive.
(82) We don't typically have the buying power of large pharmacies so we can't always compete in price, but we offer value added services by being available to discuss the products.
(83) We double the cost of Advantage and Frontline. 1 800 petmeds is more expensive than our charges before they add shipping and handling.
(84) We have to because probably most vets don't purchase large volumes of products to get discounts, so we end up paying more for small amounts of products than online or local pharmacies do for large quantities.
(85) We mark up products sometimes we are higher than a pharmacy but often less.. We let the client use a pharmacy if they choose... but we do not like doing business with Pet Med Express..
(86) We provide these products for convenience, not as a profit making entity. Our money should be in the medicine we practice. If the client wants convenience and is willing to pay for it, great. If not, I happily write them an Rx and they can find somewhere else to buy it.
(87) We tend to be very competitve with the online pharmacies but owners see their ads and beleive what the ad says with out checking for themselves
(88) we will match on line prices if a current client wishes to purchase them other than from our clinic. we do not encourage or publicise this.
(89) We're charged more by the manufacturer. I'm charged more by the manufacturer than the local co-op charges to sell to my clients. I can buy it from the co-op cheaper for my use than I can from the drug company.
(90) When these products are dispensed from a veterinarian, the client receives our professional advice and expertise within the same fee as well as a guarantee from the manufacturer of that product. On-line purchases do not come with a professional conversation or consultation and are not always guaranteed by the companies that produce them. The advice and professional consultation warrant an increased fee when these items are bought within a veterinarian's office.
(91) Yes, we have to charge more than a Pet Med Warehouse we are a full service hospital.

11. What percent of your veterinary practice income is derived from pharmaceutical, retail, and OTC products?
a. 1-10%
18.3 % (64 of 349)
b. 11-29%
56.7 % (198 of 349)
c. 30-39%
7.4 % (26 of 349)
d. More than 40%
0.5 % (2 of 349)
e. None. I do not sell any pharmaceuticals or OTC products.
2.8 % (10 of 349)
Not Answered
14 % (49 of 349)

12. What percent of your veterinary practice income is derived from commonly-shopped services (vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc.)?
a. 1-10%
14.6 % (51 of 349)
b. 11-29%
37.2 % (130 of 349)
c. 30-39%
19.7 % (69 of 349)
d. More then 40%
9.7 % (34 of 349)
e. None. I do not perform those services.
6.5 % (23 of 349)
Not Answered
12 % (42 of 349)

13. Do you commonly encourage your clients to get a second opinion about your recommendations?
a. Yes
27.2 % (95 of 349)
b. No
17.4 % (61 of 349)
c. Sometimes
52.4 % (183 of 349)
Not Answered
2.8 % (10 of 349)

14. Please comment further on the above question if you wish.
(1) Any complicated medical case; all orthopedics, non-routine ophthalmology and cardiac
(2) As a hospital, we recommend that clients go to a specialist for advanced procedures that are not performed in our hospital. If a client expresses a desire for a second opinion, we have no problem allowing the client to do so.
(3) As a specialist, I usually AM the second opinion.
(5) Commonly recommend referal to specialists for second opinions. Hardly ever to non-specialist
(6) Especially true when a recurrent problem is not responding to therapy... generally I wait until the second or third reoccurance to bring it up.
(7) For complicated procedures or major surgery/oncology situations
(8) For difficult or non responding cases,we frequently recommend referral specialists.
(9) For unusual cases, complicated cases, etc. we always discuss referral to a specialist.
(10) Generally, if I am stumpted or if the client is clearly not happy, I'm more than happy to have someone else give their opinion. More times than not, I'm going to learn from the 2nd opinion...either how to more effectively communicate with my client or what other differentials for the problem may be and how to approach it.
(11) I advise them to seek a second opinion if they are feeling uncomfortable with our progress. I frequently refer to specialists for those cases that need diagnostics and care I cant provide.
(12) I always give the person the option of a specialist if I feel it is warranted (often for complicated surgeries, oncologic cases) and refer a case on average of at least once a month. We also have a board certified radiologist that reads films for us at no charge to the client, once every 2 weeks and I routinely have him look at about 1/3 to 1/2 of my radiographs. I am not very well versed on what % of the practice income is generated from services vs. products so I was just guessing on the above questions.
(13) I always make sure that clients know that I have readily available referral services whenever I feel that we can get more information about a case
(14) I always make them aware of the possibility of referral to the veterinary school that is just 10 minutes' drive from our clinic.
(15) I always offer clients several options on their pet's treatment. Ranges go from low cost "shot-gun" approach to mid range to offering everything possible and where to go to get it. I also say which treatment I would personally recommend if it were my pet.
(16) I always offer referrals to specialist and ask opinions of my in house associates
(17) I am a specialist - so they are already getting a second (or third or fourth) opinion from me.
(18) I am a specialist so I am often the second opinion.
(19) I certainly don't discourage it when asked, but I don't necessarily bring it up. I have offered to ask experts more than once to make someone feel more secure about a choice they are making, and in that sense they get a second opinion through me.
(20) I discuss all the options with a client in a serious situation. If a second opinion is an option I mention I also tell them it should be an expert second opinion. If they ask me I tell them I welcome a second opinion. If the animal is really ill I warn them about the time factor involved in getting a second opinion and what delay of treatment might do to their animal. If they totally reject everything I say I have them sign a waiver that they are going against my best medical judgement.... often that causes them to rethink their attitude.
(21) I do not encourage, but I certainly do not discourage or become offended if a second opinion is sought.
(22) I do think our profession lacks dignity on this issue. I've had discussions on VIN with a good number of practitioners who don't seem to feel that routine offer of referral is a good idea. I think this is shameful.
(23) I don't know the answer to 11 and 12 as I am an associate.
(24) I encourage second opinions on difficult to resolve cases but direct my clients to a specialist rather than another general practioner.
(25) I give client an estimate, if they feel it's too much, I suggest they check around.
(26) I live in a community with only one speialist, an opthalmologist. She is available with a 4 week waiting period. I am happy to have people get other opinions, but I find it is usually when we have a lot invested and things are not going well.
(27) I live ina large city and there are many boarded specialists around. I very frequently refer to an appropriate specialist. Or encourage my clients to get an opinion from o
(28) I may get a second opinion from another vet within the practice, even without informing the client before I do so.
(29) I often discuss the advantage of a built-in second opinion when I consult with the other doctors in our hospital or use VIN or a university consult.
(30) I often refer to a specialty practice when I don't have the equipment needed for further diagnostics.
(31) I often will refer to a specialist, but would not recommend someone shop another general practitioner. I would, however, gladdly send records at the owners request.
(32) I refer if problem not resolving with my abilities or if I do not have the diagnostic equipment recommended (u/s, endos). We have many specialists within 30 min drive.
(33) I tell clients I would like to refer to specialists occasionally and do so. I call specialists and enlist those on VIN. I have a computer by my exam tables so I can access VIN while the client is standing there, and then they and I can read info.
(34) I tend to refer cases to a specialist for second opinions rather than recommend another general practitioner (there is a speciality hospital just 1 mile from my practice).
(35) I will if I am uncertain of the diagnosis.
(36) I will offer a second opinion or more specialized care for particular patient or problem, but I think our clinic is well-equipped to handle most ailments.
(37) I will often offer referral to someone with more knowledge or specialization than I, but rarely urge them to get a second opinion from another veterinary clinic
(38) I will often refer to a specialist.
(39) I will refer clients if this is in my patients' best interest. I suppose some clients would call this a "second opinion"
(40) I work in an emergency clinic, I always encourage owners to follow up with their regular veterinarians if time permits.
(41) I'm an emergency vet. Anything I diagnose is subject to the review of the family vet.
(42) I'm not a DVM yet, but I talk to the public about pet health. I always make sure they are seeing a vet, and sometimes tell them to consider a specialist. BTW, I am answering questions about "my practice" using my shool.
(43) I'm not sure I'd call it a second opinion in some cases....more like a referral to a specialist for more advanced care of a problem that I had already partially solved or diagnosed.
(44) If a case is complicated, a client is unsure about their decision making, or I myself am unsure about the correct diagnosis or treatment - I would always suggest at least a second opinion with another associate vet in the practice. I will also offer referral to a specialist when I feel it would be helpful.
(45) If a client seems to be uncertain about the outcome with their pet, I will always encourage them to seek a second opinion. I find that our practice welcomes our clients asking for a second opinion more than other practices in our area where the veterinarian seems to become offended by the request. I do, however, encourage my clients to seek a second opinion at a specialty clinic and not at another local general practicioner as I generally find our practice performs a more thorough and medically sound workup than the majority of practices in our area (an opinion I've formed by performing several second-opinions for clients who have been to other practices in our area).
(46) If a second opinion is warranted (the diagnosis or treatment is not cut and dry) or the client is unsure, a seconde opinion is always welcomed. Client education is the key here. If the client is looking for a cheaper service, they should know exactly what they are paying for (i.e., will the quality of care be the same at both practices).
(47) If clients balk at our recommendations, we often suggest a referral to a specialist. We also routinely use telemedicine and VIN consults as a convenient way of obtaining a second opinion
(48) If I am unable to arrive at a successful diagnosis, I offer referral to a specialist.
(49) If I am uncomfortable with the diagnosis or the treatments I have to offer, I will recommend a second opinion or a referral to a specialist.
(50) If I believe I need a second opinion, I immediately refer them to a specialist and I give them the names of more than one specialist. I also may not refer to a specialist, but to a practioner near by who has a special interest in the area in question and may be very talented but not as expensive as a specialist.
(51) If I commonly suggested a second opinion then my opinion wouldn't be worth much.
(52) If I find that I am unable to solve the problem or that the case is more complicated than I feel I can handle, then I will generally refer the client to LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. I always have the patients well-being at the top of the list and will make the suggestion for a referral if I believe that the case and patient need it.
(53) If I have any concerns, I consult with others routinely about my diagnosis and treatment plan. I refer anything I can't handle. If a client has concerns about my recommendations, I suggest a second opinion and try to steer them to someone I think is trustworthy
(54) If i'm not comfortable with my ability to give appropriate diagnosis or treatment I recomend referral. It's up to the client to follow through.
(55) If opinions vary too much, I encourage a third opinion, I am confident in my reccomendations.
(56) If owner would like second opinion will try to send to specialist instead of another GP
(57) If the client seems hesitant or if I feel they don't really believe what I am telling them.
(58) If the patient is not responding to the current treatment or the client seems uncomfortable with my recommendations, or if the case is complex & I feel that it needs a second opinion or a referral, I will urge the client to seek another opinion.
(59) If the problem is in an area outside of my expertise-or with a species I am not familiar with I encourage seeing an expert in that area.
(60) If there is any doubt or I am not sure, I would of course recommend a 2nd opinion. If they ask, I am very professional and give as many options as possible.
(61) If there is any question I will refer for a second opinion.
(62) If they or I have any doubts, I encourage second opinions.
(63) If unsure of the clinical case, I treat symptomatically and encourage client to seek a second opinion through their referring veterinarian (I'm an ER doc) or a specialist.
(64) In 25 years, I've only had a 4 cliets willing to go to the specialty hospital. Only one of the four allowed the specialists to do the surgery required to repair the animal.
(65) In cases where we feel a specialist is needed, we refer.
(66) In general, if I think the client is uncomfortable with my recommendations or diagnosis, or if I am uncertain, I always recommend referral to a specialist. It is frustrating when clients go to another general practitioner for a 2nd opinion, but the only reason the first vet couldn't make the diagnosis or treat the pet was because the client declined the diagnostics, or needs advanced diagnostics such as endoscopy or ultrasound at a specialist.
(67) In Kansas City we have the good fortune to have three specialty practices available to our clients, as well as at least 5 after hours emergency practices. We refer all our after hours calls and feel we are performing a valuable service to our clients by referring cases to specialists. The majority of our clients expect and appreciate those referrals.
(68) In most circumstances, I feel comfortable with the diagnostics I've been given authorization to perform and my subsequent diagnosis. However, if the pet is failing to respond to treatment or results are confusing OR if the clients appear to be becoming frustrated, I most certainly offer a second opinion.
(69) It is up to the client to decide if they want a second opinion. I am not upset if they do.
(70) Most client s who request a second opinion are frankly looking for the same procedure for less money. They ask or more often tell me they will look for another vet to see what reaction they can get. Telling them ok sends a couple of messages, 1) I think I've made reasonable recommendations, 2) the prices aren't changing, and 3) I don't think the prices are unreasonable.
(71) My rule of thumb is to offer the quality of service that I would want for my own pet and often, that means referring to a specialist for a service.
(72) n/a
(73) Not being the practice owner, I don't know the answers to Q 11 & 12.
(74) Not commonly, but I am supportive if they chose to do so. I try to encourage a specialist referral for second opinion.
(75) Not only that, we use board certified specialists for diagnostics and procedures as necessary. Our clients are very demanding and well educated. They expect the best from us.
(76) Occasionally I will suggest the owner get a second opinion but only from a specialist. I tell them a step up the ladder is better than stepping laterally when the next vet may not have any better credentials than mine.
(77) On difficult cases, board certified services are discussed.
(78) Referrals
(79) Seriously ill patients get several different opinions as the shift changes every 8 hours ;) Seriously, we ALWAYS include the referring veterinarian and often specialists into our recommendations for another opinion (We have seen cases similar to the one described in CR: fracture fixation shopping "the morning after" going to the emergency clinic with a pet HBC). Clients who do this are ones who haven't availed themselves of quality veterinary care during their young pet's lifetime; are shocked by the fees of the emergency service; and have the mentality of "pets as chattel", so we feel sorry for the pet, but not sorry for the client who ends up at the cheapest daytime practice. And I have no sympathy for the veterinarian who quotes fracture repair prices over the phone and never requests our medical record. (Thank goodness this does not happen often). Both the owner and veterinarian described above probably don't subscribe to CR ;) The people who do, those with a wonderful rapport
(80) specialty fields
(81) surgical candidates who require specialty surgery are encouraged to get a 2nd opinion
(82) This usually only applies (or I think about it) with extensive cases or those that will involve a lot of owner compliance such as diabetes, cushings disease. I refer them to Veterinary which I found through VIN. I am also fairly quick to get a second opinion myself if there is any question about the diagnosis or best treatment option which usually satisfies the clients.
(83) Usually a second opinion would be referral to a specialty clinic.
(84) We are a 24 hour hospital so charges vary greatly with time of day, weekend/holiday, etc.
(85) We are one of the few avian/exotics services in our area, and people are commonly referred to US, so offerring a second opinion would frequently sound snide or defensive! However, I do encourage a second opinion if clients seem unwilling to accept a diagnosis or follow our recommendations, or seem unhappy with us in some way. (Thankfully, the latter is rare!)
(86) We are usually the second opinion or last resort clinic (we are a humane society)
(87) We generally encourage second opinions with specialists since there are 5 general practice docs in our practice.
(88) We have 2 surgeons, 2 internists, 2 ophtalmologists and a dermatologist in the area, as well as 2 vet schools within a 2 hour drive, all of which we have no qualms about referring clients to either at their suggestion, or often times at ours. 2nd opinions to other "regular" vets are given if requested, but with 12 doctors in this practice, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc opinions are readily available here, and most clients are satisfied with that.
(89) We offer specialist referrals where appropriate.. and have no problem with clients seeking a second opinion
(90) We often recommend that they see one of the local specialists.
(91) We often refer certain cases to specialists.
(92) we readily refer to board certified specialiats. We feel we are good at what we do but are not too proud to admit it when someone can do it better
(93) We routinely offer referral to a specialty practice for additional diagnostics and second opinions with board-certified clinicians.
(94) We very often recommend referral to a specialist for second opinion or more diagnostics. We feel it's important for clients to know that those options exist. Very often clients are willing to pursue a diagnosis with a specialist and are thankful to have that expertise and services available to them.
(95) We will certainly refer appropriate cases, and if a owner seems unsure or less than confident in my recommendations, I suggest a second opinion. Otherwise, we are blamed, rightly or wrongly, if things go south.
(96) When necessary or if there is questions we seek referral to specialist.
(97) With complex/difficult cases, I strongly urge the clients to seek a specialist.
(98) yes if it is an option to the treatment plan and we can not provide.

15. Will this Consumer Reports article, whether or not you agree with the points made, change the way you practice medicine?
a. Yes
2 % (7 of 349)
b. No
84.8 % (296 of 349)
c. Not sure. I need more time to digest the impact on my clients.
10.3 % (36 of 349)
Not Answered
2.8 % (10 of 349)

16. Please comment further on the above question if you wish.
(1) Although it won't change how I practice, I will now be more proactive in discussing with clients the VALUE of the services I provide and why they are so "expensive."
(2) Any client whose main goal is to get the lowest price will probably be better served elsewhere, and I am happy to offer that option. We strive to practice the best medicine.
(3) But I will cancel my subscription along with a letter of disgust.
(4) But I would like to read the full article
(5) I always give clients options as to their pets' care, they can elect a "gold standard" care for their pets or can do symptomatic treatment
(6) I am a firm believer in COMMUNICATION! I educate my clients about their pet's health problem and make it a priority to understand my clients' concerns. Communication is a 2-way street, so I would hope that my clients would bring up any questions the article may have triggered. Sometimes these "controversies" actually pave the way for frank discussions and clearer understanding!
(7) I am going to be fast tracking when I start recommending 3 year vaccine protocol - I am starting to institute it now.
(8) I am going to continue to recommend what I feel is BEST for the pet
(9) I appreciate the letter and info pages the AAHA sent us, which will help defend the quality of our care.
(10) I believe it is my responsibility to offer the best medicine I can to my clients; the article had a different focus entirely. I try to be sensitive to client responses (including non-verbal), offer estimates of options in varying price ranges, and allow THEM to choose the level of care they prefer. If I can't tell how a client feels about the care of their pet vs. expense, I ask.
(11) I do what I believe is appropriate. I don't need clients who believe we are trying to "rip them off"
(12) I don't agree with the high dispensing fee we have at our clinic and depending on the response of our clients, I may suggest decreasing that fee substantially. Otherwise, I believe we charge appropriately for our services and our clients are very happy to come to our place rather than go to the "low-cost" place down the street because we treat them more like family than just numbers for revenue.
(13) I feel I provide high quality services for my clients. I do feel like I need to increase my fees although I have to admit that I wonder what my clients are thinking when they pay the bill.
(14) I feel my clients are not price shoppers. They see me because of my clinic philosophy and prior service.
(15) I feel that I do the best medicine possible. I do not charge or do things that I so not deem appropriate.
(16) I feel that sometimes I have to justify the way I practice medicine. But in the breath, I believe this will blow over with time. My serious clients will not change their opinion about the value of the medicine their pets receive.
(17) I find myself spending more time justifying the tests I am recommending, and practicing more defensive recordkeeping.
(18) I have been an avid reader and user of CU reports and evaluations for many years. This is the first time I had intimate knowledge in the field that a review was written about. I was truly disappointed at the bias that existed in the article. I do NOT think that you can evaluate a service the same way you can a dishwasher or car.The article implies that veterinarians are charging too much and that all you have to do is shop around for a better price. I KNOW that there are vets out there that do a poor job, medically speaking. Why someone would choose ANY professional (Doctor, lawyer, electrician) strictly on price and assume that they are getting the best quality service is beyond me.
(19) I havent had one client comment on the article.
(20) I offer the best service I possibly can and feel that what we charge is a fair compensation for my time and expertise. I do not charge for phone calls/consults and I spend a lot of time educating my clients and answering their questions.
(21) I practice as I think I should. A magazine like CR influences few people I work with because my clients generally believe me, so I explain my viewpoint and continue doing my job.
(22) I practice the way I must to stay in business. If I see business being lost to internets, the fees will have to change to make up the difference. Losses to low price practices are inconsequential, and most of those clients return when they see what they get on the cheap.
(23) I strive to treat my clients as I would wish to be treated if I were in there place. The article offered no value to me, but for people who haven't thought about there pet's care, there were ideas about preventative care(yearly check ups for intstance) that were valuable.
(24) I used to be under the impression that the pet insurance companies were a good deal...I obviously need to educate myself about their services and fees to best advise my clients.
(25) I will continue to practice high quality medicine, suggesting the best diagnostics, therapies, etc... for each pet. I always give estimates and never underestimate clients value of their pet. It is ultimately their decision to follow the recommended protocols.
(26) I will continue to recommend what I think is right for the pet.
(27) I will wonder what they are thinking of me and if they read the article. Since I believe in the value of my quality services, I am proud to charge for my time. I have been an associate for 18 years and for the first time am now working on a percentage of production basis. This should not affect how I practice but actually has helped me to appreciate my own value. I want my clients to know that I am dedicated to providing good medicine and am aware of the expense involved. I have never offered any goods or services that I don't feel are necessary for their pet's well-being.
(28) If it changes the way I practice, it will be to give people more information and choices, but I worry about overloading my clients...
(29) In our practice, I feel clients are well informed of their options for proceedures, diagnostics, etc and such options are ALWAYS written in the record along with the clients choice of action.
(30) In the long run I don't think there is anything wrong with clients knowing more about veterinary practice. They have to have the whole picture... most clients would drop into a dead faint if they knew what my monthly expenditures were.
(31) It just reassures my desire to sell my practice and get out of this rat race.
(32) It may accelerate some of the trends already in motion.
(33) It may make me think more about how we present our profession to the public - should our "face" be different? But it certainly won't change how I manage my patients. It will also free up more time to read journals, because I won't be wasting time reading CR!
(34) Look at how they had to seriously backtrack on the way they 'invesigated' pet food.
(35) My practice is oriented to provide the best care that I can for the client. I do a lot of client education so that my clients can better understand why I recommend certain diagnostics &/or procedures. I emphasize preventative health care. Most of the clients, once I explain things to them, will accept my recommendations. I have found that the better I communicate with my client, the better relationship we have. Many have told my that I explain things better to them about their pet than their doctor does for them.
(36) No, but it does cause me to consider canceling my 5 year subscription to their magazine. I intend to write a letter to the magazine's editor about the poorly written article and the obvious bias toward low cost is better.
(37) No, but the Consumer Reports article on "Veterinary Care without the Bite" did convince me never to read the publishing again because I became aware to how slanted their writing/editing is.
(38) The article was very negative and degrading to our profession. I only agreed with two things: annual examinations and that pet insurance is not really worth the premiums. I tell people to set aside the premiums in a savings account against the time when they might have a problem with their animal. And our hospital offers the Care Credit program for our clients.
(39) The article will not change how I practice, but it will take more time for me to explain the article to my clients and tell them that I will always do my best at the price that is given to them for top quality care. I have to feed my family and my staff. This is just another time consuming nusiance just like Pet Med Express. Once the clients have been properly informed, they always stay.
(40) The Consumer Reports article is based soley on number crunching and in no way addresses quality care or the value of pets to their owners. I will not compromise my medical ethics so that I can afford to charge the cheapest fees.
(41) Value not price is the ultimate evaluation of a service. Most consumers will realize this, either intuitively or through a negative experience with a veterinarian who underprices their services and is forced to provide lower quality care.
(42) We already encourage only appropriate vaccines and care... have never charged just to meet a certain ACT..
(43) We have always offered the best quality care, with no apologies for our fees. If clients cannot or choose not to spend a lot of money, less costly options are offered along with caveats for potentially missed diagnoses, etc. If clients understand this, we have no issues with doing less costly options. Of course, many end up spending as much money and more time to finally diagnose their pets, but as long as they have made an informed decision, we are comfortable with that. It is their pet and their money, and we cannot judge people on how much they are able or willing to spend...
(44) We need to continue to explain what we do and why we do it. Education of our clients is of paramount importance
(45) Working to assimilate new availability of pharmaceuticals at low cost.

17. Should veterinary organizations, associations, and businesses be doing more to educate the general public about the value and importance of veterinary care?
a. Yes
89.9 % (314 of 349)
b. No
2.5 % (9 of 349)
c. No. It's my job to educate my clients.
4.8 % (17 of 349)
Not Answered
2.5 % (9 of 349)

18. Please comment further on the above question if you wish.
(1) ...but not just the importance of veterinary care; we need to do more to educate the public about the importance of QUALITY veterinary care.
(2) A hesitant "yes". I have been following this issue for decades. I have conluded that the amount of money (millions and millions) required to really change public awareness could be better spent on something else which will directly benefit domestic animals. Survey after survey shows veterinarians are already held in high esteem; we are a beloved profession. Do we really want to join the high rollers in ad land? ....methinks the profession protests too much.... I do appreciate the campaigns sponsored by industry: Hills comes to mind.
(3) ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY!!! We MUST have more positive publicity or we are going to gradually lose the perceived value of our profession. We have so much to boast about! The public should know who we are and how much we have to offer!!
(4) Absolutely! Veterinary medicine has undervalued itself for years.
(5) AVMA in particular should be more proactive in public education about the intrinsic value of the VCPR and the emerging threat of internet pharmacies that seek to break down, rather than support that bond.
(6) Clients are appallingly uneducated about many issues including vaccine quality and implications for their pet, quality of materials used in surgeries such as real suture vs. fishing line (yes, I worked relief in a respected practice that did this)or no ligation of feline ovarian pedicles at all (interview at this place), use of pain medication, type of anesthetic procedures used, monitoring of patients, etc. Owners are not aware that some practices don't even intubate patients for dental cleanings. They simply ask what's the price and think that it is all the same. Most people believe that the "government" makes sure that everything is of the same quality, and they don't need to worry about that. Unfortunately, this article reinforces that mindset.
(7) Definitely - we ahve really been slow on this. If we have negative backlash from this article it is our own fault as we have not been educating the public at large on what we do, how educated we are and what we can do for them as we should have been.
(8) Despite good intentions, I do not believe that institutional marketing works. Are the results measurable? I have never seen any studies documenting any campaign's effectiveness. Individual practice marketing is the way to go.
(9) Duh, you think!
(10) duhhhh, instead of making petty arguments against the CR article, our professional organizations should recognize that we overcharge for consumables but undercharge for our expertise. This requires a top-down rethinking of our pricing policies. We need to regain our own respect before expecting the public to respect us.
(11) Each member of the profession has an obligation to help educate the public in general about the benefits of all of the services that we can provide.
(12) Educating the public about the need for and value of Veterinary care should be one of the most important things an association does.
(13) Especially in response to articles such as this one.
(14) Everyone has to do what they can. Associactions along with Industry can help the practicing veterinarians by highlighting the research and capital intensive nature of health care delivery for pets or people.
(15) From the AVMA to the state organizations to the local organizations, the general public needs to be educated about everything we do. Recently TVMA had a wonderful display for their 100th anniversary at the state capital in Austin and not enough people saw it. It was a wonderful display that many Texas veterinarians volunteered to staff.
(16) I also feel that it's my job!
(17) I feel very strongly that our professional organizations should be addressing this issue in a public forum more aggressively
(18) I often don't feel I'm getting my money's worth out of my assoc dues. I wish they spent more on public service announcements/ads to promote responsible pet care.
(19) I think both a and c are correct
(20) I think that we should continue to educated owners as to the benefit of the srevices we offer and why they are important
(21) I think we need a reputation building advertising campaign like PORK- the other white meat.
(22) I would like to see more money spent on advertising by companies that produce the products we sell such as Heartgard, Frontline, Hills Science diet. A lot of times people believe what they see on tv; it would make my job easier to convince clients to do more preventative medicine. The petmedexpress ads are a good example. Usually their products are not cheaper; but clients believe it!
(23) I would love to see an ad campaign (magazine advertisement and / or TV commercial) emphasizing the pet / vet / client relationship and showing vets as the caring compassionate professionals we are. Maybe even an article submitted to popular pet magazines such as Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy. The CR article implies that shopping for the lowest priced services is the best way to go, and we all know this is ridiculous because clinics are very different in the level of care they offer. Unfortunately, pet owners do not have enough medical knowledge to understand the value of the services provided (i.e., was the surgery performed under sterile conditions with the best available anesthetics and monitoring equipment, or was it done on a

Consumer Reports raises profession's ire

Postby guest » Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:54 am

Consumer Reports raises profession's ire

July 1, 2003
By: Stephanie Davis
DVM Newsmagazine

A concerted outcry of veterinarians, stung by a Consumer Reports (CR) article implying pet owners may be victims of veterinary pricing strategies, has fueled key associations to retaliate with letters to the editors and to the profession.

Sparking debate is a story published in the July 2003 issue, titled "Veterinary Care Without the Bite." The article, according to CR, provides information on how consumers can save money, how the business works and how to maintain quality care for pets.

But veterinarians argue the article paints them purely as "money-grubbing price gougers."

The six-page report, heavy on pricing and light on veterinary input, tells the consumer "how to save thousands of dollars on veterinary care by planning and shopping carefully."

Examples include:

"You don't have to buy prescription drugs from vets. Shop for drugs at pharmacies, including online;"
"Shopping around (for a veterinarian) is a must."

Dr. Bruce Little

While CR interviewed officials with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) for the story, the magazine says it contacted the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) communications office seven times in failed attempts to reach AVMA leadership. Dr. Bruce Little, executive director of AVMA, says he was aware CR called the office to obtain surveys, but he never talked to them.

AVMA, AAHA bear bruntvertSpacer('lessThanP','/dvm')
Since the publication hit the newsstands in early June, AVMA says its home office as well as board members and officers have been flooded with calls and e-mails from incensed members.

In response, AVMA, as well as AAHA, are in damage control mode, preparing separate rebuttal letters for Consumer Reports and letters to the profession advising how to respond to the pet-owning public's inquiries.

The AVMA response is expected to focus on what the article failed to report. Little says the report could have been more beneficial to the pet and the owners if value, rather than dollars alone, was used as a measurement of good care.

Author Jeff Blyskal, CR senior editor, says the idea for the article stemmed from another editor's discussion about fast-rising prices in veterinary care. The editor, a pet owner herself, encountered a veterinarian who wanted to charge her $800 for a spay.

As part of his report, CR posted an online query, generating 135 e-mails from pet owners who described their veterinary experiences.

Contrary to veterinary opinion, Blyskal says the article is anything but controversial.

"It may be controversial if you think consumers should be kept in the dark," Blyskal tells DVM Newsmagazine. "We're not telling consumers go out and pick the lowest price vet. We say shop around and make your own decision."

Little tells DVM Newsmagazine the CR article is "another case of irresponsible, inferior journalism."

As an example he refers to the article's advice to consider the purchase of prescription drugs online. "It isn't good journalism for someone to recommend, as one of their four Internet outlets, to buy prescription drugs from an outlet whose license is on probation by the state licensing bureau."

Dr. Link Welborn

From the opening statement, Little says CR took pot shots at the profession, when suggesting that since 1997, veterinarians have been hiking prices at more than twice the rate of inflation.

"What about the price of human medicine? How does that rate (compare) to inflation?"

There's potential for there to be a fairly significant public reaction to this article, Little says. "You have a tendency to respond more when somebody calls you a dirty name than if it's about somebody else."

Dr. Link Welborn, president of AAHA, acknowledges while the author raised good points, overall, the article is "misleading."

"Traditionally, Consumer Reports has focused on educating consumers about the relative value of various products and services. However, in this case, they seemingly chose not to address value or recognize differences in veterinary care," he notes.

He says the author made an unfair assumption that companion animal medicine is a commodity and that clients should choose an animal hospital based predominately on price.

Blyskal counters. "Just the fact that we talk about and focus on price doesn't mean that's the only issue and that we're saying veterinary care is a commodity. A veterinary practice is both a business and a medical service.

"Our coverage of veterinary care signals to the profession that vets need to pay more attention to consumer concerns, consumer rights and demand for a fair deal."



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