In This Episode
According to reports from VHMA and Covetris, new patients visiting the traditional veterinary clinic have been down every quarter over the past four years, yet there are more pets than ever before. What is happening to this volume of potential clients?
This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan are joined by Bruce Truman, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Babelbark, to discuss how clinics need to adopt new technologies to stay relevant, why transparent pricing is increasingly vital, and the necessity of being pet-centric instead of being practice-centric.
- The Adoption of Technology in Veterinary Medicine
- Transparent Pricing Models
- Driving Engagement with Clients
Shawn: You’re listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. You’re listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. My name is Shawn Wilkie and along with my awesome co-host. We interview innovators in the space every week Ivan. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce today’s guests?
Meet our guest – Bruce Truman
Ivan: Hi, I am my name is Ivan Zak and I’m happy to introduce Bruce Truman the legend of veterinary domain. So the topic today will be about adoption of Technology and Engineering career and I’m super excited to to introduce Bruce to the listeners and Bruce on the business side is a vice president of sales and marketing at bevel bark. He’s the president and founder of BLT technology and Innovation group. He’s on Advisory Board of nabc retriever practice recruiting app and Advisory Board member at in a Genex canine tumor profiling. He’s a co-founder of in Nosa early detection of cancer in paths Catalyst Council board member and previously it president of vet partners and a chair of opportunities. Committee the personal side of things he grew up on a grain and livestock Farm in Northwest Illinois yields two degrees from University of Illinois master of Business Administration in sales and marketing as well as Bachelor of Science in agriculture science. So we wanted to quote you with the first question. And you said I believe that there are number of economic indicators and overall changes in the consumer preferences that are going to affect the consumers prospective of veterinary care, through convenience. Can you expand on that cause thats exactly what I believe.
Bruce: Sure, So I liken this back to the 80’s back in Illinois, uh the family farm the innificent producer was put out of business and acquired by larger Farm collectives, and we see the same thing going on in other verticals so digital transformation everybody knows about Uber, I don’t have to talk about that and how it changed cabs. But this same sort of transformation is going on right now in the veterinary industry and a lot of our colleagues are talking about it, whether you go to a big conference or some of the smaller Innovation conferences, everybody’s talking about it and the factors or the metrics that I look at every single month. I look at the VA. Them a report that is done by covet risks and there’s 700. Maybe it’s 711 guys but 700 independent Veterinary practices that report in to vhm a and go Beatrice condenses that data down and then issues a report. So for four years in a row new clients or new patients, I should say visiting the better night practice. It’s been down every single quarter for four years in a row and And then you combine some of the stuff that Chris raglan’s talking about it in analytics with core vaccine doses being down and you start comparing these notes and we’re like wait, there’s more pets than there’s ever been in the u.s. You know, the package facts guys sprinkle talks about how many pets there are and how parents are out there, but they’re seeking services from different places. So my theory is we’re not measuring in these reports were. Stop measuring where these people are going because they’re out there and there’s more pets but they’re choosing providers of care that are not within what we’re measuring. So they’re going to what I call alternate care models whether that be a VIP Thrive the vaccine clinic around the corner some other new care models that are out there. They’re going to places where we’re not measuring them. And so that means that the veterinary practice the Dependent better night practice is missing out on all this volume. Ivan: So couple questions on that because I think you’re absolutely right. The number of pets is growing. It’s about 60% of pet owners out there at least in North America, you know, it’s a wealthy Society so they pet ownership will grow but also, this is one of the most unique Industries if you think about medicine, you know, there’s population growing, you know, the patients are there but within the veterinary industry, there’s also another factor that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s the humanization of the Which is going upwards and you know, why would I take PSI think they were these cool measurements that they use it. I think it’s across the industry People have them in their beds. How many people celebrate birthdays of their paths? I don’t remember who it was but it was you know is interesting because someone said I can’t go with you guys out tomorrow because I’m going to my aunt’s dogs birthday party. That’s crazy. So it’s not only the number of pets is growing but also the Love For Pets is growing. So there’s no there’s no shortage of patients is just they’re going into a different direction to different models and I agree that technology will play a huge role of how to facilitate. And automate and transform these but the interesting part that I’m seeing more and more entrepreneurs in the technology sector veterinary medicine are not related to its name it is they’re coming from outside. You think about you know, 10, 15 years ago. It was just pain sort of thing. And now, you know babbled Park is really cool model and you know appointment booking apps and telemedicine apps and all of this stuff. So so who is this cutting-edge technology know every is something that we go to there’s you know, telemedicine is the buzzer. But what are The Cutting Edge technologies that you see that will win? Is there a sectors their particular Niche that you think the technology will start bringing those patients back into vet clinic
Shawn: And then I add on to that Bruce where does the transparency come in? So what application of the future is going to introduce us to this transparency from a pricing model perspective not to make it hard on you but there’s three questions.
The Adoption of Technology in Veterinary Medicine
Bruce: Sure. Gotcha. All right, I think guys one thing that I I would comment on is that when we look at these third parties that have come in to help us with the veterinary practice. Those Technologies are built on the foundation of the pins, right the veterinary practice software and because the software wasn’t providing what that practice needed and the software couldn’t innovate quick enough. We had third parties that came in and the third parties gave us all these wonderful Solutions. So then it’s really up to the veterinary practice to adopt those third. Any solutions, what is the practice nowadays have to have you have to have an online appointment booking right, I would argue you have to have a pharmacy partner now maybe that is a Veterinary online pharmacy, but maybe your Pharmacy Partners chewy, you know, it could be that way too. As long as the pet parent can get easy access to refill the prescriptions and products. They need I think that’s important automated client Communications. That’s a basic so if you’re not doing Email text and postcards through a third-party service. I think you’re just wasting your staffs time. Those things should all be farmed out. I was just looking at these two companies yesterday on some work I’m doing and I was looking at I believe the company’s called Petit Essentials, but it’s the one down in Florida. That’s partnering with Walmart’s and then VIP Petcare. I was looking at their website pricing transparency is right there on both those sites. You can go there. This is how much a wellness visit cost. This is how much vaccines cost right? Our website so, you know exactly what you’re getting in and I think for the primary care Veterinary practices out there. They should be posting that same pricing. It should be all transparent. Don’t worry about Price Shoppers, you know, somebody’s always going to be price shop on your practice just be completely transparent on your price. This is how much ass pay cost. This is how much dentals are so that the pet parent knows when they’re coming into the practice what to expect it
Ivan: Isn’t there a law, maybe I’m mistaken, but I think there’s some sort of Law in most jurisdictions where you can’t put the pricing of your services as a veterinarian and maybe I’m a little outdated on that. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s certain practice acts.
Bruce: There might be that issue. But I know that if we look at these what I’ll call alternate care models, they’re doing it, right. So how if they figured it out? I think we can figure it out, but there could be something I haven’t had a certain state level and the weird thing for me is we’re not changing an oil heater in veterinary medicine.
Shawn: You know, we’re not Swapping out a part. So, you know how does transparency in pricing come into effect when you have a dog named with a pet owner for service X and all of these other things are now wrong. You know, how do we get to transparency in a transaction? That’s not transparent?
Bruce: I think I don’t know certainly don’t have all the answers there. But one thing in some of these discussions we have with our industry colleagues is the idea behind like a pet financing. Later, you know I could imagine a future state where when you have a new puppy your first visit to the veterinary practice could be well congratulations. You’ve got a Bernese mountain dog, by the way, that’s the most expensive dog. You can own in the entire industry space. We knew that from years ago from BET Street data that that was the most expensive dog to own and you could literally Ten years what the cost of this pet will be. So therefore we should be looking at financing options. What are you going to do? Do you have money in the bank? Well, maybe we need to get you a Care Credit Card. Oh we definitely need to get this pet insured. You know, you need to get on our Wellness Plan all those types of things. I think pricing transparency can come in there. If we’re not scared of talking about the lifetime cost of a pet up front and I know I get in arguments about this because then you scare some people off but I think an educated pet Parent is what we want and informed about what the lifetime cost will be.
Ivan: You know, it’s interesting because I was just car shopping actually today and it’s interesting when you’re getting car the dealer will explain you how how incredible this car is and then you know, they will recommend insurance and the warranty and coverage and everything and it’s funny how the pet owners are getting the worst possible breed. And then you should be honest with them that you’re getting the worst cars. You gotta get the best warranty because it will break and it’s going to get you know, it’s if it’s a dachshund is going to get the herniated disc or it’s a bulldog is going to have the you know respiratory issues. So it’s just funny how we’re committing to get the worst model out there and then don’t get insurance for it. But so speaking of the owners. I want to shift the conversation a little bit into your current initiatives. So the bell bar very interesting initiative overlapping three spaces. So the pet owners the industry as well. As veterinarian and kind of merging those three spaces, you know, I’ve been following quite a few initiatives in that. I think that everybody is quite advanced in that last time. We spoke and I talked to Gary and it’s a very interesting space many I think not many many but quite a few initiatives were in this area and then you guys are entering it. Did you find one of the three circles to be easier to penetrate is it owners? Is it veterinarians or is it the industry and maybe two words about Babble Bark and what it is for those that don’t know what it is
Driving Engagement with Clients
Bruce: Good question. So thank you Babble bark. We are a platform and we are creating a or have created a pet ecosystem. So we make it easy for the pet parent to care for that pet by connecting them to all of their care providers. So it is pet Centric not Veterinary Centric and the fact that we know that as a pet owner you’re going to need a pet sitter. Or you’re going to need for many people grooming. You’re going to need to have a relationship with a boarding facility and you’re going to need to have a relationship with a veterinarian. So we’ve created a platform where the pet parent connects to all of those care providers and then can interact with the care providers. Now for veterinarians. We really focus on use cases with veterinarians to help gain adoption quickly of our product and so for a primary care Veterinary Is what we position on is that we free up exam room Time by taking your medical progress exams and doing them virtually on our platform. So anything that can be done outside of that exam room so we can free it up so that those doctors can focus on the cases that really need to see a veterinarian. Let’s take and move medical progress exams that suture line recheck. Check you name it situations. You can come up with where they can be done virtually and let’s do it with what I’m calling Vivi and the virtual Veterinary nurse of the future right where they’re sitting like we are at a computer and they’re going through and looking at cases and communicating with the client about those cases and in one thing I was going to bring up as you guys were talking. I think we’ve created this situation certainly In Primary Care practices and more. So perhaps in the independent Veterinary practices and it’s a number of factors that have created this lack of Engagement. I’ll call it with clients. So whether it be Pro sow because you’re working as hard as you can as quick as you can to, you know, hit those numbers or to shortage of veterinarians or it’s under utilization. I call it up the staff in the veterinary practice all these factors. Have contributed to the fact that nobody has time to engage the client. You may see them as a veterinarian 16. What is it? 16 17 minutes a year, but why can’t you use that Veterinary nurse and engage them when they’re not in the practice and use technology to form relationships with your clients when they’re not in your practice. So then they see you as their Center of care, so that’s what we’re trying to do it Babble bark is really ultimately Drive engagement with clients for the veterinary practice.
Ivan: So with the clients doesn’t work for them. Is it the connector do they is it the communication that it’s that is happening through Babel bark and then they just find easily providers and then they are able to actually text or find the closest provider
Bruce: On the platform. There’s a free app for the pet parent and using that free. Out they can locate all their services. So we’ve listed the services out as Veterinary boarding grooming. There’s different tabs and you literally push that Tab and it Geo locates the providers of that service within around a 25 mile radius of where you’re located or if you know your Veterinary practice name, you can type it in and then say this is my provider and so when you select your providers then you authorize The sharing of information with your providers and the way it works on the veterinary side and frankly for any pet business. So I don’t think I stress that enough that this just isn’t for veterinarians. This is for that dog. Walker. This is for that groomer and the platform enables them to connect with these pet parents also, so the veterinary practice uses a web platform and there is a asynchronous pet Journal. So that allows Communications back and forth with the client and I really stress the word asynchronous because I believe that when it comes to Telehealth we’re all focused on video and video is very difficult to implement whether on the client side or on the veterinary side and it requires both of you to be live right there at one time. If we look at Trends in human health, there’s a lot going on with asynchronous people creating platforms. That allow store and forward a video store and forward of pictures of text so that the communication can happen on the schedule of the client and on the schedule of that Veterinary practice. I totally agree with you because you know, look at it Millennials that I think I’m catching the the first year of those determined as such I’m afraid of the phone when it’s raining and if you’ll tell me that my my screen will turn on and then I’ll have to talk to random veterinarian or the client then it will scare me even more.
Ivan: So so I totally agree with you asynchronous manner would be interested but a lot of visual materials are important for these calls may be unfolded bevel bark a little more a lot of these appliques that I know that that Henry Schein in their days and there’s quite a few applications that we’re trying to engage the customer to bring them back to the practice being that Center of providing Social Services as you said in the beginning and then you know, maybe that Hub of the network where everything connects to it on the recommendations come out but the initial applications that were engaging with the with the owner and you probably know better than everybody else does bevel bark past the toothbrush test do people actually look at it every day. Do you guys get any stats? Do you struggle with it? Because I think that you know, a lot of these appointment booking apps and well, I think mostly appointment booking apps and the reminder apps, you know veterinarians really want them. I can see the market, you know, there’s pet dies is LED and there’s others that you know vision and say we want the app for our business and then I don’t know if the owners want they have in their pocket because it’s just you know, I don’t know if that’s enough for me motivation to get one appointment once a year and to see someone for 17 minutes and then I have the app that they’re pushing some. Marshall to me through like I don’t know that so this bevel Berg have a luck with that to be that sort of theta day or once a week or more often source of information.
Bruce: We do have luck with that. But the reason we have luck with that is you hit the nail on the head. It’s not about having an app for your Veterinary practice because if you’re lucky they’ll visit that app, maybe twice a year right? It’s about having an app for your pet because your pet has Demands and services that it needs. So certainly Veterinary has one but pet-sitting boarding. There was some stat I read recently and it opened my eyes to and these are rough numbers but 30 percent of dogs out there are being groomed and then there was another statistic about the number of times that somebody needs a pet sitter or a boarding facility those engagements happen a lot more than twice a year. So they’re seeing the groomer. Once a month, they’re seeing the pet sitter in some cases once a day or twice a day. So the idea behind engagement is that the platform facilitates all these different service providers which guarantees pretty much that your pet parents going to engage with that but we’ve had luck with that but it’s because we’re not Veterinary practice Centric we are pet Centric and you know, I’m trying to get everyone to think about being pet Centric in your Veterinary practice as opposing to be Veterinary Centric buddy of all of ours. Dr. Peter Weinstein said it’s so well at last year’s abma economic Summit he got up there and he told us all you know, we’re making mistake if we’re not pet Centric and I remember when Peter said that to this day because you know innovators and the room really got what he was trying to communicate.
Shawn: Yeah, it’s really interesting and it totally makes sense throughout our conversation. I was thinking about your comments you quickly passed over. And I want to drive us back in the direction of talking about you know, this new bold world. I feel like we’re having Back to the Future conversation about the future of veterinary medicine. And so I see a interesting parallel between the veterinary world with all of these dispersed ownerships some larger conglomerates. I see them like taxis and taxicab services and it seems very much like The veterinary industry is due for revitalization a new approach. If you had to put your money on a company that’s doing things in this way or in how you would see the future of veterinary medicine. Is there is there one company that you think is got it, right and is doing something that truly amazing Bruce
Bruce: Boy, that’s a tough one. There’s more than one. I think what the ACA has done with their overall Wellness plans and the app The availability of care 24/7 on that platform that would be an example of a group practice because of their forward-thinking and also the ability to finance all those initiatives have brought something that I think is really changing it for them. I think Audrey with her new one dot vet business is something to really watch. I’m not hearing a lot out of her right now because I think she’s really doing a lot of deep planning, but I’m very Cited about every time I get around Audrey I get excited because she’s so positive and energetic about the industry and where it’s going. So, I think those are interesting and I think what pet IQ is doing and VIP as a sub of pet IQ the way they’re looking at products Is access to care that’s really important. It does kind of disappoint me sometimes when we get in some of these meetings and there’s conversations about how how terrible it is that there’s a Veterinary practice going into a Walmart and I think we have to be really careful about that because everybody should be able to own a pet. No matter what your socio-economic level is, right. So providing access to care price transparency. Where the people are going? That’s what we want. We want more pets seeing veterinarians no matter where it is.
Shawn: Thanks so much for listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. We’re pretty social people. So you’ll find us on every social media channel. Also, you can check out our website at the veterinary Innovation podcast.com. Thanks so much for listening.