How are Practices Coping with the New COVID-19 Reality? (Part II)

By VHMA Admin posted 05-27-2020 21:39


Last month’s Insiders’ Insight survey explored the initial impact of COVID-19 on veterinary practices as well as the changes practices were making to cope with the pandemic. This month’s survey asks some of the same questions to measure the difference a month has made and also delves into some new topics.   

There was a definite shift in May with about 26% of practices reporting no decline in the number of patients seen, 50% reporting a decline between 1-20%, and just 24% reporting declines of 21% or more. By all reports, there is a great deal of variation between practices, some of it geographical. The improvement this month is likely due to some combination of practices becoming more efficient with the new curbside workflow, stabilization of workforce numbers, greater client comfort with visiting a practice, and other factors.

Changes in Practice Operations

Last month’s survey results demonstrated the majority of practices had made operational changes to reduce people-to-people contact and comply with new recommendations/regulations regarding what services practices can offer and how they can/should offer them. 

In the month of May:   

  • Most practices are continuing in COVID-19 operational mode, with a few starting to resume normal operations.
  • 21% of practices will continue at reduced hours of operation, and 15% have expanded their hours but are not back to their pre-COVID-19 hours of operation.
  • Over 90% of practices will continue increased cleaning and disinfection and curbside pickup and drop off.

When asked, “Will you continue staff organizational changes you made due to COVID-19 once you resume full-service operations (i.e., working teams, alternating schedules, etc.)? 67% said no, they will go back to pre-COVID-19 operations.

In contrast, 57% of practices will continue curbside visits, and 48% will continue Telemedicine once they are back to regular operations.

Impact on the Veterinary Team

The pandemic continues to be difficult and stressful for employees.  As we discussed last month, being an essential service is a good thing because it means many people still have jobs, unlike in other businesses.  Fortunately, 57% of practices are not reducing staff hours in May, and 67% of practices did not have to layoff or furlough staff. 97% do not anticipate the need to layoff or furlough staff in the next month.

Technology and Telehealth Usage

Last month we talked about the increased interest in and usage of technology and telehealth platforms in veterinary practices because of the constraints on practice presented by the pandemic.  This month we address ongoing usage of these platforms and services.

When asked, “Will you continue to use the new technologies you introduced to get through the crisis after you resume regular operations (i.e., staff and client communication technologies)?” 72% responded, yes.

28% of practices indicated that they would continue telemedicine services, with another 28% considering it.

55% of practices do not plan to continue telehealth services.

Impact of the Pandemic on Practice Finances

So far, veterinary medicine has been less impacted than many other kinds of businesses, yet 72% of responding practices took advantage of or plan to take advantage of a SBA Paycheck Protection Loan.  

When asked, “As of today, how long can your practice continue to operate before you need to seek financial assistance?” 66% of practices can operate without financial assistance for more than three months.

View the full May 2020 report.