We're pleased to share our Spring 2020 Veterinary Newsletter with you. In this edition, we've included several articles on topics that may impact your practice during COVID-19, tips and advice on navigating the crisis from six industry professionals, and an interview with Dr. Melissa Vogeler of Bluebonnet Animal Hospital in Austin, TX.
Featured Articles
Beware of the Evergreen Clause
Peter Tanella's latest column in Today's Veterinary Business delves into the evergreen clause, an automatic contract renewal that can leave you in a costly predicament if you fail to give proper notice of termination. Read the article here.
Veterinary Telemedicine Options During and Beyond COVID-19
We took a quick look at some of the telemedicine technology providers available right now, and the benefits they provide. Read the article here .
Navigating the Workforce Implications of COVID-19
In this article, we address a few issues owners need to know as they re-integrate their workforce, including employment rules, guidance for caring for household animals that reside with a person with COVID-19, and best practices for implementing curbside or telemedicine service.  Read the article here .
Harbor Survey Reveals Veterinary Students' Top COVID-19 Concerns
According to a survey by Harbor, an industry-leading web platform and network of veterinary professionals, optimism for job opportunities upon graduation remains steady, but clinical hours have become a growing concern. Read the full survey results here .
Advice from the vet-focused pros:
We asked a few of our friends around the industry to share their advice on dealing with the uncertainty of COVID-19, and the opportunities it presents.
Gary I. Glassman, CPA
Veterinary medicine has weathered pretty well during the pandemic. Most hospitals have gone to curbside medicine and extended appointment times with reduced hours. Much of what has been seen as reductions in income have been self-induced and has has not been based on client demand. Hospitals should recover quickly once a sense of normality returns to the marketplace.

Telemedicine has taken a foothold and is most likely a permanent tool that hospitals will use past the pandemic. Those who have not yet considered it, should take a look at the vet-focused products that have been developed, many of which integrate with veterinary software.

Hospitals saw their worse income decline in the month of April with drops in the range of 20% to 30% in New York and the Northeast, mostly by a drop in invoice volume. Hospitals have been able to maintain an increase in the average invoice by about 5% so far 2020. Income in the first quarter was the same as in 2019 or in some cases actually greater. We do expect the second quarter to be a negative growth quarter in overall economic activity that will take us half way to a recession. The largest question for most hospitals is what will consumer spending look like once government stimulus runs out. The good news is that even in the last recession, veterinary hospitals saw no more than a 10% to 15% drop in sales during the worst of it. Compared to many other types of businesses, veterinary medicine tends to fare well during poor economic times. Hopefully this time it will open the labor markets a bit and allow hospitals to find adequate staff, which has been so difficult to do during the economic expansion over the last seven years.

Hospitals will need to find their new normal for conducting business, and it looks like curbside medicine will still apply for the time being. Check your state’s VMA webpage for requirements to open and create a safe work environment.

Many have applied for the SBA PPP loans which should provide adequate cash flow during the eight weeks that hospitals can use the money for payroll costs. Hospitals should focus on maintaining payroll levels to receive full forgiveness of their loans. Beware, right now, forgiveness will mean taxability according to the IRS. Loan forgiveness will occur during July and August. We expect the process to be detailed. The forgiveness application has been released and is available on the SBA website. Congress is still considering changes to the program that will relax some of the rules. Expect to supply a lot of documentation.
David McCormick, MS, CVA
Sherry Everhart, RVT
Veterinary Practice Consultants + Appraisers
Avoiding change has been the barrier for many practices achieving financial success. "Its too hard. We've always scheduled that way. The staff will be upset if we change that. We can't change our fee/discount...,"etc.

Well, change has arrived and been forced on all of us. Now every practice has an opportunity to redefine what is their "normal." Use this time to grow! Don’t simply return to your old way of scheduling, your old way of ordering and your old way of paying the bills. Now is the time to re-evaluate fees, expenditures, staff positions, standard operations & protocols, etc. Use this disruption as the perfect opportunity/reason/excuse to move your practice out of your ruts and on to a better path.
Cindy Trice, DVM
Founder, Relief Rover
This is the time to engage an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s not so much thinking outside the box as thinking about the tools inside your box that are already at your disposal. Then re-envisioning how they can be repurposed and engaged to create opportunity. Think deeply about the skills your staff, associates and relief vets have to offer. And if you aren’t sure, ask them! Now is a great time to pick through this often underutilized treasure trove of knowledge and talent to create new channels of value for your clients and elevated care for your patients. 
Benjamin J. Bush, CLU, ChFC
Financial Advisor, Northeast Private Client Group
The COVID crisis has really defined people's relationships with family, business, and money. The individuals and entrepreneurs that are going to come out of this better than ever are those who have cash confidence and recognize where the gaps are going to be in the industry. Our aim is to help our practice owners see the opportunity to help others that lack cash confidence and are not positioned to recover quickly, or at all, while also clearly helping themselves and their business. The opportunity is going to be massive and those that manage the current issues with an eye and action on the future are going to excel.
Laura A. Boone
National Director of Veterinary Division
In times of uncertainty, we need to think about the way we are thinking. The phrase, "you get what you focus on" could not be more true right now. If you look for more information, you will find it, good, bad, or ugly, it's there. If you look for positivity and solutions you will find it. If you look for doom and gloom, you will find it, just turn on the news. Rather than letting someone else dictate your focus, spend this time challenging yourself. Challenge yourself to call 20 clients a day, send out 15 emails to clients and friends, and write ten thinking of you cards by hand, every day. You’ll be amazed at the benefits later on.  
Vet Corner: Melissa Vogeler, DVM
In this edition of Vet Corner, we caught up with Dr. Melissa Vogeler, owner of Bluebonnet Animal Hospital in Austin, TX.

How has your business been affected by COVID-19?

We are fortunate that veterinary hospitals are considered an essential business and we are able to stay open. We have however, had to make significant changes to protect our staff and clients, including stringent disinfecting protocols and the increased use of personal protective gear. In addition, we're only seeing pets for essential services and procedures, and we're no longer allowing clients inside our building, only their pets.
What's the biggest change you’ve had to make?

The biggest change is in how we're interacting with clients. We are no longer able to have face to face conversations, which makes it difficult. We have had to make sure we are still providing great care but also make sure we are communicating effectively. That's why we expanded our services into telemedicine - to make sure we are able to better serve our clients and patients.
Do you see telemedicine increasing in popularity for certain types of situations going forward?

Telemedicine definitely can have a place in veterinary medicine but we have found that the cases where it is truly beneficial have been limited. It is important to set expectations with clients and make sure to follow up so that clients understand its value. Clients appreciate, especially during this time, being able to get help for their pets without leaving their homes.
One thing that often gets swept under the rug is people's mental health. Practices are losing money, employees are being laid off, owners are having to balance their work and personal lives in uncomfortable ways – do you have any advice for other vets?

I think it is important to manage expectations. There is a lot going on right now and there are a lot of new stressors. It is okay not to have all of the answers and to ask for help from other professionals. Take it a day at a time!
Related Content:
Our Veterinary Law Blog
Our vet-focused attorneys regularly publish articles on our Veterinary Law Blog, which has a wealth of information to help you manage and grow your practice. Recent articles cover MSOs, malpractice liability, tips on staying independent and maximizing profits, and much more.

This information is being provided to keep you abreast of developments that could affect you or your business. It should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. If you have a specific question regarding a particular situation or legal issue, you should seek advice from your legal counsel.