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Investing in diagnostic technology

How investing in new diagnostic technology can help veterinary practices keep pets healthy and pet owners happy

29 July 2018, at 9:10pm

The veterinary sector is expanding and, with that growth, competition is increasing. According to the RCVS, there was a 12.3 percent increase in the number of veterinary premises between 2010 and 2014. In the same period, independent practice numbers grew by 9 percent while practices with corporate business models grew by 36 percent. Similarly, while statistics show that independent practices generate median profit levels of approximately 7 percent, corporate groups are achieving 18 percent and more. 

As new veterinary practices open, particularly corporatebased groups, the installation of diagnostic imaging equipment is seen as an integral part of the business, including offering referral diagnostic work to other smaller local practices. State-of-the-art point of care ultrasound systems, MRI and CT scanners offer immediate benefits, allowing for faster, more accurate and non-invasive diagnoses as well as offering better identification and management of pet diseases previously difficult to diagnose and treat. 

This, in turn, leads to improved animal care and therefore better outcomes – in terms of faster and sometimes less invasive treatment – for pets. This positively impacts pet owners, not only in terms of the potential reduced costs of treatment but also in terms of a lessened emotional impact of treatment. 

There is an increasing expectation that new diagnostic technology, already benefiting people across the world, will also be made available to pets. Pet owners continue to spend more on their pets every year; £4.6 billion was spent in 2015 – a huge growth from £2.55 billion in 2005. They therefore expect practices to meet their needs and surgeries can improve their competitive standing by investing in new technology. 

There have been major advances in veterinary diagnostic equipment over the last few years; for instance, CT scanners now boast improved rotation speed, resolution and computing power. Furthermore, parallel to advances in hardware, developments in imaging software are facilitating more efficient processing of radiographic images. Radiography, ultrasound and 3D printing technology are more advanced and accessible, meaning images can be shared more readily and be analysed using preset data, as well as professional acumen and insight. 

The phenomenal growth of “big data” and the data science skills to use these huge datasets are helping to create far clearer pictures of animal diseases and the recovery pathways from injury, helping to make treatments not only more efficient, but also less invasive and stressful for both pets and their owners.

It can, however, be difficult for some practice owners to finance growth and investment in practice resources. Keeping pace with technological advancements requires considerable capital expenditure. Against this background, acquiring the latest veterinary technology may seem out of reach for many practices. 

Some may be caught in a predicament where budget limitations are hampering the ability to make the investments which play a key role in increasing the productivity and efficiency of services. To this end, asset financing techniques such as leasing are emerging as an increasingly popular, cost-effective investment enabler. 

Such financing techniques spread the cost of the equipment over an agreed financing period, with regular finance payments arranged to align with the expected efficiency gains and income stream enabled by the use of the latest technology. This removes the need for a large initial capital outlay and enables immediate access to up-to-date equipment despite tight budgets. 

Veterinary practices can thereby deploy precious funds in other areas to improve service quality. Financing arrangements can potentially also cover other costs such as installation as well as introduce the flexibility of future technology upgrades in line with technology developments. 

Tailored, all-encompassing financing packages tend to be offered by specialist financiers who have an in-depth understanding of production technology and its applications. They understand the profound impact up-to-date technology can bring to the daily business of a veterinary practice and can expertly evaluate any associated risks. They are therefore more capable of creating customised financing packages that fit the specific requirements of a veterinary establishment – for instance, flexing the financing period to suit the organisation’s cash flow. This contrasts with the standard financing terms usually available from generalist financiers, who can lack a thorough understanding of the veterinary sector as well as technical expertise. 

As the veterinary sector grows, practices need to find new ways to stay competitive and meet the needs of their pet-loving customers by embracing all that new technology has to offer. Alternative financing is an increasingly popular way for practices to invest in diagnostic imaging equipment to grow their business and offer patients the quickest and most accurate care.