Do high hospital profits and good medicine go hand in hand?

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: October 13, 2010
Published: June 26, 2008
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They do if you ask any of the self-styled veterinary practice management gurus who are happy to have you believe that high quality medicine is synonymous with big money.

The commentary in July 1st’s JAVMA (sorry, not online yet) dealt well with our profession’s professed soothsayers. Titled, “Is good medicine defined by profit structure?” this piece takes an enjoyably circuitous and well-referenced ride around the concept of money and quality in veterinary medicine.

As in, if vets practice higher quality medicine we can charge more and become more profitable.

Nothing so sinister about that, right? Not from a practice manager’s point of view. Problem is, the following points may also be inferred from the above rationale:

… practicing at the highest standards means practicing the most “aggressive,” proactive medicine possible

… practicing more conservatively is not good medicine

… if vets are not highly profitable they’re probably not practicing great medicine

… if vets are highly profitable they are practicing high quality medicine

And the client’s corollary:

…if you don’t routinely spend big money on your pets you’re not getting good veterinary care.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in the Buddha-consultant axiom that evangelizes with, “what’s good for the patient is good for the practice.” But there’s no implication of maximized profitability in these sage words.

I graduated from business school over ten years ago so perhaps I’m a tad sluggish on my basics but I’ve always thought about it in marketing terms: It’s all about value.