We'd like to share an email we received in response to the Hot Button column entitled Too Many Veterinarians? Jury's Still Out on p.62 of the September 2013 issue of Veterinary Economics...
Thank you for reading our Hot Button piece in the September issue of dvm360’s Veterinary Economics. The editorial staff did a great job of pulling out points relevant to most Veterinary Economics readers....We encourage you to read not only the full article from which the excerpt in Vet Econ was taken, but also to read the series in its entirety for full context. We believe you’ll find that we share a common belief on oversupply.
The summary in September’s Veterinary Economics makes the point that we believe there is an oversupply. We agree with you. However, all we have right now is a belief.
You say, “Too many veterinarians? asked and answered, repeatedly, and the answer is always, undeniably - YES!” But upon what is that answer based? Please don’t misunderstand- we aren’t arguing with you by asking this question. We are arguing that the answer is what we already believe- but right now all we’ve got is belief based on subjective evidence and anecdote.
A primary reason for our professional trouble is that policy has been made on subjective evidence and belief, not objective data. Back in the not-so-long-ago days when the AVMA and academia were claiming a veterinary shortage and expanding colleges and class sizes, they were operating on subjective, statistically inadequate data.
A responsible veterinarian would not manage a medical case on that scope and quality of evidence. Take, for instance, the persistently vomiting dog that can’t keep down food or water. It may have a foreign body obstruction, it may have parvo, it may be in an Addisonian crisis, or any number of other potential problems. What is needed to make a diagnosis is objective evidence - the results of objective tests like a parvo snap, bloodwork, radiographs.
A responsible veterinarian/practice manager would not manage a practice on the quantity and quality of data currently being used by our professional organizations. Think of it this way: If the phones aren’t ringing, perhaps reminders aren’t getting sent. Or maybe they got sent, but aren’t getting delivered because they didn’t have stamps, or because staff didn’t update addresses. Maybe clients would prefer an email or text reminder. Maybe another hospital went in that is better meeting clients’ needs. Maybe several of these happened.
In both instances one could act on belief. Perform the laparotomy; resend the reminders. And the problem might get better- maybe even because of what the veterinarian did. But s/he isn’t a whole lot better off! What if the problem doesn’t get better? What if it gets better... but the veterinarian only thinks what she/he did was what solved the problem?
To be confident of improving outcomes- and knowing how to stay out of such a mess in the future- all in our profession need to use timely, objective, relevant, comprehensive data to make policy. We, the authors, are currently in the process of compiling that kind of data- which is already available. Michigan is the first state we’ve looked at using such data and you might be surprised to see the results. We certainly were.
We’re not claiming to have all of the answers. We are claiming that the right questions have not been asked; that the right type of data- the objective, relevant, comprehensive data that is already available- hasn’t been used.
We’re doing the type of transparent, accessible research and discovery that we believe our professional representative organizations ought to be doing. Why are our professional representative organizations ignoring this existing, freely available, objective data in favor of spending millions of dollars to generate proprietary, subjective data that is capable of giving at best, sketchy results?
These are concerns that we’ve taken to the AVMA as a body and to individuals such as Karl Wise, Michael Dicks and Kevin Dajka. They seem uninterested in our assertions and findings.
Thank you again for reading our column and taking the time to write. Again, we encourage you to read the articles on justvetdata.com. We believe you’ll discover that we’re on the same team: one that seeks to return our profession to a solid foundation; one that believes the current methods aren’t cutting it. Please email us back- we love to hear how veterinarians in different states and economic climates are faring. Please engage us and the readers of justvetdata.com, as we admire and respect the passion for our profession that you’ve displayed.
Eden & Ryan