This is the first of a 9-part series of articles intended to walk you through all the ins-and-outs of purchasing capital equipment for a veterinary practice. Far too often important steps/factors are glossed over during the sales process, items that may not be clearly defined on product literature. Missed information can lead to confusion prior to purchase, other information gaps can lead to more serious issues down the line, when there is no turning back.
In this series, we’ll cover the details and importance of:
- Analyzing Your Practice
- Assessing Your Needs
- Evaluating the Market
- Pre-Demo Homework
- Scheduling a Demo
- Post Demo
- Pulling the Trigger
- The Waiting Game
- Post-Install Support
Every journey needs a beginning, and the starting place for a capital equipment purchase is not best served by outwardly searching for a particular vendor or piece of technology. The first place to look in internally, at your practice as a whole. To find out what you need, you need to first understand what you have.
How many doctors are at the practice? For any capital equipment to take hold in the practice, you will need to have usage and buy-in, first and foremost from the doctors. You need to understand both the experience level and the interests of those who primarily order the procedures done on the equipment. Have they used ultrasound before? Are they hands-on while viewing radiographs or do they prefer to have most images sent out for over-reads? Are they loyalist to any brand of equipment, and why?
Do you have any specialists that work at your practice, either full-time/in-house or visiting? The more robust the specialization of your practice, the more advanced imaging you may need and be able to substantiate. Trying to put a CT scanner (however cool it might be) into a practice with 2 DVMs and no surgeons or internal medicine specialists would be a stretch. But that same CT would be both profitable and door-opening if you have either of those specialty services offered.
And how many technicians do you employ? These are the true work-horses of the clinic and so your equipment will most often be in their hands (even up to the most advanced imaging modalities). Are any of your techs licensed or specialized or have experience with imaging or therapy equipment? For example, having a technician with rehab experience that has used therapy lasers in the past would give you a leg up in implementation and utilization, if that’s a direction you decide to take.
The amount and types of patients you see on a regular basis ultimately determine what you need (vs want). Going back through your records (either Practice Management or Billing) can give you a firm grasp on how many of which procedures/studies you’ve done, without the anecdotal “we seemed to take a lot of radiographs last month”. If you are currently using film or CR for your radiography, for example, and debating the upgrade to full digital radiography (DR), all you need do is line up your radiography caseload and crunch the numbers.
One pitfall in this method, however, is the fallacy of “what you did is what you will do”. If there was a workflow reason that limited the number of radiographs per hour/day you could previously acquire, then the digital solution could open up other revenue potential.
Another way to narrow down your caseload is through laboratory diagnostics. There is very good correlation between the monthly volume of diagnostic tests you perform (whether in-house or via reference laboratories) and the volume of imaging (and therapeutic) services you can/should provide. This should go without saying, but too often do people narrow their focus on a particular modality rather than to take this broader view across the practice.
Your Place in Your Market
Your local market is probably going to be the least “cookie-cutter” description in this entire evaluation process. There are the demographics of your clientele, which dictate your pricing strategy as well as the level of (especially high-end) equipment you can substantiate. Do you need to charge the Beverly Hills rate of $2,400 for a CT workup, or do you fit more into the rural Iowa structure around $600.
Then there is the standard-of-care at your facility. VCA West LA has every tool in the arsenal up to and including a linear accelerator for radiation cancer therapy. Odds are that doesn’t fit your practice. That doesn’t mean you practice any worse medicine, but it could mean that a patient that fits X and Y criteria get ultrasound scans in the treatment room, whereas those with Z criteria need to be referred out to a specialty hospital.
Speaking of which, where is the closest specialty hospital? Is it over an hour away such that you and your other local veterinarians need to have a leg-up on each other to keep the business local? Capital equipment is one of the top ways to distinguish yourself amongst your local competition to your clientele. But understanding what modalities (and what age/level of each) your competition has goes a long way in deciding what you need.
But before all that, what do you currently have? That’s the easiest question to ask, but you cant move to what you want before understanding what you have, not just as a “box”, but as a piece of the bigger whole: radiography, ultrasound, practice management, PACS, therapy/rehab, wound care, laboratory diagnostics, etc.
Do you have full integration of your Practice Management System to your imaging equipment? Does your imaging equipment integrate to your PACS? Is your PACS local or cloud-only or hybrid? These are essential starting points.
Goals & Ambitions
Where do you want to go? How do you see your practice evolving over the next decade? Do you have any soon-to-be retiring doctors? Are you looking to recruit new doctors or specialists? Are you looking to sell your practice? Is the unit next to your practice in the strip mall soon becoming available? Nobody knows your goals like you, so it is virtually impossible to have all the right questions in this section, but it is critically important to purchase equipment for the clinic you intend to grow into vs the one you have today.
Before you even step foot “outside” your clinic on your equipment search, you need to spend time “inside” doing some serious internal evaluation. Doing so will both arm you for and protect you from the next steps in the process, when sales and marketing people get their hands on you. Understand your current capabilities as well as your needs and goals, and the rest of the journey will lay itself out for you.
Download The Buyers Journey: A Guide to Intelligent Veterinary Equipment Purchases (Phase 1)
This program is designed to be your guide ensuring you make the most intelligent, clear and confident buying decision. This document will cover how to get that process started with the first three sections of your buying journey.