In The News: Veterinarians and disruption models

By Jane Rothfield

Disrupt, or be disrupted. It sounds ominous.

You might be wondering just how disruption techniques apply to veterinarians, whose job description has remained remarkably stable for a very long time.

Disruption is a phenomenon where high end professionals are ‘disrupted’ by those entering the profession at the other end. Typically, these ‘disrupters’ are first ignored or overlooked by the incumbents and then are gradually displaced or overtaken. With the high-speed development of technology, digital disruption has become a major force.

Digital disruption is exploding into those veterinary niches where supplementary services can be improved or developed. One example is the tech startup ‘I-Vet’, Australasia’s first national online vet video consultation service. Dr Sue Samuelsson founder and CEO of i-Vet said “i-Vet will alter the way pet owners buy a range of veterinary and care services, especially for clients without easy physical access.”

Pet owners will receive face-to-face video advice and guidance from an experienced veterinary surgeon, anytime, anywhere, at industry-leading prices. Vets can supplement their existing income by taking on locum work, and can timetable this work around their other commitments.

And the benefits? Owners are charged $70 for a consultation with no need to travel and they can specify the time they want to access the service.

Another area ripe for disruption is the sale of pet medications. In the US, Americans buy about $7 billion worth of over-the-counter and pet prescription medications every year. Traditionally, these have been bought from the veterinary clinic, providing the business with 25% to 35% of their revenue.

However, online retailers like PetMed Express are offering lower prices than the clinics, noticeably affecting traditional clinic profits. In response to this, the company Vets First Choice offers outsourced online pharmacy services to veterinarians. Vets can retain their traditional clients while competing on price with online suppliers.

From a pet owner’s point of view, the online store appears to be operated by the local clinic, but Vets First Choice coordinates and ships the orders from its pharmacy in Omaha. It employs six pharmacists and many more pharmacy technicians, and stocks more than 6,000 medications. The result is that for three years running, Vets First Choice has been listed on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately owned companies in the USA.

Savvy investors know that the internet can potentially reduce costs. With the ever-increasing demands on vets, companies that use new technologies to deliver a higher level of customer service and lower prices will become ‘go-to’ destinations for pet owners.

Vets First Choice and i-Vet are continually aiming to continue its disruptive business. For example, the companies are targeting prescription management and compliance by reminding pet owners when their pet’s prescription is due to be restocked.

Disruption is the way forward for veterinary practices. Broadly, their owners will eventually face three choices:

  • keep going until the business is overtaken by more aggressive competitors,
  • exit the business entirely and return capital to investors, or
  • redefine their core strategy and build up a new business model by using disruptive practices.

Disrupt, or be disrupted. That’s the future.


Dr Sue Samuelsson is a caring and dynamic vet in the Northern Territory, Australia who has had a profound effect on many remote communities around East Arnhem Land. She is the creator of i-Vet, an innovate online service designed for pet owners. Away from her busy schedule she enjoys catching barramundi in the Daly River.