Even though times of economic downturn may temporarily slow down the drive for digital transformation, the future of the veterinary sector is digital. Over the years, the speed of animal diagnoses, treatment success rates and recovery times have improved alongside – and in part, because of – technological advancements. This trend has recently accelerated as, like most other sectors, the veterinary world is gradually being transformed by digitalisation.
One example of this is the global veterinary diagnostic imaging market which was valued at $1,931.5 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $3,473.9 million by 2026 (Research and Markets, 2019). Part of this growth comes from increasing adoption of veterinary picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) in clinical settings. Image sharing and cloud computing facilities are gaining huge demand due to real-time information dissemination and enhanced security of sensitive data.
Telemedicine is another area that is changing how pets are cared for. Wearable technology is beginning contribute to big data that will be increasingly useful for monitoring their health (Wedderburn, 2017). By spotting conditions earlier and enabling them to be treated more quickly or avoided altogether, this technology can not only have an impact on animal welfare, but also workload management at vet clinics, creating efficiencies and improved service for pet owners.
3D printing – whereby a 3D shape is built by adding layer upon layer of material – is another technology starting to be used by veterinary practitioners as it has a number of uses in the sector. For example, CT scans can be utilised to make accurate, 3D-printed plastic models of deformed or complex anatomy (Fletcher, 2018). These scans allow operational planning and enable implants to be precisely sized and contoured in advance of a procedure, enabling a surgeon to practice a procedure before entering the operating suite. This, in turn, minimises the length of time the animal is under anaesthesia and the risk of infection (Medimodel, 2018). Another, more recent use of 3D printing is the printing of bespoke surgical implants directly, using titanium powder. This process enables unique implants to be made for specific challenging cases. Implants are designed directly from a CT scan (Fletcher, 2018).
These technologies may seem like they’re from the future but digitalisation is advancing so rapidly that veterinary practices are under pressure to keep up with these new developments or they risk being left behind. This is particularly important as the number of corporate vet practices grows, adding to competitiveness in the sector (Kelly, 2018). Veterinary practices which do not prioritise acquiring sophisticated equipment will not benefit from the increased productivity and efficiency it brings and risk losing clients to more forward-looking competitors.
However, keeping pace with technological advancements requires considerable capital expenditure, which is where many veterinary practices can struggle. Against this background, acquiring the latest veterinary technology may seem out of reach for many providers. Intelligent finance solutions which allow vet practices to invest in new equipment technology without the need for a large initial capital outlay are now coming to the fore. For example, pay-for-outcomes arrangements are increasingly popular, such as lease agreements which consists of fixed monthly payments over the financing period, or Managed Service Contract arrangements that guarantee an agreed level of equipment uptime. Veterinary practices can thereby deploy precious funds in other areas to improve service quality. Financing arrangements have the potential to incorporate other costs such as installation, as well as introducing the flexibility of future affordable equipment 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 veterinary equipment 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.
Intelligent finance solutions allow veterinary organisations to sustainably acquire new technology without having to commit large sums of capital. Improved diagnostics, telemedicine and 3D printing are just some of the areas that are developing apace, and that practices need to at the very least be aware of as they plan their technology investments.