Are Prices for Veterinary Services Really Rising? A Recent VPI-Purdue Study and its Significance to the Veterinary Diagnostics Market

Are Prices for Veterinary Services Really Rising? A Recent VPI-Purdue Study and its Significance to the Veterinary Diagnostics Market

A recent insurer-sponsored study sought to define real pricing trends for services in the U.S. veterinarian industry. It found surprisingly that during the recession and afterwards (2009-2014) prices overall for canine veterinary services actually fell according to the generated index. An overall drop in veterinary service prices seemed counterintuitive to industry observations and even the government consumer price index for veterinary services. Kalorama Information outlines this prevailing notion regarding the veterinary industry in The World Market for Veterinary Diagnostics (2014):

Growth in North American and European companion animal care markets has been sustained through the rising value of care, the use of premium services and products, and a subset of owners’ commitment to preventative care and routine visits with expanded services and treatments. Decreased patient volume became a market weakness in the recession when most owners were strained in their discretionary spending, which included companion animal care… a consensus exists that growth has largely been driven by higher prices for services rather than through structural improvement or higher patient volumes.

Several studies and industry filings have shown the erosion in patient visit volumes to North American veterinary practices and hospitals from 2009 onwards. Revenue growth for the industry was predicated on a rising value of care delivered during the visit and higher pricing.

The recent Nationwide/Veterinary Pet Insurance-Purdue University study on its surface seemed to challenge rising prices as a factor behind the growth of the veterinary diagnostics market. However, the study provided a crucial detail by providing separate indices for “wellness care” and “medical care” services. Medical care services under the study included condition-related treatment services delivered by veterinary clinics and hospitals, which represented approximately 75% of spending under the study. Researchers found that the overall indexed drop in service prices was attributable to medical care services, which fell nearly 5% between 2009 and 2013. Wellness care services (25% of spending) including examinations, vaccinations and primary care tests, on the other hand, rose by roughly 8% in index price over the same period!

Kalorama Information believes this most recent study further validates an observed trend in the veterinary practice business: practice veterinarians are relying more on same-visit, increasingly comprehensive diagnostic services. Many practices have invested in in-office core testing services such as chemistry panels and blood counts in addition to standard parasitic screening tests such as the fecal float and heartworm lateral flow test. The use of in-office testing as a revenue booster is not dissimilar to the development of physician office labs (POL) in healthcare: veterinarians can their improve margins on services while delivering better convenience and responsiveness to clients. The majority of the U.S. companion animal diagnostics market is now in in-clinic and hospital analyzer, test, and reagent sales.

Kalorama Information projects the companion animal diagnostics market to grow by over 5% annually through 2019. Despite static visit volumes, the demand for companion animal diagnostics is expected to rise with the higher prevalence of pet insurance coverage, greater availability of in-practice testing services, and the underlying power of the companion animal-human bond that has improved the standards of care sought out by owners.

For additional discussion of companion animal and food animal diagnostics market factors, including market segmentation by product and geography, Kalorama Information offers the recent title The World Market for Veterinary Diagnostics.