The evolving veterinary services market is creating new opportunities for ISVs. Dave Cuppett, Director of Business Development for First American Payment Systems, says web-based software and mobile technology are the biggest disruptors in the field. “Veterinarians are starting to run their businesses from handhelds. They have the ability to travel to large animals, remotely access data from their systems, and collect payments on-site,” Cuppett explains. “And having one platform that includes marketing, email, scheduling, staffing, and inventory is huge.”
Cuppett says when you evaluate the veterinary services market, you’ll notice that there aren’t many medium-sized facilities anymore. Large veterinary hospitals and corporations have acquired organizations with 10 to 20 veterinary facilities. As a result, you’ll encounter prospects in one of either two groups:
- Large entities that will pay more for veterinary software that gives them the ability to share X-rays, records, and even loyalty program data among its hospitals and offices
- Small facilities run by one or two veterinarians that are looking for low-cost practice management tools that allow them to enter the marketplace competitively.
Regardless of the segment of the market that you are targeting with your veterinary software, prospects will appreciate applications that are offered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis. Veterinarians want SaaS benefits including no upfront licensing costs, predictable monthly payments, minimal requirements for on-site IT support, and automatic software updates.
Changing Consumer Preferences
Higher spending on animals and pets is an increasing consumer trend, but bills for complicated procedures can be too large for some consumers to pay in full when services are rendered. Unlike healthcare payments for people, the burden to pay for care for pets and animals usually falls completely on the customer, since insurance for veterinary care isn’t mainstream.
Cuppett says consumers — and veterinarians — want the ability to divide payments for costly procedures over several months with recurring billing. This functionality can also benefit veterinarians that allow customers to pay a flat monthly fee to receive routine services, rather than paying a large bill once or twice a year. Veterinary software solutions that accommodate recurring billing and monthly payment plans must also include account updating, so the correct payment information is on file when the next billing cycle occurs.
Cuppett says as this market continues to evolve, there are four significant trends ISVs need to watch:
Data Mining. Cuppett says veterinarians are looking for more effective ways to market themselves and their businesses. They can benefit from solutions that help them understand their customers and industry trends so they can market more effectively.
Telemedicine. As with human healthcare, telemedicine is a growing trend in the veterinary field. “Although people often search the internet for information regarding their own health, they aren’t very good at understanding what may be wrong with their pets,” says Cuppett. “They need to consult with the veterinarian, and telemedicine can make it easier on everyone’s schedules.” He adds that telemedicine and teleconsultation is more of a necessity than a convenience for people who own bovine or equine animals and can’t transport them to a clinic.
E-commerce. Veterinarians have discovered that e-commerce can be an additional source of revenue, selling pet food, nutritional supplements, grooming aids, even pet toys. Consumers can feel confident that the items offered for sale on their veterinarian’s website have their stamp of approval as good choices for pets, and veterinarians’ businesses can become one-stop-shops for their customers. Moreover, it keeps veterinarians in touch with their customers throughout the year, instead of communicating with them only when it’s time for vaccinations or grooming.
New revenue streams. Veterinarians may offer non-traditional services, like doggie daycare or obedience courses. The software you design needs to have the flexibility to manage and collect payment from these or other inventive revenue streams.
What Veterinarians Need from Payment Solutions
Cuppett stresses payment “must-haves” for this market include:
- Keeping payment card information up to date. “It’s the number one most time-consuming activity, and it can be totally eliminated electronically with an updater program in place in the back office. This is a technology that can greatly simplify reconciliation efforts with your banking partners,” he says.
- Maintaining a high level of security, including keeping cardholder data tokenized and out of PCI scope.
He adds that veterinarians also need to be able to easily set up recurring billing and accept payment in any form, including credit cards, ACH, online payment, and traditional card-present payments, including EMV and contactless payments.
“It’s a burgeoning vertical and there’s room to develop applications for this industry,” says Cuppett. “If you’re an ISV already providing solutions for the dental or chiropractic markets, your solutions may be able to translate right to the veterinary space.”