Why Choose a Satellite Clinic When Buying a Veterinary Practice
Published December 9, 2022
You’ve owned your own animal hospital for a few years now. Things are going well. You’re building patient relationships. You’ve found your practice groove.
Demand is out the door. Appointments for your region are months out, and you’re not even sure where to refer your clients. You wonder if there’s another level yet to be achieved: could you possibly expand to another full-service veterinary practice?
Even if your current animal hospital has been turning a profit for several years, buying or starting another veterinary practice that offers the complete services of an animal hospital can feel out of reach. Whether you take over an existing veterinary hospital or renovate and equip a new one, these types of practices tend to come with a hefty price tag.
As an existing veterinary practice owner who is looking to expand, you may feel that your resources are at capacity in your primary hospital. Can you really afford to double that cost by opening a whole new hospital? And do you have people to staff it?
Thankfully, there is an alternative to the huge expense of a full-service animal hospital with its sizable staff and expensive equipment: the satellite clinic.
The Satellite Clinic Middle Ground
Satellite veterinary clinics operate on a similar principle to the hub-and-spoke model of human medicine. Rather than focus healthcare resources at a few distant, competing practices in a particular region, a diversity of health services can be distributed throughout a greater number of clinics who refer patients to each other.
In veterinary terms, this would look like a veterinary clinic surrounding one or a few centralized full-service animal hospitals. They would relieve the often overburdened animal hospitals of the easier, standard care cases that don’t really need those robust services, expensive equipment, and senior level staff.
As an expanding practice owner, there are several compelling reasons why this kind of satellite clinic would make a good investment.
Fewer Barriers to Ownership
The much lower overhead of a satellite clinic comprises the biggest advantage for expanding veterinary practice reach. Think about the cost factors of buying a veterinary practice and operating it:
If your clinic only works in preventative and minor illness care, all you need is a lobby, an examination area, and a treatment room.
Starting equipment for lobby and examination areas can be as simple as a collection of chairs and metal exam tables. Smaller square footage and fewer specialization requirements from the space also reduces the need for extensive renovations.
As you can imagine, a clinic this simple can be run by one veterinarian and one or two technicians. In short, for a satellite clinic, the overhead and startup expenses would be far less.
Room to Improve Business Practices
Veterinary school teaches you a lot about how to diagnose and care for animals, but it often lacks business education. This means that you were probably playing catch-up by the time you opened your own practice. Perhaps you are even considering pursuing further business education at this point, such as an MBA or specialized certificate courses.
Expanding your business is a complex endeavor in its own right. Because retail veterinary clinics are much easier to operate, they represent an expedited and simplified way to expand your practice.. Since satellite clinics are substantially more streamlined, they are the most cost-effective way to approach expansion. See how opening an Essentials PetCare satellite clinic, for example, compares with other types of facilities. You can focus more of your energy on patient care rather than doubling the complex schedules, budgets, vendors, and operations of a full-service animal hospital.
Complementary Rather than Competitive
Perhaps the most appealing part of the satellite clinic business model is its collaborative nature. It’s based on the simple fact that smaller, prevention-focused clinics do not compete – and don’t need to compete – with larger animal hospitals. Instead, it acknowledges the reality that they need each other.
Why do animal hospitals and satellite clinics need each other? Consider the state of the veterinary field right now.
- In many parts of the country, animal hospitals are overburdened – appointment times are pushed weeks, if not months, from when pets need care.
- Veterinarians and technicians suffer high rates of burnout.
- Because of burnout and more severe mental health predictors, like high suicide rates, animal hospitals struggle to retain staff.
- Many would-be clients of animal hospitals avoid routine care due to cost, commute, and appointment availability, leading to more emergencies and more pet patients with a poor prognosis.
You can see how all these components would make an animal hospital into a veritable pressure cooker of owner, employee, and client stress.
This is where prevention-focused clinics enter the picture. They provide a release valve, siphoning cases that can be handled in a non-emergency setting. Animal hospitals aren’t losing meaningful business by streaming these minor cases to a satellite clinic – especially when they’re booked so far out because of high demand.
Instead, the hospital and nearby clinics are actually creating a mutually beneficial feedback loop, referring each other cases that best match their setups. The focus of owning a satellite clinic is to create win-win-win business, staff, and client circumstances.
As you’re expanding your larger practice, you can use the satellite clinic as a way to relieve your staff through multiple avenues – lightening their appointment load or rotating their work between the more intense hospital and the less intense preventative clinic.
Helps Animals, Pet Parents, and Your Employees
In the big picture of veterinary care, satellite clinics benefit clients as much as practitioners by increasing access to vital care for a wider population of pets.
Look beyond the traditional way of buying a veterinary practice with a satellite clinic and you might just improve the health and happiness of the animal community around you as well as your bottom line. More progressive providers like Essentials PetCare offer turnkey satellite clinics, making expansion fast and easy for discerning hospital owners looking to grow.
Essential Tip: Are you feeling unsure about your next steps as an expanding veterinary practice owner? You don’t have to go it alone. Let’s chat! You’ll glean practical knowledge of why a satellite clinic might be the next right step for your practice.