How to effectively compete with the internet drug companies
There are many companies online that are severely undercutting the profits of veterinarians who would normally be filling the prescriptions. This may or may not be currently affecting your practice but, in the long run, this will probably affect every veterinary practice.
Recently a doctor posted a question on the The Practice Solution Magazine message forums regarding “combating the internet drug companies”. He asked for suggestions on how to deal with this serious issue. I have interviewed hundreds of doctors around the country about this subject over the past 3 years and I’ve put together some suggestions to effectively address this. My suggestions are based upon the feedback of doctors who have dealt with this successfully.
Things you can do when you get a request for a prescription to be filled:
- Check the client’s chart and make sure that the patient has been in for an exam in the past year and is up to date. If not, call the client and let them know that in order for you to fill a prescription, you need to do an exam on the animal before you are able to prescribe anything by law.
- Call your client and talk to them one-on-one to find out what they are trying to achieve from ordering online or by mail order. See if it is because of price or convenience. Be prepared to handle either eventuality.
- Have your client tell you the price they were quoted and check it against your own retail price. MANY times doctors find that their prices are VERY competitive with the online drug company prices. Many clients simply take the media ads’ claim of lower prices at face value and don’t check it out. Many times you’ll find that your prices are comparable or possibly even better. Take the time to investigate this and know where you stand. You can’t deal with any competition effectively unless you know exactly where you stand in comparison.
- Many doctors are offering to match price and even ship the product to the client. As long as this is fairly cost effective it will make a very positive impression on the client. This type of service can easily result in clients referring more clients to you based on your great service to them.
Other proactive things you can do:
- Proactively educate your clients. Let them know that there are mail-order/online drug companies out there that DO NOT guarantee their products. Let them know that if the animal has a reaction to a drug (even heartworm or flea/tick medications) that the online company can do nothing for them and that YOU can. You stand behind the medication you prescribe and if their animal has a problem, you can help them.
- Call your drug distributors and ask them if they have any programs that will match online drug company prices. Some drug company representatives have worked out rebates to compete with online drug companies.
- Make sure that whoever is doing the drug ordering for your clinic really stays on top of stock and current prices, and shops prices from different distributors to ensure you are getting the best price.
- Start a drug co-op. If you have a good relationship with other veterinarians in your area, look at the possibility of doing a group order to take advantage of volume pricing.
I hope these suggestions help you. Please feel free to post in our forums any other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. Also, if you have found your own solutions to this problem, please pass them on to help other doctors.
The Practice Solution Magazine