Corporate veterinary medicine, which began on a small scale in the mid-1980s, is changing the way the profession is practiced in the 21st century.
Today’s corporate players account for about 7.5% of the 26,000 small animal veterinary practices that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimate are operating in the United States1—up from the 5% estimated in 2009 by Dennis McCurnin, DVM, MS, DACVS, Louisiana State University professor of surgery and hospital director emeritus, using similar data based on a separate study.2 Leaders in the field include Banfield with 908 practices (with some in Puerto Rico),3 VCA with more than 600,4 NVA with more than 250 in 39 U.S. states (with some in Canada),5 and VetCor with more than 145 in 19 U.S. states.6
Factors influencing corporate practice growth in the United States include the ability to purchase the newest and best technologies and the resources to negotiate lower drug and supply prices by buying larger quantities, said René Carlson, DVM, AVMA’s director of international affairs.7 The economies of scale that apply, she noted, include increased revenue for more efficient use of fixed assets, higher staff-to-veterinarian ratios, and pressure for profitability that encourages practices to aggregate into larger entities.7
How the Models Differ
René Carlson, DVM, listed these major differences between private and corporate practice3: