For years, veterinarians have operated mobile vet clinics and traveled to farms to take care of large animals. Now veterinarians are traveling to homes to care for animals of all sizes like dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and horses. Veterinarians like this type of practice due to the freedom it offers them and it is also more affordable to operate than a brick-and-mortar stationary clinic. Busy pet owners like the convenience of having their veterinarian come to them.
No longer do pet owners have to struggle with their skittish pet who balks at riding in the car or for their cat who fights to avoid getting in a cat carrier.
There are pros and cons to starting a mobile vet clinic. Before you venture into this way of practicing veterinary medicine, there are questions you need to ask yourself. If you decide this is for you, we have some advice.
There are some basic lifestyle questions to ask yourself before you take the leap into starting your own mobile vet clinic. For example:
If you still want to pursue owning a mobile vet clinic, there are some steps you need to take.
The success of any new business depends on having a solid business plan in place before seeking out a business start-up loan or opening the doors to the public. Some main considerations to follow include:
Defining your business model.
You need to make some decisions about this:
Determining your business structure.
The rules for what type of business structure you can form vary from state to state. For example, in California, veterinarians are not allowed to form limited liability corporations (LLCs) or limited liability partnerships (LLPs) but may form other types of corporations.
Some states require mobile veterinarians to coordinate with a local veterinary hospital for animals that may require hospitalization or emergency services that cannot be provided by the mobile vet clinic.
Dental & Medical Counsel can assist you in determining the right business structure for your mobile vet clinic. This will provide you with the best structure that will provide you with tax advantages and the protection you need from liabilities and corporate debts.
Name your business and design a logo.
Choose a name for your mobile vet clinic that will be easy for clients to remember. Check to be sure the name is available and unique so it will not be confused with other mobile clinics. Then design a logo. It is important to work with legal counsel to federally trademark your practice name and logo.
You will place the name of your business, your phone number, and your logo on the side of your vehicle. You want the name and logo to be eye-catching and memorable. You will get business from pet owners who see your truck/van parked while you are caring for your patients. This mobile billboard may be the best way of all to advertise your services.
Identify your target market and service area.
This involves several considerations:
The beauty of the mobile vet clinic is that you can schedule your workweek for your own convenience and for how you find it generates the best income. You have the freedom to analyze where you need to be to generate the patient base and income that you need.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2020 and 2030, the need for veterinarians will increase by 17 percent, which is much faster than other occupations. This is a good time for you to capitalize on this projection and start your own mobile vet clinic.
Purchase of a vehicle. You will need to purchase a van, enclosed truck, or trailer. The vehicle may be from 18 to 30 feet long and one that can be specially equipped according to your specifications.
Equipping the vehicle. According to Dispomed, a manufacturer of veterinary equipment, what you will need to start up depends on what niche you are going to focus on. Some mobile vets limit their practice to preventive care, vaccinations, and wellness exams. Others focus on providing pet hospice and euthanasia services. Still, others provide the same full services as those provided by vets who have brick-and-motor stationary practices.
Basic equipment for all niches should include:
If you plan to offer a full-service mobile vet clinic, you may also need:
The cost of the vehicle plus equipping it may be close to $300,000. According to an article published a few years ago in Veterinary Practice News, the start-up cost for a mobile vet clinic is about one-fourth of the cost of opening your own veterinary practice in a traditional stationary brick-and-mortar location.
You will also need basic supplies, including disposable goods. You will need to arrange with pharmacies to fill your prescriptions. There will be costs for required licenses and permits.
Expected Ongoing Costs
As with any practice, whether a stationary or mobile one, there will be ongoing costs. Some costs to expect when operating a mobile vet clinic include:
The accountant will know which expenses you can deduct which may save you a lot of money. For example, if you only use your vehicle for your business, you will not deduct your mileage on your tax form but will claim depreciation of the vehicle. If you use the vehicle at times that are not for business, then you will deduct your business mileage.
You will likely need a business loan to finance the start-up of your mobile vet clinic. The first step in obtaining financing is to have a well-prepared business plan.
Loans are available from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Also, there are veterinary lenders, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo. It is expected that it will take about six months for your mobile vet clinic to generate a positive cash flow.
Establishing a Fee Schedule
In addition to the traditional fee schedule, you will establish to be competitive with the stationary vet clinics, you will charge a fee solely for the house-call visit. This may be anywhere from $50 to $100 based on the number of miles you must drive, the size of the animal, and the difficulty in providing the necessary care at home.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Although driving around with your mobile clinic name, logo, and phone number on the side of your vehicle is a necessary part of your marketing plan, you need to do more. Some recommendations include:
Evaluate Your Need for an Assistant
If you think you can do this by yourself, think again. Most all veterinarians with mobile clinics do so with a vet tech with them. You need this person to help in many ways. For example, the assistant or vet tech will:
Check on State and Local Rules
Generally, mobile vet clinics are subject to the same legal requirements as for a brick-and-motor stationary practice. You still need to make sure you are complying with all the laws of your state concerning licensure and practice requirements. You can find this information by checking with your state veterinary medical board.
You can also learn specific state rules and regulations by researching the American Association of Mobile Veterinary Practitioners website. You must be a member of this organization in order to use its database.
Each state has different requirements. For your mobile vet clinic, you will most likely be required to have:
At Dental & Medical Counsel, we assist healthcare professionals, including veterinarians, in establishing their medical practices. We offer a complimentary consultation with attorney Ali Oromchian. Contact us to schedule a complimentary call to see how we can help you in your new venture.
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