AVMA 2015 Economic Report: A must-read for those with a stake in the profession

Report1CoverWe recently launched our 2015 Economic Report subscription series, bringing some of the most current and vitally important veterinary economics information to our members and the general public.

The first installment of the six-part series, the AVMA Report on Veterinary Markets, recaps the AVMA’s 2014 Economic Summit held in October and provides data and information about general U.S. economic conditions, the markets for veterinary education, veterinarians and veterinary services, and workforce capacity utilization.

We believe this information is critical to all of us if we are going to have informed, authoritative discussions about the state of the veterinary markets. This series of six reports on the many facets of veterinary economics will help veterinarians better understand the markets they operate in and the factors that affect their livelihood. They’re all must-reads for anyone with a stake in the profession’s overall success.

The AVMA Report on Veterinary Markets now can be purchased online from the AVMA Store as part of a six-installment series, and a free summary of the current report is also available. The price for the series is $249 for AVMA members and $499 for nonmembers. The five other reports will be available upon publication. The reports and their scheduled publication dates are:

  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Markets (January)
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Employment (February)
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Debt and Income (March)
  • The AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinarians (May)
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Capacity (July)
  • The AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinary Education (September)

The reports are the result of intensive surveying and research by staff members in the AVMA Economics Division, but we couldn’t have done it without the help of our members and other key partners who provided us with valuable information and insight. No other group has studied the veterinary workforce to the extent we have, and no one has ever produced this type of data.

Here’s a brief summary of what each report explores:

  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Markets: Provides data and information about general U.S. economic conditions, the markets for veterinary education, veterinarians and veterinary services, and workforce capacity utilization.
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Employment: We surveyed veterinarians across the country and across the profession to better understand employment, unemployment and underemployment, as well as the factors affecting each.
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Debt and Income: This report takes an in-depth look at salaries for new and existing veterinarians and their veterinary education debt load, as well as debt-to-income ratios and the net present value of a veterinary career.
  • The AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinarians: Ever wonder where the 100,000-plus veterinarians are located, what type of work they do or how much they are compensated? This report explores the demographics of the profession.
  • The AVMA Report on Veterinary Capacity: This report includes our excess capacity forecast and explores our capacity utilization survey, descriptive statistics for capacity utilization and the factors affecting capacity utilization.
  • The AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinary Education: The market for veterinary education is the beginning of the pipeline to the market for veterinary services. This report looks at the types of students applying to veterinary school, and the supply of and demand for veterinary education.

For the past few years, the AVMA has been laying the groundwork necessary to allow us to pursue solutions to economic issues facing the veterinary profession. This series of reports is just the beginning of our efforts to help ensure adequate access to veterinary services and the economic viability of the veterinary medical profession.

31 thoughts on “AVMA 2015 Economic Report: A must-read for those with a stake in the profession

  1. This link has been saved in my inbox since January 29, simply because I haven’t had time to sit down and give it the attention that I believe it needs. What I do NOT believe it needs is to cost $249 for a member. The disconnect between the administration and the members is as big as the one that exists in government. I suppose it doesn’t matter…those of us who need to read it the most are the ones who are too busy working to have time to. Such is life.

  2. Mike,

    I am pleased that there is an economic division and I feel it is very important that we study the economics of our profession. I don’t think anyone would disagree.

    I hope that you do not feel the comments from my colleagues are aimed at you personally. I can understand their frustration, as part of me feels that this type of information gathering should be part of why we pay dues to the AVMA. The fact that this was paid for by AVMA investments really doesn’t matter because those investments were still funded by our dues.

    I also understand your statement in regards to who should pay. It is not unlike the situations that occur in private practice ; say we performed a surgery and charged appropriately for it, but there was a complication during the recovery period. Say this complication required additional treatments. Now, we would be well within our right to charge full price to treat said unforeseen issue, but it would likely cost us goodwill in the long run.

    So, one can argue the merits of charging for these studies, but the perception will still be the same.

  3. The AVMA never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Maybe its time to stop being so tone-deaf?

  4. I repeat…AVMA are you listening? Your polite reply above is insulting to the members who have bothered to comment on this.

    • Thank you all for indicating your interest in the Economic Report series. First, let me apologize for not communicating our publication plan for the economics information more effectively. Sometimes we do not seem to have enough time to do everything and here in AVMA ECON, we have been focused on getting the reports out, journal articles published, and the Exploring Veterinary Economics and DVM360 articles written.

      We are in the process of publishing a comprehensive set of reports, JAVMA articles, DVM360 articles and Exploring Economics articles that summarizes and analyzes the data collected from AVMA surveys, U.S. government surveys and other sources of information pertaining to the veterinary profession.

      The 2015 AVMA Economics Report Series includes additional information that provides a detailed and in-depth view along with the methodology used. The subscription series is available at a member and nonmember price.

      While the individual reports are part of the paid subscription package, there are opportunities to access highlights and segmented pieces of this information for free.
      Exploring Veterinary Economics
      JAVMA Veterinary Economics
      DVM360 AVMA Eye on Economics
      AVMA@Work Newsletter – A link to each report summary will be included with the newsletter corresponding to the publication date.

      Like any well-functioning organization, we look at the metrics for our outputs to determine how best to place them in the market. We have certainly received some comments similar to yours that are unhappy with the reports being sold. So, let’s take a look at how we got to that decision.

      We keep track of the number of unique viewers of our Exploring Veterinary Economics articles, attendance at our veterinary economics summit and seminars and requests for data, charts, graphs and figures. For instance, looking at the last two months – December and January – approximately 1,800 people have viewed one or more pages within the economics section of the website. Among those, the following were the most commonly viewed articles, and were seen by the number of people indicated in each line:

      Strategies for Pricing, Part 3 – 253
      Strategies for Pricing, Part 1 – 181
      Strategies for Pricing, Part 4 – 104
      Strategies for Pricing, Part 2 – 89
      Lowering Interest Rates on Student Debt – 71
      Market for Services – 62
      Profit Margins – 26
      Supply in the Veterinary Services Industry – 26

      Since the executive summary for the first economics report was posted to the website in mid-January (the same time the report series went on sale), it has been downloaded 234 times during 221 visitor sessions. Some of those sessions might actually have included more than one download, so 221 is the maximum number of actual website visitors who have downloaded the executive summary.

      In addition, since the summit I have received 37 requests for parts or all of the information presented at the summit and except for one request these were all from people who wish to share the information at colleges, for continuing education courses or fee-based programs. This implies that a very small segment of the profession is interested in the information and many of those that are use it in their for-fee services.

      Competing for resources with other major areas of interest such as government relations (advocacy), animal welfare or scientific activities is difficult when it is demonstrated that these areas are considerably more important to members than economics. And, nearly all practicing veterinarians are using their outputs. Thus, to increase the resources available to expand the economics effort will require finding sources of sustainable funding that does not come from member dues.

      For instance, we have estimated that we will sell 150 nonmember and 200 member subscriptions to the 2015 Report Series for an estimated $125,000. We have already launched efforts with AABP, ACLAM and the Indiana VMA to collect and analyze data to describe their specific workforce, and if sales meet our projection for the report series, we will add other state and specialty VMAs.

      As more members begin to gain an interest in economic issues, we will change our marketing strategy. But for now, it is hard to understand why someone would object to applying a user fee to information that only a small group wants and using these funds to expand on the information they want, rather than taxing all members for information that, even when free, they don’t appear interested in receiving.

      All the findings included in the report series will be made available to both AVMA members and nonmembers through DVM360. More in-depth analysis and findings will be provided free to members in Exploring Veterinary Economics and executive summaries in JAVMA. The report series will represent a great deal of analytical work that is well above and beyond any economics-based evaluation provided in the past from AVMA or from other entities within the profession.

      The other sources of our information will provide summaries and descriptive statistics of the profession and will be available annually on a schedule that is based on the data collection cycle. From small and larger group discussions over the past two years, this is the kind of information that we understand interests most members. Though some members may prefer a broader overview through summaries, others want detail and the more applied academic view that each report in the series provided. The effort to gather this information, apply various sets of analytic resources and create an accessible and comprehensible format for members was an investment made by AVMA on behalf of our members.

      This work is far from finished and any revenue generated through the purchase of the subscription series will be re-invested to extend our data collection, analyses and reporting of economic and finance information to the members specifically and profession in general. As we evaluate member expectations and perceptions of performance with respect to the economics initiatives, we may adjust this strategy.

      Unfortunately, as a result of this ambitious schedule of data collection, analysis and publication and the limited human resources in AVMA’s Economics Division, we will not be able to respond to all the individual requests for information this year. Please visit the AVMA economics web page to view the information that we currently have available. We hope to improve our responsiveness to members in the future as we institutionalize our processes.

      • Because this has been just another bait and switch policy of the AVMA who has “stockholders” i.e. veterinarians who contributed this knowledge and paid through their dues to finance you and your staff’s work product.Any publicly traded company would provide its stockholders with knowledge of the company’s performance for at most a nominal cost.The AVMA is supposed to be our agent in someways and therefore has some legal and ethical responsibility. It seems that it is more and more only there to follow its own agenda. That in economics is what is called “the principal agent problem”. I am no longer a member because of the policies of this organization and because the organizations is a failure in serving its stockholders (DVMs) and giving them value. The best thing that will happen to this profession is when the AVMA ceases to exist and the staff learns about being out of a job.

      • Mike,
        Something doesn’t add up here.
        I know Ryan and I asked for a copy of these materials after the Summit, expressly for making available to colleagues on the Under the Microscope website and on Facebook. No paywall, not even a membership wall, freely available to the general public. Because let’s face it: a big part of the problem we face out here in the real world is that the world has no idea what a value we are! How much service vets provide and how little we charge and how far in debt we are because of how much our educations cost…
        We were told you weren’t going to make it available to us because it had been paid for with members’ money, so it belonged to them.
        Meanwhile VPI has made available for free extensive pricing research, conducted by objective researchers, drawn from huge numbers of real world transactions.

        • To quote a famous line, “what we have here is a failure to communicate”. All of the information that we have is being made available to the members and some of it even to nonmembers and the general public. I too welcome Nationwide’s (VPI) providing their data for analysis and the Krannert Business School’s release of their analytic results. This is one estimation of one price series. If you will note in Exploring Veterinary Economics (members only), JAVMA (members only) and DVM360 we have also made the results of several analysis readily available. Members DO have free access to all the results. However, there are a few members who may find value in the more in-depth comprehensive reports. Still others in specific VMAs that will want information more applicable to them. We will use the fees that they pay to provide it so that member dues can be used to focus on their areas of greatest interest to the most members.

          I am however, simply miffed at how someone could indicate that they have failed to remain an active member of an association because it provides them nothing in return and then suggest that the information they produce is so important that it should be available for free to the profession. Even more incredulous is that fact that some of you who now complain about the Reports being sold are the same who made statements that we were wasting our money doing more studies and you didn’t care how we manipulated the data…

          Finally, the principle agent problem, as directed at the AVMA ECON staff, would suggest that we have something personal to gain by our actions. Trying to make the best decisions with the data and information at hand is not consistent with the principle-agent problem which requires that the agent’s actions are for the agent’s benefit. That the production and/or marketing of these reports somehow benefits the AVMA ECON staff couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is a considerable amount of extra effort and resources that are required to produce these reports.

          • The AVMA LEADERSHIP is in conflict with the veterinarian-members who pay the dues to provide the revenue to support the operations including the economics division, nothing against the economics staff who have been hired to do a job. The essence of the accreditation issue is whether the AVMA is an advocate primarily for its membership or is an advocate for themselves in promoting their agenda to control veterinary education across the world through imposition of its “gold standards” of accreditation using membership money. It has a responsibility to use its members dues to serve its membership first. If it was not trying to use member’s money to pursue their own junkets to China etc (Ron would be a great Communist Party Member). The other question, this brings up is the transparency with which this economic research is undertaken . In any scientific paper the expectation is that the research will be “peer” reviewed, the keeping of the raw data does not promote transparency and a good second opinion from other economists. As veterinarians we are “required” to provide access to patient medical data to other professionals and the owner for at most the cost of copying the record. I guess the AVMA has one standard for itself and another standards for the “peon” membership.

        • Robert, we indeed believe in peer review and outside validation of our work effort. We have engaged multiple universities who are conducting their own analysis independent of ours but attempting to answer the same questions. This research will find its way to economic journals and we will comment on that outside work in our reports and provide summaries of findings that both concur and disagree with ours.
          Further, I have stated on numerous occasions that our data is available for use. We have a number of veterinarians and outside researchers that are lining up to use the data. We allow the data to be used both to check our work and extend it. There is no conspiracy taking place here – we are doing our best with limited resources to provide the profession with the answers it seeks and facilitate all the members requests.

      • Mike,

        The American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners (ASLAP) is one of the Allied organizations that has a seat in the AVMA House of Delegates. I just wanted to point out that I find it odd that you indicate launching efforts with AABP, ACLAM and the Indiana VMA. I am a Diplomate of ACLAM and I’ve been an AVMA member for over 25 years so I have no issues with ACLAM being involved. ASLAP is the organization that represents laboratory animal veterinarians to the AVMA and organized veterinary medicine. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to approach ASLAP to partner with AVMA on this endeavor. Will these organizations that are partnering with you on survey development have free assess to the data generated?

        • Suzanne, sorry for the late reply – I missed your comments. Yes ASLAP and ACLAM have been involved in the effort with AVMA and yes the data collected from members of these associations will be available to those entities. As I mentioned, we think it is important to understand each of the horizontally related markets for veterinarians and will be pursuing data collection, analysis and economic modeling of the workforce situation specific to these unique markets.

  5. I’m glad every comment so far mirrored my immediate thoughts about the foolishness in demanding that veterinarians pay to see the results of surveys and studies that are funded by our dues! That’s rich. Too rich for my blood and probably for anyone else who is watching the bottom line. Instead of strengthening our connection to the AVMA, this move will most likely have the opposite effect – members questioning what they’re really getting (besides AVMA PLIT insurance) for their membership fees. To charge an amount that’s close to our annual membership is preposterous, esp. since it wouldn’t cost anything (no postage or paper) to download the document electronically. Kindly reconsider!

    • Hmmm. How did the AVMA fund these reports? Might it have been through….the dues of the very members they are now charging 249$ each to READ the reports? So nice to know we can get free summaries. If I could get more convenient liability insurance I would no longer be a member of an organization that so loudly proclaims it wants to serve it’s members it can’t seem to hear it’s members.

    • Vera, I am sorry if you feel like you have not been adequately served. I would hope that you will review the articles we have written elsewhere and determine if these are sufficient to meet your needs. Most of the requests that I get are for specific pieces of data. Recently a faculty member asked for a piece of data from the Report on Veterinary Compensation. When I suggested that the information could be found in the report I was told “I don’t want the whole report I just want the one number”. All information collected points to the need to provide information that is no longer than 750 words and one chart for veterinarians. And, as I have stated, even that doesn’t get that great of readership. On the other hand their are many outside the profession that want much more complete data and analysis. I hope you will frequent the free sources of this information and let us know which one fits your needs best.

  6. I agree. Report should be free for members. Are members seen only as customers? I get more useful information from reading the free “Clinician’s Brief” than I ever got from the AVMA journal.

  7. I, too, feel that it should be provided as a member service.
    I am a 44 year member and quite honestly if it were not for me being just a short period of time from Honor Roll status and whatever “benefits” that accrues, I would have dropped my membership years ago.
    I guess it is just my old fashioned sense of pride of being a “vet” and what I used to believe the AVMA stood for and did for us that keeps me paying the dues.

  8. I agree that this report needs to be free to AVMA members. If someone wants a printed copy that cost money to provide then there should be a cost. What is the cost of providing this over the internet? Non-members need to pay for this report.

    • Timothy, thanks for the appropriate question. What is the cost of providing this over the internet. Very little if taken at the margin. But what did it cost to actual produce the reports? This would be in the ballpark of 3/4 of a million dollars. And guess what it didn’t cost you or any member a dime. Surprised? Of course you are. The money was from AVMA investments that were put into a Economics Strategy fund. There is only so much money in the fund and then it is depleted. Then what? I hope you will read the responses I have posted on this link and begin to see why the reports are being sold. I am just an economist and we apparently think strangely, but if you ask those that have served on boards with me or under me as an association officer, I have a strong reputation for being fiscally conservative.

  9. Why can’t these reports be downloaded for free by AVMA members? How much harder or more expensive would it be to be able to download the actual report instead of a watered-down summary that fails to explain how the AVMA arrives at its conclusions.

    Rediculous that we pay dues and cannot see the reports that OUR professional organization supposedly generates for our consumption. Where is the value?

  10. I couldn’t agree more with Ms Carey and Dr Wardrip. I have found over three decades of membership that it it totally not worth it. If not for AVMA liability insurance, I would have dropped membership years ago.

    Offering the report as a “discount” instead of free to long term members is a joke.

    • Susan,
      See Eden’s comment for a link to a list of liability insurance alternatives on the Under The Microscope website. This isn’t a monopoly anymore.

  11. If the AVMA is truly dedicated to being more “open” with its members maybe they should start by actually being open and not asking me for more than $200 for a report I have already paid for by a/ giving up my information and b/ paying my dues. I am fluctuating back and forth between whether or not I will continue to pay the AVMA dues. I want to believe my generation (c/o 2011) is going to break down the doors and make the AVMA into what it was intended for : an open source for leadership, knowledge, guidance and protection of our profession. I find myself doubting that is possible as I watch the older generation belittle us as lazy, unmotivated and stupid enough to pay several hundred dollars for a report even as we struggle to pay loans the AVMA has made no attempt to bring into control as they outsource our education and flood the market with vets and loan dollars. This is a huge strike against you, yet again.

    I don’t doubt that it cost the AVMA money to put this report together, but do they honestly think that much of the cost needs to be handed down to the dues paying masses that support it? Please examine your rationale and tell me you actually think $250 is a legitimate amount of money to charge us. If you believe it is please help me to understand why. I am not trying not to be ignorant here but I find myself well short of the information I need to find this “offer” anything short of ridiculous.

    P.S. The 3 page “summary” is the most useless thing I have ever seen in my life. Thanks. Totally worth the “free” price tag. It does not motivate me to pay $250 for the full report.

  12. In the interest of changing AVMA to a new, more effective strategy, you should consider making reports such as these economic reports FREE to members. I have been a member for 37 years, and I have occasionally questioned the value of that membership, while maintaining it in order to support my profession. Many extra cost reports have been published over the years, using AVMA resources and personnel, paid for primarily by the dues of members – yet I suspect fewer than 10% of members ever read these reports – I have never spent the extra money to obtain any. AVMA claims to represent the profession, brags about 85% membership of the profession, and promotes increased participation in AVMA activities by a wider range of members – wouldn’t sharing ALL AVMA resources with ALL members be a better way to try to accomplish this?

    • Totally agree with Dr Wardrip. Sending via e-mail would not cost much at all. I’m also in agreement that I personally don’t get much from AVMA other than paying bills.

      • “Thanks for writing, Drs. Crawford and Wardrip. We understand and appreciate your concerns about having to pay for the 2015 Economic Reports series. Please keep in mind that these reports are available to AVMA members at a 50% discounted price of $249 off the non-member price of $499. We anticipate that many members will be interested in the report but may not need or want the full detail within the complete report. And while the individual reports are part of the paid subscription package that provides a detailed exploration of each topic, there are opportunities to access highlights and segmented pieces of this information for free. You can find free summaries of the report on the economics pages of the avma.org website and as links in the AVMA@Work monthly newsletter. Summaries also will appear in JAVMA.”

        • And *this* is why I dropped my membership: because the Association couldn’t find it in them to acknowledge that members had legitimate complaints, but instead tried to minimize the complaints, whitewash over them, or explain the failed rationale until the listener grows tired enough to stop raising complaints. All while happily collecting my dues and showing me little value.

          Drs. Wardrip & Crawford don’t seem to care that there’s a 50% “discount.” It seems they’re questioning the fundamental pricing in the first place and the rational behind collecting information from members, analyzing the data via funding from the members, then selling the final product back to the members.

          A simple, “Oh, I understand where you’re coming from. We probably ought to consider that as we’re hearing that from the vocal, engaged members a lot,” would go a *long way.*

          • Oh Ryan, I understand where your coming from. And, I wont “whitewash over them”. Once again I have laid out an analytic rationale for my actions. I have been open with both the data and the analysis. I have heard your repeated complaints and not once have I heard you respond to the information I have presented except to say it is “failed rationale”. What could be more failed than several non-members criticizing, in general, the decisions made by an AVMA staff member who has, in detail, described his decision process. Should there be any wonder my engagement with your group is ending? Either we can discuss issues with civility and based on the facts or we wont discuss them at all. Perhaps you could begin by presenting an alternative marketing plan that will enable the continued expansion of analysis for the profession for those that want it without taxes everyone. Your constant criticism of anything that we do without providing anything better or even a plan to do it better grows cold.

    • Craig, I have tried to respond to this suggestion in the other responses. Your question gets to the heart of public economics. Who should pay for what? Should we have one tax for everyone that gets used to fund everything that everyone wants or should we have user fees so that only the users of specific products and services pay. In every type of organization and public entity we end up doing both. We try to levee a base tax to provide public goods (goods that everyone can use and their use doesn’t take away from the use by anyone else) and user fees for private goods ( gods that once consumed by one person are no longer available to others). For AVMA the big public good is advocacy, working to promote the profession, protecting veterinarians from adverse legislation and regulatory activity, holding animal owners to animal welfare standards, etc. The Economic information is an interesting hybrid of public and private good. Even though it is available to all members and nonmembers a small group has sought a very specific in depth presentation of the information. Many of these will use it in fee-based courses that they offer to the members who willing pay the fees to receive it (a private good). I hope this helps you understand the current strategy. We may not be right, we may yet find ourselves switching to your proposed strategy. Hopefully we will do that based on what the members (a random sample of them) tell us.