Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, on the future of vet med and what to expect at AAHA Con
“Tell me about your pets.”
He’s a household name within the veterinary community and has worked in just about every aspect of vet med imaginable, from a teenage kennel kid to hospital owner and renowned speaker. He’s got a popular podcast, he’s a published author, and he just received a California Veterinary Medical Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
But Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, starts off his interview by asking about the interviewer’s pets—which, as it turns out, is a pretty good indication of who he is at his core.
Weinstein has been in full-on celebration mode as of late, not necessarily because of his own recent award, but because his daughter, Brooke, just became the newest DVM in the family, and, as he said, having one’s offspring follow in your footsteps means you did something right.
“Whether it was not pushing too hard, whether it was setting a good example, whether it was just being given opportunities to work with animals, I think there’s just a tremendous amount of pride and happiness to see that she’s followed a similar path to where I am,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the direction she hits going forward, because it won't be the same. And it will be what she wants, with my support.”
Still, his lifetime achievement award deserves acknowledgement, right? “With respect to the lifetime part, yeah, I get that. I’ve been around a while,” he said, shrugging. “The achievement part? I think that, when you just do what you do, and you don’t think about what you’re doing—when you’re not looking for anything more than to set forth in the right direction and make a difference—you don’t recognize what you’ve done,” he said.
“I’ve been involved with veterinary medicine at a variety of levels for 37 years and have had a tremendous number of leadership roles, and I think all I did was try to make the profession better for the next generation.”
Envisioning a brighter future for vet med
Now, of course, he has an especially vested interest in that better future with his daughter entering the field. But what, exactly, does that look like to Weinstein?
It begins with retention.
“Greater retention of our doctors within the profession, greater retention of our staff within the profession,” he said. “Work environments that are fun and supportive, that help to grow people into having careers in veterinary medicine—not just jobs—and that allow us to do the best we can for our clients, for our patients, and not forgetting about the teams that help us to get there.”
Achieving that requires a hard look at how we’re delivering veterinary medicine, he said, including identifying what the stressors are and finding solutions.
And to get that hard look, leaders must be willing to take a step back for a fuller view.
“To steal a quote from one of my mentors and co-author [of the E-Myth Veterinarian], Michael Gerber, ‘We need to work on our business more than in our business,’” he said. “We’re so busy at times doing what we do as a doctor, that we don’t recognize the diseases that are going on around us, even within our own business.”
Identifying the issues and solutions is one thing, but another challenge he sees is weakness in communication at every level, from organized veterinary medicine and state boards and colleges to practices themselves.
“It's paramount for us to be much more transparent in our communication at all levels, but especially within our businesses,” he said.
Weinstein also believes veterinary professionals need to recognize the shift the industry has undergone and make adjustments accordingly.
“Veterinary medicine has moved from the time when we were a healthcare provider to a time when we’re a service industry that provides healthcare,” he said. “I think we have to recalibrate our profession to put a client-centric lien on things. Healthcare will be a part of it, but I think we need to look at ourselves as a service industry because we compete for the discretionary dollars.”
Focusing on the client, Weinstein asserted, is good for pets and profits. “The more we look at giving you, as a pet owner, an experience, the more you’re likely to come back and provide the care that’s necessary for your pets,” he said.
“But if we continue to be a very doctor-centric business model, will we be able to give the [pet owners] of the world the value proposition they’re looking for?”
Say ‘hi’ to Weinstein at AAHA Con
This September in San Diego, Weinstein will lead four sessions, each of which is designed to be useful to the entire team:
- Taking the Pain out of the Money Talk: “I jest that there are two conversations to have in practice that are extremely difficult,” he said. “One is the end-of-life conversation. The other is the cost-of-care conversation. I think many of us who are veterinarians would rather have the end-of-life conversation.”
- Making Your Practice Operations Cookbook a Recipe for Success: “Most veterinary practices are totally chaotic because they don’t have any systems, processes, or checklists that they use, so every day is like Groundhog’s Day,” he said. “The way we answer the phone, the way we clean a cage, the way we walk a dog could have a system—but if we call it an operations manual, it’s really dry. So I think we should call it a cookbook, and everything we do has a recipe for success.”
- Using a Hiring Team to Build Your Team: “I made plenty of mistakes hiring people I thought were great,” he said. “The problem is, they were just like me—and the practice didn’t need more of me, they needed more people who fit the culture of the practice. So we use a hiring team composed of three different people to fill roles within the practice, including doctors.”
- How to Be High Tech and High Touch: “Veterinarians and high tech are like dogs and a squirrel. We chase the bright, shiny objects, without always recognizing whether they fit. How much more will it make something easier? Will it make it more difficult? How will it enhance the client experience? How will it enhance the staff experience?” he said. “The fact that something is really cool and high tech doesn't mean it's going to be attractive to our clients, because we are relationship-based business. We can't accept technology and give up touch-ology.”
And he hopes all members of the veterinary team will pull up a chair to these sessions.
“The future of veterinary medicine should . . . move away from what has been doctor-centric healthcare delivery so that everybody is heard. Everybody has a voice, everybody can solve a problem—which means everybody needs to know what the problems are and have some solutions,” he said.
“So all of these talks focus on delivering a team-based approach to healthcare, through the client, through the patient. And everybody can be heard, everybody can be seen, and everybody can contribute.”
While there are certain to be plenty of helpful takeaways and intriguing insights, Weinstein insists that he really doesn’t want to blow any minds with his lectures.
“I really want to point out to them what they do well, and recognize that they can do things better,” he said. “I don't think we need radical change. I think we need change.” Baby steps are the best way to a sustainable outcome, he said, because making too many radical changes is where resistance arises.
“All I want to do is get them to think about things a little bit differently. I want them to just move forward instead of moving backwards. I want them to stop fighting change and start embracing change.”
And, if you attend his sessions or see him in the hallway, don’t be a stranger.
“This is a very small profession, and I think it’s important to understand that most of us who are up there speaking are there to help everybody else become more successful,” he said. “There’s enough business out there for everybody who’s in the audience, and there’s enough business out there for everybody who’s speaking. If we all become successful, we will all be successful.”
Sure, you can check out Peter and Phil’s Courageous Conversations podcast, you can read the book he co-authored with Michael Gerber, and you learn more about him on LinkedIn if you want. But most of all, he said, “Come up, listen to me speak, and engage with me afterward,” he said. “What I’m doing there for AAHA is really just me being supportive of my colleagues and trying to help them enjoy doing what they’re doing so that they can do it as long as I have.”
So, if you’ll be at AAHA Con in September, be sure to set aside a moment to say hello to Weinstein—and be ready to tell him a little about your pets while you’re at it.
About AAHA Con
Take your knowledge to the next level with over 80 hours of medical and nonmedical continuing education at AAHA Con (aaha.org/aahacon), September 20–23 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego.
Photo courtesy of Peter Weinstein
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.