To what extent do veterinarian present their practice, team and services in the Internet? To which places are the individual federal states in Germany assigned in comparison? Are new information channels been used in the dialogue with pet owners? A representative study provides answers to these and many other questions and shows that there is a substantial need for improvement. To a lesser extent veterinary practices shine in this discipline and do leave digital communication behind. This also raises the question of progress in the veterinary practice landscape when it comes to the development of digital services in diagnostics, prevention and treatment methods. Against the background of the findings of the current study, it seems likely that the answers are sobering.
A representative study by the management consultancy BJO DIALOGUE covering the web presence of veterinary (vet) practices in Germany shows that there is still plenty of room for improvement in state of the art communication between veterinarian and pet owners. According to the study, service thinking and a spirit of innovation are only given limited priority in the online communication of vet practices. In a comparison of federal states, this is the least true for Hamburg, where the web presence of the practicing veterinarians have – according to the findings – the best records. However, when it comes to quantity, Lower Saxony leads with the highest proportion of veterinary websites, even though this federal state is only the fourth strongest in terms of population.
But we do have a website!
Since about one third of the vet practices has no web presence according to the survey, the remaining two thirds shine primarily by fulfilment of the substantial obligations: They can be found when searching on the web, contacts and opening hours are mentioned on the landing page, they have an imprint, allow the site visitor to navigate through their information offer in a structured manner – also in such a way that the presentation of the contents on different devices adapts automatically, thus in "responsive design".
So far so good?
If one considers the explanations on special practice achievements, the integration of photos and pointing out of the professional competence as well as providing tips and background information, these ranges of topics have obviously only limited priority. The service for pet owners of already arranging relevant insight for them to choose a practice and giving information on animal health on the own homepage ranks in the middle field.
The fact that information behaviour, generations and nationalities are changing not only amongst veterinarians but also amongst owners of pets living in Germany is not reflected, according to the study, in progressive communication amongst practice owners: transparency with regard to the treatment costs, addressing patients in a multicultural environment and using new communication channels are almost completely ignored by vet practices in their web presence.
The way to the result
A total of 199 vet practices were included in the BJO study in September/October 2018. The distribution per federal state took place according to the weighting of the number of inhabitants. The practices studied were selected at random from publicly accessible lists without a city/country quota. The information content was decisive for the assessment of the site. Emotional appeal and visual design of the websites were not considered in the evaluation, as they are part of the personal perception. A total of 16 categories were assessed in 16 federal states (according to the German Veterinary Chambers). The length of stay per page corresponded to the realistic image of the user or reader behaviour of around 30 seconds.
Worrying – a little Zeitgeist
The overall judgement: A qualitative comparison of the federal states
“Like in human medicine, progressive communication and information channels will very soon become a matter of course for veterinarians in their everyday practice, not to mention the next step in the digitalisation of various services. Knowingly around the balancing act, which must make a practicing veterinary today, one may not oppose oneself to the potential of a digital communication. Pet owners are not only getting older, they are also being born and grow up in a digitalised world. This also applies to veterinarians. Generational change takes place everywhere, whether in the
countryside or in the city. One must be conscious of it as veterinarian of each age and gender and act finally also here professionally“, comments Birgit Josten-Opladen, managing director, BJO DIALOGUE.
The current study "Vet Practices and Digital Communication" in Germany is the prelude to a series of vet studies conducted by BJO DIALOGUE as a neutral authority covering Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia. The main topics are the generational change, the transformation of the profession as such and the digitalisation of services.
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