VetTrust – Compassionate Pet Care
Switzerland-based VetTrust sets new standards in veterinary medicine.
The Swiss veterinary group VetTrust is by far the largest Swiss provider of veterinary services. The group currently operates veterinary clinics, veterinary practices, mobile veterinary practices, animal outpatient clinics and pet hotels at 40 locations in German-speaking Switzerland, more than 20 of which have been integrated in the last three years alone.
Group CEO Boris Rapp explains: “No industry is undergoing such a transformation as veterinary medicine. The time of the former single veterinarian is over and almost 100% of the graduates today are female. Young professionals want networking, continuing education, regular working hours and flexibility. The desire to have one’s own practice has clearly taken a back seat for all these reasons.”
A Unique Setup
He points out that VetTrust offers exactly the necessary alternative model. After becoming part of VetTrust, veterinarians can concentrate on medicine and a large part of the administration is taken off their hands. Due to the size of VetTrust, they are also supported and supervised by a network of specialists.
“What makes us unique is that we are very flexible in terms of the models for integrating a new location. The range of options for the seller includes an immediate exit, continued employment at a low workload, or remaining invested and continuing to hold the entrepreneurial reins; whichever they wish.”
He points out that despite the rapid growth, VetTrust has never lost sight of its Swiss culture. “We have a very collegial way of dealing with each other, on an equal footing, not only with regard to our employees but also with regard to future clinics and practices that we would like to integrate. Vendors appreciate that very much. Decisions can be made directly and at the table, without any reservations.”
His colleague, Chief Medical Officer Jeannine Kolb adds that in terms of veterinary medicine, VetTrust is setting completely new standards. “Continuous support is important – to accompany pet owners throughout their pets’ entire lives. Pet owners should come to VetTrust not only when their pets feel unwell.”
“Prevention plays an increas-ingly important role in modern veterinary medicine, just as it does in human medicine. Individually tailored nutrition and dental prophylaxis are important examples here. In this respect, we are a very competent partner for pet owners in terms of ensuring that the animal has a longer life and a higher level of well-being.”
Proud to Serve
Over the course of its existence, VetTrust has achieved a lot, shaping veterinary care for the future. Boris says: “We are particularly proud of our regional structure. Our regional managers, medically active in their own practices, are also responsible for other sites in their region as well as for information sharing. The regional structure has also helped us to develop all VetTrust clinics and practices significantly and successfully in recent years, allowing us to manage the strong growth well and to integrate new locations quickly and successfully.”
The very good coverage in the German-speaking region with 40 locations made it possible to set a free emergency number that can be reached from anywhere. “The call is always forwarded to the VetTrust practice that is in closest proximity to the caller.”
“This sets us apart from many veterinary emergency services that have very expensive service numbers,” says Boris, adding that technically, this was only possible with the company’s partner Swisscom, to whom they outsourced their entire ICT infrastructure including the management of the workplaces in 2020.
Jeannine highlights an important addition to VetTrust’s range of services that was added during the Covid-19 crisis – online consultation. “This service is still a bit unfamiliar for pet owners but will have an increasing share of consultations in the future. Technically, we can manage it in such a way that the practices provide free time slots during which online appointments are supervised.
Supporting Its People
Reflecting on developments in the sector over the last few years, Boris points out that a major challenge is the increasing shortage of specialists in veterinary medicine. This is not only noticeable throughout Switzerland, but also in the entire German-speaking region. That is why VetTrust is working intensively on its employer brand.
“We can offer potential employees maximum flexibility, both in terms of weekly working hours as well as a medical focus or regional deployment. We also offer very flexible options for returning to work after pregnancy and motherhood – a great advantage in an industry dominated by female professionals.”
The company has a strong focus on training and networking. Its online learning platform is free to all employees, and internal consultations across the sites allow for quick answers to complex cases.
Jeannine explains that the vets’ work is also supported in another way: “A large part of the communication runs centrally through important key roles, such as our medical team. i.e., a group of specialists. They decide centrally which new medicines can be included and create targeted training programmes for the individual sites, ensuring that they are provided with the information that is relevant to them and that the highest quality is guaranteed. This allows the vets to concentrate fully on their clients and animals.”
VetTrust’s success has not been achieved in isolation, and Boris points out that over the last few years, the company has built up a solid network of key partners, which enables the company to implement new processes and structures quickly and efficiently.
“On the technical level, we must mention Swisscom and the network service partner Net26, without whom fast integration of the locations as well as the entire professionalisation of the IT environment would not be possible.”
System and server stability and rapid support play a central role for VetTrust. At the heart of the broad range of services provided by Swisscom is the Smart ICT package with IT operations in the cloud, fail-safe Internet, network and IP telephony. The SMS Gateway is used for automated SMS to customers, e.g. for vaccination reminders. Via blue TV Host, VetTrust operates its own TV channel in the practices for educational purposes and prevention tips.
In the field of medical devices and medical technology, the company relies on several key partners: Covetrus, the provider of animal health products and related services, helps VetTrust to get a regular assessment of the status of its medical technology in the practices so that advance planning can be done regarding which locations need update purchases. A standardised catalogue of articles also facilitates the daily work of VetTrust staff.
In the area of X-rays, VetTrust has an exclusive cooperation with Schweizer Röntgen; they look after all VetTrust locations – the maintenance contract ensures long-term stability and a quick response in case of any breakdown. “Through long-term planning with Schweizer Röntgen, we can ensure that the locations are always at a sound, and digitised, level of X-ray technology, so that access to the images is also possible across locations, e.g. for specialist findings,” says Boris.
“Our laboratory partner idexx is equally important for us. Through the uniform structuring of the so-called point-of-care diagnostics and the bundling of the sending-in laboratory at idexx, not only can we offer customers optimal quality, but we also generate attractive economies of scale.”
And, last but not least, in the legal arena VetTrust relies on the international law firm Niederer-Kraft-Frei in Zurich, which has successfully supported the company in M&A transactions and due diligence for years, enabling good, fast integrations.
Investing in Further Growth
VetTrust’s plans for the future have been clearly defined, with the objective of further growing and strengthening its leadership in the Swiss market. “The goal is to provide a nationwide service. Every pet owner should be able to reach a VetTrust practice within 15-30 minutes. With our shareholder, the Porterhouse Group from Lucerne, we have a strong and committed family office at our side, which supports us greatly and accompanies our growth,” says Boris.
Jeannine points out that in order to sustain the growth rate, VetTrust is going to fully standardise its practice management software around easyVET in 2023. “We are already using easyVET at three locations and are enthusiastic about the functionalities, the system stability and the support services. easyVET is a partner with whom we can optimally guarantee the control of the treatment processes and also the support for our customers. We are now planning to introduce petsXL, a pet owner app adapted to our specific needs. This will allow us to be even closer to our clients and to meet their needs.”
Boris reveals that in addition to further inorganic growth, the company is looking at exciting new projects. In the spring VetTrust will launch its own brand feeds, DogTrust and CatTrust, designed in cooperation with its veterinarians, with a view to promoting a balanced diet that supports long and healthy animal life.
“We are focusing on feed formulations that target the activity level of the animals. This feed was designed in cooperation with our veterinarians – feed advice is one of the core competencies of a veterinarian and a balanced diet ensures healthy and long animal life,” he explains, adding that this is yet another important building block in the development of the fast-growing company that is clearly on track with its mission.
Shaping the Future
In the near future, the company is set to further enhance the level of its services and to provide a consistent level of care throughout its locations. To this end, VetTrust is planning to roll out VetTrust quality management this year. The aim is to raise all the company’s locations to the same quality standard and to highlight the potential of individual clinics and practices by means of regular internal audits, as well as internal benchmarking.
“We will further intensify and individualise customer communication and implement further innovative measures so that we can accompany our patients even more closely,” says Boris, pointing out that the last few years helping to shape and develop this company have been most rewarding.
“Veterinary medicine is a fantastic industry that has been stable and crisis-proof over the last few years. Animals play an increasingly important role in the lives of their owners. Because animals are also so close to our hearts, we are of course also committed to animal welfare and support various organisations accordingly. Working in such an environment motivates us every day and is a great gift.”
Jeannine’s concluding words only affirm this ethos: “VetTrust is a value-based company,” she affirms. “Our values of ‘honestly interested’, `passionate’ and ‘progressive together’ make veterinary medicine more accessible to staff and clients. We want to shape the future of veterinary medicine today.”
Dipl.-Kfm. Dr. med. Boris Rapp, CEO
Coming from human medicine, after a short period of practical work Boris switched to hospital management. He managed larger hospital structures and most recently was COO at the largest dialysis provider in Germany. As a CEO, he was able to successfully integrate his experience in human medicine and supra-regional structures into VetTrust. This mainly concerns the management and control of the locations, but also process optimisation and quality improvement. He says: “ Many things that are established in human medicine are only very slowly arriving in veterinary medicine. We have accelerated these processes at VetTrust, which is what makes us so successful and gives us a clear competitive advantage.”
Vet. med. Jeannine Kolb, CMO
As a veterinarian, Jeannine became self-employed shortly after completing her studies to have the freedom to shape veterinary medicine the way she thought was right for the future. In her own practice, she already focused on prophylaxis and other treatment options outside of conventional medicine, before selling her practice to VetTrust in 2017. “ I have always pursued the concept of VetTrust, because it was always clear to me that a single practice in today’s world can hardly meet the ever-increasing demands of pet owners,” she says. After joining VetTrust, she continued to manage the practice as the head veterinarian and, together with Boris, set up the regional management structure. She is now leading this management structure as CMO and member of the Executive Board.