Veterinarians Working on Commission and Why It Matters

Why do you pick on veterinarians working on commission? How does that even matter to me?

Let me start by saying I was on commission for a while after I got out of school (1994) so I know something about it.

A recent market change has created the situation where any emergency clinic that you go to now, is owned by the same, national corporation, which is notoriously expensive and has the veterinarians on commission. In the event of an emergency, you will be directly impacted by what we are talking about in this document. (And this one)

A person might reasonably ask why I pick on veterinarian who work on commission or more accurately, why I pick on corporations who put their veterinarians on commission.

Commission seems to create a conflict of interest as far as what the on commission doctor will recommend as far as testing and procedures, to increase the amount generated by the inflated ticket.

Doesn’t the practice owner get the same improvement to his bottom line when he recommends unnecessary tests and excessive procedures? What is the difference between owning the practice, or being on commission as far as the profitability of practicing excessively?

First, let me observe that not every veterinarian on commission jacks up the client. My primary criticism is with corporations who put veterinarians in that position to have to guard themselves against that. And a degree of pity for the client, taking the risk that a commission veterinarian might practice excessively on their behalf.

Absolutely the only way a veterinarian-on-commission could possibly increase their paycheck or standard of living, is by increasing what they do. They can indulge the the luxury they have; of practicing excessively without worrying about the reputation of the practice.

On the other hand, the independent practice owner does not have to practice excessively. In fact, an independent OWNER is likely to do so much less than the commission veterinarian because word gets around that you practice excessively and it hurts business. That matters to the practice owner.

The practice owner has only to cut costs, and can raise the prices around the clinic to improve his financial bottom line without practicing excessively at all.

The practice owner can also increase his hours to generate increased income for himself. Commission veterinarians are limited to a scheduled week, and though they might have the luxury of taking a shift for someone else, that’s not guaranteed and it does not necessarily contribute to the bottom line besides allowing them to have more cases for greater commission revenue.

It’s important that you take away the fact that I am not condemning commission veterinarians because they do not have to practice excessively if they do not want to. For example: When I was working for Banfield veterinary hospital at a Petsmart location for nine months I earned absolutely no commissions. 

That clinic almost doubled in size but the “average invoice” did not go up and I did not upsell any of the bonus-incentivized products and services they wanted me to, unless it was actually necessary.

Related Post on Corporate Veterinary Medicine and How It Will Impact You In The Next Five Years.




Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.