Pet owners in The Netherlands want their animals to receive treatment that’s on par with what a human member of the family might receive.
Veterinarian clinics have responded to this development. Clinical Director Marc Maas can remember that 15 years ago when he had a knee injury, the quality of the technology was such that the ultrasound scan didn’t reveal much.
Today’s kit is much more sophisticated and useful, and it’s not just human patients that are benefiting. “These days, an average first line clinic has ultrasound and a vet trained to use the equipment,” he says. “There’s also X-ray, dental X-ray and even complex lab equipment in most clinics. That’s a huge amount of knowledge and technology on offer.”
But this kind of technology doesn’t come cheap. While some of the cost can be offset by economies of scale, with referral hospitals offering certain services on behalf of clinics, that’s never going to be the whole answer. Pet insurance has a part to play but, in the Netherlands, there’s a problem. Only around 3-4% of pets are covered by insurance, which can force owners to choose between paying a huge bill or refusing pet treatment.
To try to counter this, Evidensia recently soft-launched its own insurance product in eight clinics. “We basically launched a white label product based on an existing product, because an insurer I would say is a different role to a veterinarian,” says van Silfhout. To do this, Evidensia went to a number of providers to look for a company that could offer a low-cost product where “everything should be very easy to use, no small print in the conditions”. This was especially important because pet insurance has a chequered history in the Netherlands.
When it was first rolled out, says Marc Maas, “The insurance companies made the mistake of pricing it too low and then had to add a lot of small-print conditions and pricing increases.”
There were a lot of vets taking advantage, so there were blacklists of vets not being eligible and a lot of negative press surrounding all of this. So we wanted to start with a clean sheet and a reliable product that we support.”
If this initiative works, and the scheme was rolled out more widely in June, more pet owners will at last be able to afford state-of-the-art treatments. “The spend of an insured customer is significantly higher than with an uninsured one,” notes van Silfhout, which holds out the promise of longer-lived pets enjoying better recovery rates and an all-round better standard of life.