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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tokyo: A Successful Veterinary Clinic in a Highly-Competitive Environment

While in Tokyo last week, I visited a small animal practice in the upscale Meguro Ward area in the southern part of the city. “There are over 60 clinics within a three-km radius of our hospital,” noted 58-year-old Dr. Hidemi Yasuda, who established the practice in 1982. “Our patient population is about 70:30 dog to cats, with an occasional ferret or rodent.”

Exterior Entrance to Yasuda Veterinary Clinic: Dr. Hidemi Yasuda (center)
with Junya (left) and Mrs. Sanae Yasuda.
Touring the well-groomed facility, I was struck by the efficiency of the operation and the ardor of the staff doctors and their support team. I asked Dr. Yasuda his recipe for success in a highly-competitive environment where clients arrive in a BMW or Mercedes-Benz and expect what he termed ‘better service’.

Hidemi thought for a moment. “The quality of our employees is critical to our success. From Nanayo Hashimoto in our front office to the veterinarians who are responsible for the medical care of the 60 patients who arrive each day, we provide dignified, individualized service for each client and their pet. This is a passion that was ingrained in me during my first job after graduation, when I worked for a pharmaceutical company.”

Front office manager, Nanayo Hashimoto (left), 
and Dr. Donald Smith with nursing staff at Yasuda Veterinary Clinic

“The continual professional advancement of my staff is also important,” Yasuda continued. “That includes sending them to meetings as far away as the U.S. for continuing education programs, and having a good reference library.” Scanning the titles that included many of the most important small animal texts—those that were translated in Japanese cost 2-3 times the English version—I began to realize the scope of investment that Yasuda makes in his professional team.

Veterinary Staff at Yasuda Veterinary Clinic (with Dr. Smith, center back)
Dr. Yasuda then turned his attention to the medical infrastructure. “Our hospital is well-equipped with modern, yet functional, equipment, including digital radiography and a late-model ultrasound unit. More important, our staff is competent in the operation of this equipment, and they understand its usefulness for the cases that we manage.”

A Professional Pet Grooming Service Complements the Veterinary Practice
The Yasuda family business (Hidemi, Sanae, and sons Junya and Koji, both veterinary students) also includes a large pet-grooming service, and an IgE diagnostics service (Spectrum Lab Japan), that employs four staff and receives over 10,000 samples per year from 4,500 veterinarians throughout the country.

Twenty-first century veterinary practice is a competitive field in Japan as it is in the United States. Every successful operation starts in the front office, and high-quality medical care is often supplemented by well-managed niche market services.