A New Breed of Veterinary Clinic?
Bond Vet has created a veterinary clinic model that falls between primary care and emergency care.
Dr. Zay Satchu intends to revolutionize the veterinary industry. In 2019, she and co-founder Mo Punjani launched Bond Vet multisite clinic in New York with three goals in mind: first, to nurture and foster the human-animal bond; second, to create a healthy workplace; and third, to usher in a new breed of veterinary clinic.
After graduating from Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, Dr. Satchu worked in clinics from Boston to Dubai and noticed recurring problems in veterinarians’ offices worldwide. Clinics ran the same way they had for decades, with little regard for advances in technology and team morale. Hectic workplace cultures overwhelmed staff and patients, and the burnout rate of veterinary professionals was growing.
She began imagining a new model for animal clinics. Teaming up with experts in technology and business, she co-founded Bond Vet with Lukas Keindl in 2018. Today, the company has four locations in New York, with a fifth scheduled to open soon on Long Island – Bond Vet’s first location outside New York City. Last fall, the company raised $17 million in private investment funds to launch at least 10 more locations by the end of 2021.
Bond Vet is an urgent care and walk-in clinic, she said. “Similar to urgent care for people, our veterinarians provide treatment that falls between routine exams and emergency care. Think of CityMD vs. an emergency room,” she said, referring to the New York-based urgent care/walk-in clinic.
“You likely would not go to the emergency room with an upset stomach or to get stitches because your issue is relatively minor, and ERs are more costly, more hectic, and they have long wait times,” she said. “Instead, you’d go to a nearby urgent care clinic. It’s the same for pets.” She says Bond Vet is a friendly, calming, and less costly option that clients and pets both appreciate. “And if, for any reason, we aren’t able to care for the pet in our clinic, we’ll transport them to a nearby emergency hospital.”
Veterinary Advantage asked Dr. Satchu to talk about Bond Vet’s origins and plans for the future.
Veterinary Advantage: You have referred to Bond Vet as part of a “new breed of veterinary clinic.” Why?
Dr. Zay Satchu: We see ourselves as an uplifter in the industry, taking the existing veterinary model and improving it through culture, service, design, and technology.
We prioritize the well-being of our care team, with a positive, uplifting, collaborative culture that provides a caring environment for both pets and their people. We recognize that our industry has high rates of depression and burnout, and we believe that taking better care of our people will help them take better care of our pets.
Our focus on urgent care is unique in the industry, and it’s a win-win for practitioners and pet parents alike. With walk-in and same-day appointments, we’re able to fill (but not overfill!) our schedules and provide the care these pets need, with convenient hours and upfront pricing that is 50% less than an emergency hospital. We’re able to address a broad swath of 80% of veterinary cases and also offer dental cleanings and surgeries, as well as telehealth. In short, we’re there for our patients and their people whenever they need us.
One step in our clinics, and you’ll see we’re different. Our spaces are minimalist, clean and gentle, designed with both the human’s and pet’s comfort in mind, supported by extensive research. Think warm tones, comfortable furniture, soothing lighting, and entertainment (toys for pets, books for humans).
And lastly, we’re big on technology, and we use it to create a smoother experience for both clients and staff. Internally, we have custom browser extensions, and our app offers clients a full-service healthcare portal, where they can book, pull up medical records and chat with our vets. We introduced telehealth during the New York City lockdown to ensure our clients had access to veterinary care from the comfort of their own homes.
Veterinary Advantage: Why grow bigger? What advantages will you, your staff, and your clients (and their pets) gain by Bond Vet growing to 15 or more sites?
Dr. Satchu: As long as we are working with the very best veterinarians, nurses and assistants, we want to continue bringing comfortable and convenient urgent care services throughout the state. Expanding helps us treat more patients and gives us the opportunity to share and learn between clinics, all of which helps us have more impact on the industry and to prove that our people-first, urgent care model really works. As our company grows, we can provide growth opportunities and more benefits for our team members, which is very aligned with our mission.
Veterinary Advantage: Two of Bond Vet’s team members focus exclusively on recruiting. What obstacles – and opportunities – do they face when recruiting?
Dr. Satchu: Because we’re a young company, every hire has a huge impact on our culture. Our recruiting process is rigorous and thoughtful, so we can ensure we’re bringing on people who share our passion and motivation and want to grow and help transform the veterinary space. That’s no small order, and our recruitment team is the linchpin for this.
Veterinary Advantage: Bond Vet also employs two people in senior marketing roles. Please talk about the importance of marketing to your clinics and your approach to it.
Dr. Satchu: Because Bond Vet is a first-of-its-kind urgent care and walk-in clinic, there’s a bit of consumer education and messaging that needs to happen. Through a blend of digital and guerilla marketing initiatives, our marketing team makes sure people know about us and when they should come to Bond Vet. They’re focused on bringing clients in and making sure that – beyond the exam and clinic experience – our clients have a wonderful experience and want to come back, and they help with the client feedback loop so we can push ourselves to be better. We believe we’re building not just a vet clinic but a community of pets and pet parents, so we spend time curating events, like “Paint Your Pet” or “Yoga With Your Pup.”
Veterinary Advantage: You have developed a couple of proprietary product lines – Lucky Dog (jerky, salmon) and Happy Cat catnip. Why have you taken this step?
Dr. Satchu: We want to provide clients with an all-natural, 100% organic treat. As soon as pets walk in the door of our clinics, they gravitate to our treat wall. It works wonderfully, as we are now seen as a place of joy, which is not common for a vet clinic! Many pets will pull their owners to our front door, which of course, helps to build trust between us and pets and pet parents. We initially sold our treats in the clinic, but clients told us they wanted to order these treats, so now we sell them online.
Veterinary Advantage: How has COVID-19 affected Bond Vet? How do you anticipate it will affect you between now and the end of 2021?
Dr. Satchu: We already use technology to our advantage in our clinics, but COVID-19 accelerated a few things for us, including telehealth, our scheduling system, and other tools that help doctors spend more time caring for pets and less time filling out paperwork (thanks to more intuitive technology and nurses who take on a scribe role). We think this trend will continue. We’re a tech-enabled company, so adapting to a changing landscape is part of our DNA and comes quite naturally for us.
Veterinary Advantage: Is Bond Vet uniquely New York, or do you believe your model is applicable elsewhere in the country?
Dr. Satchu: We believe Bond Vet clinics can be successful across the country, in cities and suburbs alike. We’ll continue expanding throughout the Northeast over the coming years. Still, our current focus is to grow thoughtfully, hire the right people, nurture our team, and continue pushing for medical excellence because our pets and pet parents deserve it.