Anthony Roberts

A profession with innovation at its heart

Summarising the ViVet Innovation Symposium, Anthony Roberts, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, focused on three key themes from the day. The first was changing consumer demand. The consumer of old is gone and reiterated Nancy’s message that “loyalty has been replaced with convenience”. This creates a huge challenge because veterinary professionals cannot focus solely on meeting the needs of the customer: instead, they have to deal with the complex tripartite relationship that exists between veterinary professionals, their clients and their animals.

“The vet must always have the animal’s welfare at their heart; that must be what they are focusing on,” he said, “but in order to do that, they must always do it through the client, the animal owner, the keeper.”

But, unless veterinary professionals pay sufficient attention to the needs of clients, owners or keepers, others will come from outside to meet these needs, and clients could be led to products or services that are not necessarily in their animals’ best interests. This is a complex situation, he said, but needs attention now to address the “new normal” that is emerging.

The symposium also examined the changing role of the professional, and how technology – such as low-cost, real-time genomics, or artificial intelligence – is affecting the professions. As technology takes away the need for some expert knowledge, and as it becomes clear that individuals are no longer able to absorb and process all the data that is being produced, there will be a new reliance on technology. It will be incumbent on the professions to think about how they can use technology, in conjunction with the empathy, communication and leadership skills that they have, to create opportunities to improve the quality, efficacy and accessibility of veterinary services. “We should focus on those immense opportunities that exist there and how we can embrace those,” he said.

The final theme was the regulatory challenges created by innovation. “It’s very difficult for a regulator when dealing with something like innovation,” he said. “Innovation is the fundamental mechanism through which products and services improve, but it inherently carries risk because it involves new, novel ways of working that are untried and untested.” It is difficult for regulators to find the right balance in a fast-moving, volatile, unpredictable market, but it is clear that old approaches are no longer working. The best practice currently emerging is around anticipatory regulation and finding a way of allowing innovation to flourish in a safe space so that the opportunities are fostered and the risks minimised.

Thanking the symposium speakers, he said he had been “inspired and astounded” by the quality of the content delivered. He also thanked everyone who had attended for their engagement with the day.


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