Catalyst Connection and Return for Care

Are your members looking for ways to obtain new clients and patients for their companion animal practices? Look to our CEO Ralph Johnson to have a tested solution from which others can learn, implement and enhance local community relationships with the multi-faceted win-win-win answer of “Yes, and…”

How it Started: As an outcome of the Colorado VMA’s Collaboration Task Force comprised of leaders in CVMA and Colorado shelters, CVMA embarked on a pilot program known as Return For Care. The RFC concept and processes have been implemented and measured in Douglas County during a two-year pilot study and that program remains in existence today with plans to expand to Metro Denver next year.

CATalyst Council is relatively new to VMAE. We are a coalition of organizations and governed by a Board of Directors. Absent a membership base, our Board of Directors focuses on action steps to fulfill our mission of connecting people and organizations to transform the health, welfare and value of companion cats. In addition to members of the veterinary medical community, the sheltering community has always had representation on our Board, and a key program in recent years has been Catalyst Connection: Forever Homes. Forever Health. “Catalyst Connection” is v2 of “Connecting Top to Top” where leaders from VMAE and Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA) met to define steps for shelter-veterinary relationships. As an outcome of that meeting, tools were developed and in a short time, the program morphed from a leadership solution to a local community solution and was rebranded as Catalyst Connection and the toolkit can be accessed here and downloaded from this link.

Return For Care and Catalyst Connection programs are analogous and complementary. The hypothesis is that bonding an adopter with a veterinarian soon after adoption will increase the likelihood of the adopter becoming a long-term client. Both programs start with the foundation of community collaboration between area veterinarians and shelters with agreement and understanding that adopted pets required life-long health care so they stay healthy and happy in their new homes and not relinquished back to the adoption agency that worked hard to find the pet a new home. In both programs, the shelter asks the pet owner to select the veterinarian they will take their newly adopted cat or dog within a pre-determined time frame, typically less than two weeks after adoption. Veterinarians in the programs agree to provide a complimentary post-adoption examination, and with RFC, they also provide a limited amount of free health care for shelter-related illnesses within 2 weeks of adoption. This “handoff” of veterinary care from shelter to veterinarian has piloted in different communities and the analytics to date have provided baseline metrics to measure outcomes and success, as well as deeper understanding of the needs and nuances of community relationships and how collaboration and cooperation are complementary and synergistic.

Outcomes of Pilot Programs: Each community was unique in processes and measurements. Each used a manual email system for communication, and the results are self-reported which is laborious and time consuming- shelters and veterinarians have other priorities. What’s important is that we’ve established a baseline and it’s expected that when both shelter and veterinary software systems are automatically aligned to the Catalyst Connection’s central communications and reporting hub, outcomes will be even better. Four communities participated in the initial Catalyst Connection and Return for Care pilot programs and reported varying metrics:

  1. Oregon Humane Society and Portland VMA
    • 10,767 Dog and Cat Adoptions (during the first year)
    • 180 Practices visited
    • 20% of adopters completed the free exam
    • 60% of free exam users forward booked the next visit
  2. Capital Area Humane Society and Columbus Academy of Veterinary Medicine
    • 835 Dog and Cat Adoptions
    • 758 Made Catalyst Connections (selected a veterinarian) – 27%
      • 266 Dog Adoptions
      • 470 Cat Adoptions
    • In the first six months:
      • 42% of cat adopters completed the free exam
      • 36% of dog adopters completed the free exam
  3. Delaware Humane Association
    • 1,255 Dog and Cat Adoptions (during the first year)
    • 21 Practices Visited
    • 71% Made Catalyst Connections at time of adoption
      • 45% Preferred Veterinarians
      • 55% Non- Preferred Veterinarians
    • 5% scheduled appt with preferred veterinarian at time of adoption
    • 20% of adopters completed the free exam with a preferred veterinarian
  4. Return For Care in Douglas County, CO: Dumb Friends League-Buddy Center and Colorado VMA
    • 662 Eligible Adoptions
    • 87% Selected a Veterinarian at Time of Adoption
    • 58% of adopters completed the free exam
    • 84% of adopters returned for care*
    • Average cost for acquiring a new patient – $16.00

What’s Next-Technology for Catalyst Connection and Return For Care: While the pilots were occurring, CATalyst Council began investing its resources in the development of a software solution. Catalyst Connection has been engineered to facilitate the local shelter and veterinary practice relationships, including selection of and notification to a participating veterinary practice along with dashboards for participating shelters and veterinarians. Once the software details are complete, pilots will resume in some or all the existing communities with the intent to expand the program to other areas in 2018. We will keep you apprised of our progress and welcome your questions and comments.

What that means for your members: Better care for more animals in their communities. Yes, and…. most especially for cats!

Thank you for the opportunity to participate as a VMAE affiliate member, and thanks to VMAE and SAWA for participating on the CATalyst Council Board!

Jane Brunt, DVM
CATalyst Council