Tue10212014

Business & Real Estate

Bucking trend, animal hospital thrives in 'choosier' economy

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier Charlene LaBelle waits for a prescription for her Alaskan Malamute, Iris, in Adobe Animal Hospital's lobby.

Charlene LaBelle said that since she and her husband aren’t able to have children, they invest plenty of care and emotion into their dogs.

“I don’t make them human, but they take the place of kids,” said the Saratoga resident as she sat in the lobby of Los Altos’ Adobe Animal Hospital last week while waiting to get her fluffy 11-year-old Alaskan Malamute, Iris, checked out. “I have a credit card and if they need it, I give it to them.”

While reports across the country suggest that a declining economy has cut pet health care from peoples’ budgets and flatlined clinic revenues, Adobe’s new practice manager, Paul Eccles, said the business has seen a dramatic increase in clientele – on the order of 15 percent over last year – including more passionate pet people like LaBelle.

According to Shelly Gordon, who handles public relations for Adobe, the hospital has added approximately 300 new monthly patients since March.

“People are choosier with their money. … I was blown away that we were doing that well,” said Eccles, born in England, who migrated roughly three months ago from a San Francisco animal hospital. “We get an incredible amount of walk-in clients. … I think we’re recession-proof.”

Adobe’s new building certainly hasn’t hurt. The hospital had operated at 396 First St. since 1964 but last year sought extra space to keep up with growth. The old Adobe building has since been razed to make way for a 20-unit Lennar Homes condominium complex.

The new Adobe – located at 4470 El Camino Real – boasts a 14,000-square-foot facility open all day, every day. Since occupying the former Elephant Pharm site, the practice has added new diagnostic equipment, specialized dental services and a new technician.

 

Coping with growth

OK, so flashy new surroundings equals new patients, which means new dollars. But, according to Eccles, the majority of new patients come from emergencies. And those are harder to plan for.

“People have a spur-of-the-moment lifestyle,” Eccles said. “They don’t have time to make appointments.”

At any given moment, Eccles said the facility has six or seven doctors available to handle what could be two or 200 patients.

The hospital announced this week the arrival of electronic medical records – www.adobe-animal.com – that Eccles said would better pair its supply of services with patient demand. He said the hospital will also start texting or emailing clients to schedule appointments when their pets are due for checkups.

Regular checkups will likely mean fewer emergencies down the road, and that removes some of the uncertainty of walk-ins. Or, as Eccles put it, streamlining services will “smooth that out a little bit.”

“It’s a way of allowing clients to get more involved in their pets’ health care,” he said.

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