IDEXX reaches out to pet owners with new Web-based products

Posted July 20, 2012, at 7:37 a.m.
Last modified July 20, 2012, at 3:54 p.m.

WESTBROOK, Maine — Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories this week launched two products that represent a few firsts for the growing veterinary biotech firm.

For the first time, the two products target pet owners as intended users, rather than just veterinarians who use IDEXX’s diagnostics product. And, noted company Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ayers, the products are an entry into the hot area of cloud computing.

“This is the first significant software as a service type of offering which is Web-based or cloud-based computing, accessible on a mobile tablet or a PC,” Ayers told the Bangor Daily News. “What we’re really doing is providing tools to vets to allow them to communicate with pet owners.”

The first product is Pet Health Network Pro, a new client communication and education service for veterinarians offering an automated set of Web tools to communicate with pet owners before, during and after each patient visit.

The second, VetConnect PLUS, enables veterinarians to see all of a patient’s blood work history generated from IDEXX in-house testers and IDEXX Reference Laboratories on one interactive screen, collating the results into a graph that is easy to understand and share with pet owners — making it easier to identify trends in an animal’s health.

“Veterinarians are realizing, as a result of the recession, that they needed to reach out to pet owners and have a greater level of communication and demonstrate their value and their relevancy,” said Ayers. “There are a lot of other ways pet owners think they might be able to get veterinary care — just Googling it to figure out what the problem is, or buy something on the Internet. But that’s not the same as the care a trained veterinarian can give.”

Both services launched on July 15, following months of beta tests at 120 vet clinics, said Ayers. The VetConnect PLUS service has been particularly popular, said Ayers, with roughly 100 vet practices a day signing up for the service, which is free to clinics that already use IDEXX’s diagnostic equipment or its send-away diagnostics labs.

“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen that kind of pickup, that fast, in the industry — ever,” said Ayers.

Todd Paige, marketing manager for IDEXX Computer Systems, said vets often test blood work in different ways. They may use in-house equipment during the morning, as they can get the results back by the afternoon.
Then they may send out blood work done in the afternoon. If it’s an emergency case, they may do the diagnostics in-house; a normal wellness checkup may go out to a lab.

And the results over time have been challenging to compare, said Paige.
The data sets produced in-house and remotely are close, but not similar. It’s not exactly apples and oranges, but more like MacIntoshes and Granny Smiths.

The new service reconciles each of the data sets with each other and shows the test results over time as a trend line. This is a different way of looking at the data, said Ayers, showing vets and owners how the pet’s health has shifted over the years, and highlighting areas of concern.

“This is kind of like the scoreboard on the health of the pet,” said Ayers.

IDEXX has been developing software for a number of years, but was better known for its diagnostic equipment. Software services is the fastest growing part of the business, said Ayers. Over the last year, the company has hired 50 new software engineers.

Paige said the company plans to continue to add features to the software package, improving it in coming months. Both the new offerings can be used together — to send blood work trend graphs from VetConnect PLUS home to pet owners through Pet Health Network Pro, for example. They also both integrate with other IDEXX software offerings, such as programs that help vet clinics manage their practice, including everything from billing to records.

“Now that we have the foundation built, the world is our oyster for what we can do,” said Paige.

On Friday, IDEXX reported second-quarter profits of $51.3 million, up from the $48.6 million a year ago. The second-quarter profits were on revenues of $335.6 million. IDEXX makes a variety of diagnostic tools for the global veterinary market. The company currently employs 5,000 people, including almost 2,000 in Maine — with a big expansion under way at its Westbrook headquarters that will support up to 700 new employees.

IDEXX trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol IDXX, and closed at $92.71 Thursday.

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