We are animal health professionals who aim to achieve optimal health care for animals, advance the veterinary profession, and evolve the relationship between primary care veterinarians and specialists.
This mission is informed by these guiding principles:
To partner to optimize animal care
To include and engage all key participants
To encourage and enable shared initiatives
To be transparent and accountable
To pursue mutual benefits
It all makes good sense — both clinically and economically. And we’ve got the numbers to quantify it.
Our Story: Past, Present, Future
The Collaborative Care Coalition was founded in 2012 as VetSOAP (Veterinary Specialists Outreach & Awareness Project) when a group of veterinary industry professionals joined forces to address concerns that, despite the growing availability of highly qualified veterinary specialists, too few pets — and their owners — were accessing this advanced expertise.
Why were primary care veterinarians not referring to veterinary specialists? After all, in human medicine it’s considered best practice for a primary care physician to refer a patient to a specialist to diagnose and treat a particularly complex medical issue. Why wasn’t a similar collaborative model more fully embraced by the veterinary profession?
Knowing how clinicians value objective data, the VetSOAP board realized that research would be necessary to determine the scope of the situation and quantify its impact on all stakeholders, including primary care veterinarians, specialists, pet owners and, most importantly, the animals.
To that end, in 2014 VetSOAP launched a multi-phase research initiative, beginning with an observational study to assess referral dynamics and a series of quantitative studies about the link between provider collaboration and patient outcomes. Most recently, a referral attitude and behavior survey was given to better understand the driving forces and barriers to referral on the part of primary care veterinarians.
Notably, the findings demonstrate a clear correlation between the health of companion animals and the frequency and timeliness of collaboration between primary care veterinarians and specialists. Read more about our research here.
What we also learned was that it’s not only about specialists. And it’s not only about primary care veterinarians. It IS about ALL of us. And it’s about collaboration.
We needed to change our name to reflect what we had learned and so, in 2019, we became the Collaborative Care Coalition.
Collaborative care between primary care veterinarians and veterinary specialists produces the best possible outcomes for pets, pet owners, and veterinary professionals. There is now real data that challenges the myths surrounding referral medicine, demonstrating tangible improved outcomes for all parties.
Today, the Collaborative Care Coalition is undertaking outreach and education to share these findings with the profession through forums such as this website and presentations at industry meetings. If you’d like a CCC representative to speak to your practice or group, just let us know.
We’re developing tools to help specialists break down the barriers to referral and providing an avenue for the entire veterinary team in both specialty/emergency and primary care hospitals to become Collaborative Care Partners. You can learn more about that here.
Looking ahead, we will continue on this path by conducting more research and making it available to the profession to advance the relationship between primary care veterinarians and veterinary specialists. Our aim continues to be to produce healthier pets, more satisfied and loyal pet owners, and more successful practices.
Your participation in the Collaborative Care Coalition is welcome. Learn more about how you can join us.
Board of Directors
The Collaborative Care Coalition is a volunteer-based non-profit organization comprised of primary care veterinarians, specialists, academicians, and industry partners — all dedicated to furthering collaborative care and our Mission.
Because the Collaborative Care Coalition believes that collaborative care is good for the entire veterinary profession, we believe including many voices in the discussion is necessary. Beyond our Board of Directors, we have sought to include people with a wider ring of input and experience. The Advisory Council is just that, a less structured but no less thoughtful group of individuals that provide guidance and opinions to the board on everything from identifying potential sponsor partners to recommending channels for communicating the research results, and most importantly, promoting the mission of the organization. Through conference calls and meet-ups at industry events, we gain valuable insight, perspective, and feedback on strategies and tactics to move the message forward.
Our strength relies on our partnerships. We have created a collective of primary care veterinarians, veterinary specialists, corporate groups, independent practices, specialty colleges, universities, animal health care companies, and veterinary associations who, together, will advance the profession. While our businesses may differ, we share the same goals of providing optimal care to animals while growing our businesses.
I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience and the importance of co-managed veterinary care for your pets. As a show breeder of Champion Sired Labrador Retrievers for over 30 years, I have had many positive experiences with my general practitioner veterinarian and their professional relationships with veterinarian specialists. This combined approach to animal healthcare includes the referral to DVM specialists with the latest advancements in veterinary care. Some of my experiences include successful exploratory emergency surgery at 2:00 AM to remove a ball of horse hair that caused a severe stomach blockage, cardiac surgery with the successful placement of a pacemaker that saved one of our pets lives (where the cardiac team, lead by Dr. Bonnie Lefbom, came into The Hope Center very early on a Saturday morning). Additionally, Dr. Elsa Beck, our expert oncologist, currently treats one of our dogs for epitheliotropic lymphoma. Typically this diagnosis is a 3 to 6 month lifespan, yet he is still with us 2 years later since the onset. Again the referral to the veterinary oncologist was through one of our general practitioner veterinarians that are involved in the co-management of his care. This process has added great value to our pet’s treatment and prognosis. The co-managed care experience provided by the veterinarians has been a superb experience with excellent results. I know these specialists practice their medical knowledge with the perseverance and dedication to do everything to help both your pet, and you the owner. I am so thankful to our specialists and my regular veterinarian who said this is where you go for help that is beyond our capability. Co-managed veterinary care is an opportunity that you take advantage of, as these specialists have cared for our pets as if they were their own. The result is a group of doctors working together as a team that are the healthcare advocates for your pet.
Bill BatlemanCoolspring Labradors, North Potomac, MD
The experience I had in referring clients to specialists during my several decades in private companion animal practice reinforced to me the importance of a strong and trusting relationship between a 'generalist' practice and the members of the specialty community in the area. Our practice was fortunate to have several multi-specialty practices in the Detroit metro area and we were able to match the needs of our clients and their pets with the customer service and medical-surgical expertise offered at the practices. We thought of ourselves as the triage point and chose the referral with care. I cannot recall a single time when our recommendation to seek specialty care was not welcomed by our clients (regardless of the final outcome). They knew we were making this recommendation as the best possible care for their pet. We were fortunate to have choices in the advanced care we suggested to our pet owners and cannot imagine practicing without these options.
Mary Beth Leininger, DVM
I was the proud owner of a wonderful yellow lab named Tucker. She was a joyful and courageous spirit who confronted life, and her eventual cancer, with exuberance and a stubborn indignant determination to survive. She had the will to beat the odds and I wanted to make sure I gave her every option to fight for as long as she chose to do battle. Her mast cell tumor was first detected in 2008 by her general veterinarian. He immediately recommended we include an oncologist in Tucker’s care. I learned of an oncologist in NY who was heavily involved in research oncology and who was lecturing around the country on mast cell tumor. We met, and he immediately became a part of Tucker’s team. We had a very successful partnership for years that way, but ultimately, Tucker’s team would need to be expanded. In 2011, Tucker developed laryngeal paralysis. A surgeon and a veterinarian trained in complementary therapies came aboard. Finally, the palliative and hospice team was called on to help provide the care Tucker needed in his final days. Time and again, Tucker beat the odds and found her way back to a quality life. In fact she survived over a year, passing just before her 14th birthday. My story is an anomaly, few clients benefit from such a collaborative effort by doctors to work together to support a shared patient. I hope that the future of the veterinary field can make my experience the norm instead of the exception. Having an integrated team of general and specialty practitioners available to support our pets through the health challenges they face in life is both empowering and comforting. Her diverse team of extraordinary medical generalists and specialists allowed me to feel at peace that I had given Tucker every opportunity for survival for as long as she chose to fight.
Barbara UrquhartElmwood Park, NJ
My experience is very similar to several of the other testimonials that have been written regarding the successful working relationship that is possible between general practice and specialty medicine. I am an owner and manager of a very large general practice. We have many associate veterinarians, all with varied interests and experience. We practice medicine at a high level, but we know that the best medical treatment can often require the assistance of another individual or group of individuals who has a different skill set and access to equipment that we do not have. The ability to work closely with our local group of specialists not only allows us to practice better medicine, but also improves the bond that we have with our client base. Our clients are well educated and informed, and they expect that we are honest with them when we feel that a case is best to be handled at a referral hospital or when we have the expertise to handle it in house. It is our belief that working with our local specialists is critical to practicing successfully and ethically as the field of veterinary medicine has evolved and become more complex. There are advances in medicine and surgery all of the time, far more than any one person can keep up with. We work together as a team with our local specialty group, and both of our businesses have grown over the years because that relationship is successful.
Brian Maxwell, DVMAdobe Animal Hospital, Los Altos, CA
I’ve been in general practice in Southern California for more than 30 years. As a partner in a busy 9-doctor practice, we see more than our share of complex cases. The complexities of medicine mean that no one person can have all of the answers and the means to implement them for every case. Fortunately, the length of time I’ve been in practice has allowed me to witness both specialty practices and general practices evolve into relationships that ultimately benefit our patients. The triad of client, general practitioner, and specialist all depend on communication and trust. As a group, our practice has worked hard with our clients to make sure they realize that when a recommendation is made for referral, it is with their pet’s best interest in mind. One of the key components in this triad is the relationships with specialists that I’ve developed over the years. The keystone in this relationship: Communication. Those of us who live in Southern California are blessed with outstanding specialists who not only are terrific at what they do, but are great communicators as well. This communication fosters my learning and my continued involvement and allows that feeling of team. There is no question our practice quality improves by our relationship with our area specialists.
Dennis Voorheis, DVMWashington Boulevard Animal Hospital, Whittier, CA
After my internship and residency in the 70s, I pursued a general practice career. I have worked for others but for the last 18 years have had my own practice. I work very closely with the specialists and am extremely comfortable with our relationship. Having the ability to tell my clients I will communicate with a specialist adds additional trust that they realize we can provide an unparalleled level of care. If I refer my patients I can expect the same. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This triad of care between myself, my client and their pet, and the specialist teams I work with, simply put, raises the bar on veterinary care.
Jeff Weitz, DVMMile Square Animal Hospital, Fountain Valley, CA
Although I am a specialist in small animal internal medicine, I own a general practice so I am really a primary care veterinarian. In this capacity I am uniquely aware of the benefits of the relationships between clients and their pets, the primary care veterinarian and the specialist. I have two associates, one who is board-certified in canine and feline practice and one certified in veterinary acupuncture. This level of expertise and the equipment we have allow us to practice high-level and high-quality veterinary medicine. Yet there are areas of expertise and patient care for which we need the services of other specialists. Complicated surgeries, ophthalmology, oncology, neurology, and critical care are some of the areas where we and our clients collaborate with local specialists in several specialty and referral centers. Additionally these centers have advanced equipment such as CT scans, MRI scans, and radiation therapy, which a general practice usually cannot have. Our clients and their beloved pets truly appreciate it when they are informed that we need to refer them for care above and beyond what we are capable of providing. The pet owner, primary care vet, and specialist work as a team to provide the best possible care for their pet. This relationship is of paramount importance.
Martin Randell, DVM, DACVIMSomers Animal Hospital, Somers, NY
In the Silicon Valley, we are very fortunate to have close access to several outstanding veterinary specialists. Since l984, our small animal practice has watched the change in veterinary medicine from the general practitioner 'doing it all' to now having the ability to partner with our local veterinary specialists to offer and provide the highest level of veterinary care and service to our patients and their owners. As the primary care veterinarian, our mission is to provide wellness services to our patients by working together with the families; when a given case requires secondary care, we then add on our local veterinary specialists as part of the team. As the primary care provider, our clients trust us to decide when to refer to our local veterinary specialists. For us, it is important that our clients and their family pets continue to receive the same level of compassion, care, and communication during the referral process. Our local veterinary specialists make this easy for our clients by providing appointments in a timely manner and by communicating daily with us about the progress of our patients. Often, clients still need our advice and support during this time, and by acting as a team, we work together for our patients and for the families. The level of expertise at our local veterinary specialty group is really beyond secondary care and we often describe them as a scaled-down veterinary medical school hospital. However, what has made this group successful is their effort to develop a working relationship with us by being readily available for phone consultations and by always accepting our referrals in a quick and positive manner. It is always comforting for our clients to know that we have already discussed the case with the specialist and that they will be taken care of personally. As primary care veterinarians, we view our local veterinary specialists as an extension of our practice, and we entrust our patients to them.
The Veterinarians at Evergreen Veterinary ClinicSan Jose, CA
I have been a general practitioner and partner in a small animal general practice in Los Angeles for 25 years. In that time I have seen many changes. One big change is the number and availability of specialists. I feel very spoiled living in Los Angeles in that I have many choices. I know my clients, patients, and I have benefited from these relationships and services. There is definitely a team approach to tackling difficult cases that require advanced diagnostics and the specific expertise of a specialist. Along the way I learn to do additional procedures, and frequently these facilities offer some form of CE. I believe the key is in cultivating these relationships so that there is good communication, a team approach, and everyone benefits, most notably the patients! In fact I am certain that regularly collaborating with specialists has helped our practice continue to grow, even during the recession. We saw more word-of-mouth new clients during that time and take that as validation that we are doing the right thing.
Dean E. Gebroe, DVMCulver City Animal Hospital, Culver City, CA