Article Submission Guidelines for Practice Management, EHR, Glaucoma, and Managed Care

Dr. Neil Gailmard, contributing editor and member of the Optometric Management Editorial Advisory Board, shares his valuable tricks of the trade in a weekly e-newsletter. Delivered free to your inbox each Wednesday, Management Tip of the Week offers unique and insightful practice management tips from one of the industry's most respected O.D.s.

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Launch Date: December 7, 2016
Tip Number: 766
I would like to start a new series in the MTOTW called “Pick One Thing” (… and get really good at it). In each of these articles, I will help you look at one small part of your patient care process and make it really great. Over time, you will reinvent many of the details in your practice that create the total patient experience and ultimately, you will build a stronger, more successful business.
Launch Date: November 30, 2016
Tip Number: 765
One of the saddest mistakes ODs can make in the management of their practices is not meeting with staff members often enough.  As a consultant, I’ve heard all the excuses for why doctors no longer hold regular staff meetings, but none of them hold water.
Launch Date: November 23, 2016
Tip Number: 764
Adding a new clinical instrument has always been a smart investment because it differentiates your practice by adding new services.  In this article, I will help you determine if an instrument will pay for itself and I’ll also help you understand the tax benefits available under U.S. tax code section 179.  But you’ll have to act quickly to do your research, place the order and take delivery before the end of the year.
Launch Date: November 16, 2016
Tip Number: 763
Adding an associate optometrist to your practice brings great potential for growth, but it is best to analyze and prepare the practice well in advance for this change.  Once a new doctor begins work in your office, your standard operating procedure becomes the norm.  It becomes the office policy, even if it is not written down.  Associate doctors tend to accept the procedures that are in place when they start employment, but it can be difficult to change office procedures afterward.  Here is a list of important factors to consider well in advance of hiring a new doctor.
Launch Date: November 9, 2016
Tip Number: 762
Like other ODs who own their practice, I get really busy sometimes.  Even though I pride myself on delegating many tasks to an excellent staff, I still like to know what is going on in all aspects of the practice.  Time gets away from me and some things are overlooked for a while, but eventually I like to circle back and review key elements of our operations.  Here is a good overview for you to check on five fundamental factors in your practice.
Launch Date: November 2, 2016
Tip Number: 761
Most practices I consult with need more space and if they had it, they could increase productivity and profitability.  Of course, moving to a larger office or buying a building are good ways to go, but in many cases, that is not practical.  At least not right away.
Launch Date: October 26, 2016
Tip Number: 760
The holiday season and the end of 2016 are fast approaching.  It may seem early, but now is the time to begin planning for the business aspects of this time of year.
Launch Date: October 19, 2016
Tip Number: 759
The title of this article is meant to attract your interest, along with the corollary I could have used as a subhead: “How to get your staff to love working for you.”  After all, if I could show you a way to achieve both of those characteristics, you would have the essence of a very successful practice!  What if there was a thing you could do that would achieve that?  You could keep growing those two factors by continuing to do the “thing”.  It would be brilliant.  It might be the best business strategy in the history of business!
Launch Date: October 12, 2016
Tip Number: 758
Prescribing and dispensing multiple pairs of glasses to the same patient has always been a good approach for high quality vision care and for practice profitability, but with discount vision plans as prevalent as they are, this concept is more important than ever.  Selling second pairs of glasses is the best way I know to increase profit with vision plans.
Launch Date: October 5, 2016
Tip Number: 757
I have written and lectured about the importance of carrying upscale frame lines and offering brand names that your patients want.  Nationally known brand names are the best-selling frames in my practice and we also do well with high-end frame lines that are not as well known, but offer leading edge fashion.  I think this is still a good strategy and these upscale lines provide the best profitability, but it is also important to have a great selection of lower priced frames.
Launch Date: September 28, 2016
Tip Number: 756
Last week, I wrote about how to delegate sensitive information, like employee wages, to managers.  I’ll continue with that theme here in an effort to help you prepare your practice to be fully operational without the doctor/owner having to be present.  With proper training, a manager can handle more and more of the day-to-day responsibilities of the office.  Ideally, the OD owner can work on other aspects of the practice or even be away from the office for extended periods of time.
Launch Date: September 21, 2016
Tip Number: 755
I have long advocated that OD/practice owners appoint an office manager.  It represents a major step forward in building a practice that does not depend on the doctor for everything.  It can free the practice owner to focus on other tasks, be it patient care or higher level management.  Many ODs have an employee with the manager job title, but struggle with how much financial information should be shared.
Launch Date: September 14, 2016
Tip Number: 754
Are you using email effectively to market your practice?  Email offers many advantages over the media of the old days, such as direct postal mail or ads in the newspaper, including cost and ease of deployment.  In this article, I’ll review some key points that can make email a successful part of your marketing plan.
Launch Date: September 7, 2016
Tip Number: 753
All practices have staff turnover at some point.  Larger practices have more employees and therefore more turnover.  The whole process of interviewing and hiring new employees is very time consuming.  So here is an idea that will immediately make the task easier: as you train the next new employee in your office, use your smart phone to make a series of video recordings about each procedure.  You or a staff member are going over each job function anyway; it takes no more time to tap record and make a video.
Launch Date: August 31, 2016
Tip Number: 752
As optometrists, we are rightfully proud of our lens prescriptions that help people to see better and improve their lives.  The vast majority of these prescriptions work out very well and patients are extremely happy.  But, what about the glasses that are not working so well?  As a percentage, this number may seem small, but many ODs are not even aware of the actual number per week.  We may think we don’t want to know about those unhappy outcomes and just let the staff handle them, but mistakes do happen and these patients deserve special attention to correct any deficiencies in their care.  I’m convinced that many practices are damaged by weak efforts to work with unhappy patients.
Launch Date: August 24, 2016
Tip Number: 751
They say time is money and I agree, but time is easier to control.  If you have enough time, you can create money.  For many people, free time is more important than money.  So let’s consider some ways to create more time in your work schedule and ultimately give you more time for your personal life as well.
Launch Date: August 17, 2016
Tip Number: 750
My last Tip article focused on two quick tactics to add patients to your schedule, so this article will look at the bigger strategic picture of keeping your practice busy.  I often say that the biggest problem facing optometrists today is lack of patient demand.  If you had enough patients wanting your services, you could overcome almost any challenge.  It is interesting to note that some optometric practices are extremely busy, maybe even too busy, while others are very slow and struggle to make a profit.  If we analyze the busy practices, we can learn some valuable lessons about what made them that way.
Launch Date: August 10, 2016
Tip Number: 749
Seeing more patients is the most effective way for most practices to increase profitability, but that is often easier said than done.  Many strategies that increase patient demand take a long time to reap the benefits.  In this article, I’ll describe two methods that will keep your schedule busy and productive right away.
Launch Date: August 3, 2016
Tip Number: 748
I received a question recently from an OD about how to manage an optician employee who is not doing very well with optical sales.  This optician does an excellent job in other respects: she is reliable, hard-working, loyal and has strong technical knowledge about optical products.  The employee is very well paid and the OD/owner has provided her with numerous courses and books on sales in an effort to improve her sales ability, to no avail.  The office manager has met with the optician numerus times on this topic.
Launch Date: July 27, 2016
Tip Number: 747
There are many factors in our profession that we can’t control, so I tend to focus on the things I can change that will provide a good return on investment.  One of the best ways to increase profitability in your practice is to see more patients per day.  In many cases, an additional exam room or pretest area can help you do that.  Seeing patients more efficiently reduces wait times and improves the patient experience.  We also know that the less time patients spend on the clinic side, the more time they will spend on our optical side.
Launch Date: July 20, 2016
Tip Number: 746
A potentially big problem exists in many optometric practices when one employee handles a specific task and no one else knows anything about it.  That situation results in two negatives for the practice: 1) the employee could resign and take her (or his) special knowledge with her, making it difficult to operate the business and 2) the employee with special knowledge can, in effect, hold the practice owner hostage, demanding raises, overtime or special treatment and using an unspoken fear of quitting as leverage.  Let’s take a look at your practice, identify if this situation exists and explore remedies for it now, before a problem develops.
Launch Date: July 13, 2016
Tip Number: 745
I’m on a quest to reduce remakes of glasses purchased at my office.  We remake a lot of glasses due to many different reasons, some within our control and some not, but regardless of the reason, remakes are bad for business for the following reasons.
Launch Date: July 6, 2016
Tip Number: 744
I’ve always liked the old carpenter’s adage mentioned in the title above.  With great simplicity, this statement describes the essence of economy and efficiency when doing a job right the first time.  I’ve recently applied this axiom to the optical department in my practice.
Launch Date: June 29, 2016
Tip Number: 743
If the practice owner does not pay close attention, some staff members will exert gradual influence over their work hours and have a big impact on their total compensation.  With the recent expansion of federal overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), optometrists should be more vigilant about work hours than ever, but even without that, it makes good business sense to control your staff schedules.  In this article, I’ll describe a common way that staff work hours can become out of balance and what you can do about it.
Launch Date: June 22, 2016
Tip Number: 742
I learned a long time ago a basic principal of human resource management that has served me well: Don’t take anything away from employees that is perceived as a benefit.  At least, not if you care about employee morale and about preventing turnover.  In spite of what seems like common sense to me, I talk with optometrists fairly often who are in the process of implementing a change that takes something away from staff.
Launch Date: June 8, 2016
Tip Number: 740
Last week, I introduced the idea of making time to investigate and evaluate managed care plans and become credentialed with plans that make sense.  The tough part is that all plans do not make sense.  In this article, I’ll share some thoughts on how to evaluate managed care plans.  We’ll start with medical plans and the touch on vision plans.
Launch Date: June 1, 2016
Tip Number: 739
Managed health care, including new plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), traditional medical insurance and even vision care plans, requires practice owners to educate themselves and make important decisions.  Put this topic on your growing list of things to do as CEO of your practice.  In this article, I’ll give you some guidance on how to evaluate and participate in the plans that are good for your practice.
Launch Date: May 25, 2016
Tip Number: 738
Like most optometric practices, my office once offered three different levels of progressive lenses to our patients.  Our opticians would review the features and benefits of the most advanced progressive and how it differed from premium and standard progressives.  We always tried to start with the best, but many patients would still buy the lower level products to save money.  Some of our staff members struggled with explaining why one level of progressive is better than another.  Heck, even I struggle with that a bit!
Launch Date: May 18, 2016
Tip Number: 737
I occasionally read about the world’s best companies to work for in business magazines like Fortune and Forbes.  I agree with the concept: making your business a great place to work results in happy employees and that is good for business.  But many of the job perks I read about are just not practical for my practice.  Companies like Google can have nap rooms, massage services, or on-site day care centers, but I don’t have Google’s budget or physical space.  I have implemented a new perk that is going over extremely well, however: free food and drink for all staff.
Launch Date: May 11, 2016
Tip Number: 736
I talk to doctors quite often about how many patients they see per day.  I’m not judgmental about it because there are many factors involved and it is really something each doctor must decide, but my focus on this point led me to an interesting discovery that could help you with your practice goals.  I think most ODs have a love-hate relationship with holes in their appointment schedule.  At their core, doctors know that empty appointment slots hurt the business, but on any given day, especially when life is busy (when isn’t it?), we might be secretly glad there are some empty slots.  It will give you some breathing room.  You might even tell the front desk to not fill them.
Launch Date: May 4, 2016
Tip Number: 735
This final installment of my series on frame board management will focus on which frame brands and models to choose for your inventory.  If you use a frame board management work sheet as described in part one of this series (Tip #732), you can divide your current inventory into four divisions as shown below.  It is important to have some representation in each of these categories.
Launch Date: April 27, 2016
Tip Number: 734
In this installment of my series on frame board management, I’ll write about the importance of reordering best-selling frames on a regular basis.  While this sounds like it should be easy, it has always been a challenge because when a frame is sold, we don’t really know if it is a hot seller or not.  We generally have only one frame unit in each color, so when it sells, we don’t know if it is the start of a trend or a one-off sale.
Launch Date: April 20, 2016
Tip Number: 733
Last week, I started a series on frame board management (FBM) and I’ll continue with that for the next few issues.  In this article, I’ll give you some ideas about frame price ranges to select for your inventory and how vision plans might influence your decisions.
Launch Date: April 13, 2016
Tip Number: 732
Optometrists often ask me about frame board management (FBM).  I get the feeling they would like a very short answer that would completely solve all aspects of this task.  I think they might really love an app on their iPhone that would take care of it for them.  While I don’t have a super-short answer or an app, I will make FBM fairly easy for you in this article.  I urge doctors and their key optical staff members to give this task more personal attention.  I believe your frame inventory is important enough to warrant your best personal judgment on an ongoing basis.
Launch Date: April 6, 2016
Tip Number: 731
The best time to think about your office policy for holidays is when there is not a holiday looming in the near future.  That makes this a good time to review and improve your policy.
Launch Date: March 30, 2016
Tip Number: 730
I’ve noticed a trend among optometrists to take a long time to review and edit patient records within their electronic health record (EHR) system.  This is certainly not universal, but I see it often enough that it is worth bringing up in this column.
Launch Date: March 23, 2016
Tip Number: 729
I get it.  Most ODs who own an independent practice are so busy seeing patients, managing the day-to-day operations and trying to have a personal life, there is no time left to analyze practice data.  While not ideal from a practice management standpoint, I’ll describe three practice metrics that will tell you a lot about your practice.
Launch Date: March 16, 2016
Tip Number: 728
Last week, I wrote about office culture and how having some fun at the office can be good for office morale. I don’t mean to imply that I have all the answers when it comes to managing and motivating staff, because I’ve had plenty of ideas not work as well as I had hoped, but I keep trying and I think my team realizes that.
Launch Date: March 9, 2016
Tip Number: 727
I’ve always tried to develop a good office culture in my practice with my staff.  I truly believe that if staff members like their job and feel respected by their bosses and co-workers, the result will be better attitudes and a stronger desire to achieve the goals of the organization.  If all goes to plan, in addition to creating a more pleasant work environment, the practice receives a big benefit in the end because customer service is better and the patient experience is enhanced.  That results in more word-of-mouth referrals of new patients and better patient reviews on social media.  A strong organizational culture can be a big factor in building your practice.
Launch Date: March 2, 2016
Tip Number: 726
As we all move our office procedures to electronic records and online ordering, I refuse to let software programs ruin the patient experience and staff efficiency in my practice.  As a follow-up to last week’s tip about staff being too busy to sell a second pair of glasses, I urge you to look at how long it takes staff to write up an eyeglass order and calculate the fees due from the patient when using a vision plan.
Launch Date: February 24, 2016
Tip Number: 725
We all know that prescribing and ordering multiple pairs of glasses for a patient is not only good for profitability, it is the best eye care.  If glasses were completely free, how many would you recommend on average for each patient you see?  I’m sure at least two pairs and very likely three or four!  So why do most optometric practices wallow away in mediocrity when it comes to multiple pair sales?  There are many reasons, but I think the biggest one is that the idea is often not brought up to the patient.  Optometrists and opticians don’t think about two pairs of glasses often enough.  Let’s look at the reasons for that and devise a plan to overcome it.
Launch Date: February 17, 2016
Tip Number: 724
I hope you are making plans to attend a couple of conferences this year.  You might wonder how this advice qualifies as a practice management tip, but it does because I mean to encourage you to attend as a form of inspiration to do great things in your practice.  Optometric conferences offer much more than continuing education credits (CE)!  Many colleagues get most of their CE online or at local meetings and never venture to a national meeting.  Doctors who stay home might think they are saving the cost of air travel, hotels and the lost revenue production, but the interaction with other eye care professionals and vendors will provide a very real financial return on that investment.
Launch Date: February 10, 2016
Tip Number: 723
Offering patients the option of having digital retinal photos or ultra-widefield laser retinal images as an optional screening test is a great way to enhance a routine eye exam.  This procedure has been used for decades, but has grown in popularity and acceptance.  Patients understand that their vision plan only covers a very basic vision exam, but many want the benefits of more advanced technology and are willing to pay out-of-pocket for it.
Launch Date: February 3, 2016
Tip Number: 722
Adding an associate optometrist to your practice is one of the best management decisions you can make.  It can increase practice revenue and profit dramatically while allowing the practice owner to reduce time spent on patient care.  The additional free time can be used to concentrate on practice administration or to just enjoy life.  In this article, I’ll cover ideas that will help you know when the time is right to hire an OD.
Launch Date: January 27, 2016
Tip Number: 721
Staff dress codes and uniform policies can be very difficult to manage.  Sometimes it seems like you just can’t make everyone happy, including the practice owner!  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but the way your staff looks on the job is important to your practice success.  I’ll provide some tips in this article that will help you develop your office policy and make most people happy.
Launch Date: January 20, 2016
Tip Number: 720
Do you ever feel like the balance of things favors the employee and the employer does not get a fair shake?  That point of view may change depending on if you are an employee or an employer, but many readers of this column own a practice and they are employers.  I know from my experience as a practice owner, I have felt that way in the past, but I got over it and I see it differently now.  I’ll share that perspective here with the hope it will help some of you to better manage your practice.
Launch Date: January 13, 2016
Tip Number: 719
When I work with optometrists who own their practices, I ask them about their goals.  The most common goal I hear revolves around some aspect of creating a larger financial profit, but a very close second is how to create more free time.  Of course, everyone has their own priorities in life.  The younger OD might want more time with family, including more participation in kids’ activities.  The mid-career doctor may want time for hobbies, sports or travel.  The optometrist closer to retirement might want any of these options, but generally does not want to work so many hours.
Launch Date: January 6, 2016
Tip Number: 718
Preappointing is extremely popular among optometrists in private practice.  Data is a bit fuzzy because ODs often use more than one recall method, but the Management and Business Academy estimates that 44% of practices use preappointing.  This method of giving the patient their next appointment at the conclusion of each exam visit is generally regarded as the most effective method of recall; meaning the recall success rate is higher than with post cards, email or telephone reminders.  But even if that is true, we should acknowledge that preappointing does have its weaknesses.
Launch Date: December 30, 2015
Tip Number: 717
Another year has gone by and this week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always a great time for reflection.  It is the perfect time to analyze your business trends for the past year and to set goals for the year ahead.  Here is a guide with some factors to look at.
Launch Date: December 16, 2015
Tip Number: 716
Business executives today are increasingly looking to data to manage their enterprises, but most optometrists don’t gather much data or analyze practice metrics.  Looking ahead to 2016, let’s change that and make data a bigger part of your management decisions.
Launch Date: December 9, 2015
Tip Number: 715
I consult with many optometrists who have built very successful practices with a strong emphasis on medical eye care.  In many cases, they lament that their optical sales are lower than what is found in most traditional optometric practices.  One might infer that it’s normal to find a lower percentage of eyeglass prescriptions in a practice like this and therefore, a lower amount of revenue generated by optical products.  When I really dig into the details of these practices, however, I find that some of the ODs have made a mental shift away from refractive care.  Many of these medical optometry practices could produce much more revenue and profit in the optical if the doctor approached the patients differently.
Launch Date: December 2, 2015
Tip Number: 714
Many associate optometrists are treated as independent contractors, but in most of these cases, the IRS would disagree.  I generally recommend that practice owners who hire an associate treat the doctor as an employee because if you read the IRS regulation on this topic that is the definition we meet.  I’ll give you a quick summary below on the key elements that lead me to making the associate an employee.
Launch Date: November 25, 2015
Tip Number: 713
We may call it by different names, but all optometrists deal with eyeglass rechecks, Rx problems, refractive troubleshooting or just the simple redo.  I’m pretty sure most of us hate seeing these on our schedules, but let’s take a closer look at them and why you should learn to love them.
Launch Date: November 18, 2015
Tip Number: 712
I don’t mind admitting that I’m old enough to remember the glory days of contact lenses when professional fees were high and we made a high margin on the materials.  A very high margin.  I started my professional career in the late seventies when we were still fitting some PMMA lenses and single use soft contact lenses did not mean daily use, it meant a year or two or when they started to turn brown!  Contact lens fitting and follow-up care was more complicated back then, so fitting fees were relatively high. 
Launch Date: November 11, 2015
Tip Number: 711
A very important metric in optometric practice is the number of patients examined per day.  In my consulting work, I ask doctors for this data all the time.  The problem is that most doctors do not know this statistic and it is usually vastly overestimated.  Doctors generally give me a number per day that they believe is pretty accurate, but if we examine the actual data retrospectively, I get a much lower number.
Launch Date: November 4, 2015
Tip Number: 710
I have written many articles on scribes (just do a key word search for “scribe” in the tip archive), but I continue to receive many questions about the topic, so I know there is a lot of interest.  Today I want to focus on the training aspect.
Launch Date: October 28, 2015
Tip Number: 709
My tip article last week was all about how to say no to patients (even though we try not to).  It is certainly much easier to say yes, but what if your staff member already told this patient no?  Or what if you have a written office policy that states something is not allowed?  Should you go against that?
Launch Date: October 21, 2015
Tip Number: 708
Readers who follow my philosophy on practice building know that I place an extremely high value on customer service. I think patient satisfaction (loyalty) is the most important factor in creating a successful and highly profitable practice. I’ve written many times on letting the patient win, patient-friendly office policies, and saying yes most of the time is a very smart business strategy.
Launch Date: October 14, 2015
Tip Number: 707
The record-keeping requirements in health care today are getting more complex all the time.  I’m not a big fan of all that paperwork (and electronic work), but even if I can’t eliminate many aspects of the process, I can control when my staff does it.  Reducing the time before starting the eye exam provides your practice with many significant benefits.
Launch Date: October 7, 2015
Tip Number: 706
My answer to the question in the title is that the right time for an optometrist to move to a nicer or larger office is either when the practice is very busy or when it is not busy enough.  I don’t mean for that answer to be contrary, even though it sounds that way.  My point is that it’s obvious that a very busy practice can benefit from a larger space, but I’ve also seen many practices that are not that busy do much better when they move to a new location.  Moving to a new office helps the practice get noticed by the community and it signals strength and progress to the existing patient base and the staff.  Moving is one of the best marketing strategies I’ve ever seen in optometric practice.  Any time can be the right time.
Launch Date: September 30, 2015
Tip Number: 705
My article last week reviewed some of the challenges with setting a policy for staff training and travel outside of the office.  As promised, here is the policy I use in my practice as it applies to staff members who are paid hourly and for those who are salaried.  I’m also including our policy for associate optometrists.
Launch Date: September 23, 2015
Tip Number: 704

I’m writing this article at Vision Expo West in Las Vegas. It makes me think about all the excitement that surrounds major meetings like this and how much it benefits not just doctors, but also staff members. There are many other great meetings in addition to the Vision Expos, such as the AOA, the Academy meeting, SECO, regional conferences, state association conventions and doctor alliance groups. They all have a slightly different focus, but in my experience, they all offer an excellent educational experience for staff.

Launch Date: September 16, 2015
Tip Number: 703
With the implementation deadline for ICD-10 diagnostic codes only two weeks away, I thought I would offer some calming advice: it won’t be as bad as many of us feared. In spite of the humorous (and tragic) accounts about the code needed if a cockatoo causes a corneal abrasion, ICD-10 is still a list of codes and we will just look up the right one like we always have. I think October 1 and ICD-10 will be a lot like the Y2K hype before the year 2000; it turned out to be no big deal.
Launch Date: September 9, 2015
Tip Number: 702
There are many exciting practice management strategies out there, but most of them involve changing some aspect of how the practice operates. Change can be good, in fact, it is a necessity in any business, but if staff resist change, the great idea can become a failure or it may simply never happen. Read on for tips on how to get your staff to be open-minded to change.
Launch Date: September 2, 2015
Tip Number: 701
I view hiring an associate OD as one of the best practice management goals a practice owner can set. When you reach the point that your practice is ready for that, many good things happen: revenue and profitability should increase and patient care hours for the senior doctor can decrease. Read on for my quick list of ten things to consider when you want to bring on an associate.
Launch Date: August 26, 2015
Tip Number: 700
Before digging into this week’s tip topic, I want to make note of the very large number that is in the subject line of this email: We have reached Tip #700! I say “we” because we have made this journey together and I can’t thank my loyal readers enough for your ongoing support and encouragement for the tip series and also for just reading it week in and week out. Our profession keeps changing (faster than ever) and I have many more ideas to share with you, so let’s keep going.
Launch Date: August 19, 2015
Tip Number: 699
Optometrists today certainly have their share of challenges facing them, but in my opinion, most practices have one overriding problem and if we could fix it, we could solve all the other less pressing matters. The problem facing most ODs today is insufficient patient demand. Most of us are not busy enough. That may hurt our egos to admit and some practices simply adjust to it and see patients at a slow pace, but there are some steps you can take to remedy the situation. It may be true that there are not enough patients to make every optometrist busy, but some can be; you could be.
Launch Date: August 5, 2015
Tip Number: 697
Most ODs are very cautious to not hire a job candidate who will not work out. We go to great lengths to screen out the wrong type of employees during the interview process. This is understandable, of course, but I think we should be just as concerned about missing out on a good hire. Most employers don’t think about that aspect as they recruit job candidates. It is just as problematic if we pass on a person who would have been a good employee based on assumptions that are inaccurate. In spite of our best efforts, both of these situations occur: we occasionally hire the wrong person and we occasionally reject a good person. Being aware of both possibilities will help you improve your chances of finding good employees.
Launch Date: July 29, 2015
Tip Number: 696
I enjoyed an amazing family vacation in Hawaii last week. We stayed at a beautiful resort that is known for great service and it generally lived up to that for us. But, as is often the case, there were some lapses. I always find that I can learn some valuable lessons in practice management by observing other businesses outside of the optical industry.
Launch Date: July 22, 2015
Tip Number: 695
Last week, I wrote about how to get your staff on board with the concept of scribing. I will expand on that topic in this article and will focus on the benefits doctors derive from using a scribe in the exam room. Most doctors are interested in scribes to help them with entering data into the electronic health record (EHR), and that is a great benefit, but there are many more. For those of you who miss David Letterman on late night TV, here is my top 10 list for why you should use scribes.
Launch Date: July 15, 2015
Tip Number: 694
I presented a webinar last night on the topic of scribes and supertechs. There was a lot of interest and some excellent questions, so I’ll continue to write and lecture on this topic. Many of the questions revolved around how to motivate staff members to want to take on this task and how to train them.
Launch Date: July 8, 2015
Tip Number: 693
I think most optometrists who own practices operate with the premise of trying to not hire more staff members. We may not even realize this instinct exists, but the natural tendency is to view staff as an expense and we want to hold down expenses. Managing more employees is also more work. Indeed, based on my consulting work with ODs, staff management is the most challenging aspect of practice management. If you are a growth-minded OD, I think this instinct is wrong and you should try to change your point of view.
Launch Date: July 1, 2015
Tip Number: 692
Predicting the future of an industry is never easy; no one has a crystal ball. But my answer to the question in the title is yes. Warby Parker and other innovative companies in optical retailing are already changing how many independent optometrists do business and the effect will continue to grow.
Launch Date: June 24, 2015
Tip Number: 691
Most optometrists I know are very sensitive about selling anything at chairside. Understandably so, we have our patients’ best interest at heart and our job is not to sell them optical products. Our job is to diagnose and treat conditions in order to improve vision and ocular health. We are ethical and professional and that approach actually serves us very well from a business standpoint because it garners trust from the patient. And that turns out to be a very important factor as the patient goes on to buy optical products.
Launch Date: June 17, 2015
Tip Number: 690
I think many of us take contact lens practice for granted. As optometrists, we prescribe contacts and manage patients who wear them every day, but we do very little to promote the category. That is our loss because contact lens practice can be extremely profitable and it results in very loyal patients who often refer others. Let’s take a new look at this specialized service and reinvent how you position it in your practice.
Launch Date: June 10, 2015
Tip Number: 689
There is a joke going around the optical industry about digital dispensing devices… they work great as long as we also use a Sharpie pen. Funny, but not really true.
Launch Date: June 3, 2015
Tip Number: 688
In my management consulting work with optometrists, I notice that it is quite common to furnish the patient with a receipt for services and products rendered that is not very impressive. Most optometric practices use office management software that provides a full accounting of fees, payments and amounts billed to insurance plans. These software programs can print a very nice financial summary for the patient, but in many cases, the entering of the fees, diagnosis and procedure codes, co-pays, and transferring of some fees to insurance plans is so time consuming that the office staff gives the patient a hand-written receipt at the end of a visit and returns for the actual accounting work later. My own practice has struggled with this process as well.
Launch Date: May 27, 2015
Tip Number: 687
The more I wander around my office and observe our day-to-day activities, the more things I find that we need to work on. My practice will never reach perfection, but I am going to continuously work on pursuing it. The latest thing is that the staff who work at the front desk don’t smile enough. So my office managers and I have embraced this as our latest mission in staff training and motivation.
Launch Date: May 20, 2015
Tip Number: 686
Long-time readers of this tip series know that I’ve been a proponent of having a clinical technician instill mydriatic drops during the pretesting phase of an eye exam. I’ve tried many different protocols for this in my practice over the years. In this article, I’ll review our past procedure and give an update of where we are now.
Launch Date: May 13, 2015
Tip Number: 685
Most optometric practices are tied very closely to the practice owner. In many cases, doctors identify so closely with their practices that it feels like they are one and the same. But they aren’t one and the same. It is best to think of your practice as a separate entity. Thinking of the practice as a business and thinking of yourself as an employee (the CEO, perhaps, but still as an employee of the company) helps you focus on the needs of the business and not on your personal needs. This will also help you implement change that is vital to your growth.
Launch Date: May 6, 2015
Tip Number: 684
I’m very fortunate to have a really great staff in my practice. My office manager and I work hard to create a positive organizational culture and to provide excellent training programs. So, I was a bit surprised when my manager recently told me that we have a problem that is affecting our quality. She said many of our opticians and optometric technicians who dispense eyeglasses are not doing a great job with frame adjustments. This manager is an excellent optician herself and she noticed patients who returned for adjustments often did not have an ideal fit.
Launch Date: April 29, 2015
Tip Number: 683
Just as in providing good clinical eye care, you must diagnose your practice management disorders before you can treat them! Busy optometrists often just take a shotgun approach to practice management; when business seems down, they hold a trunk show or do some extra telephone recall. A better approach is to analyze the business and develop an action plan that goes beyond one or two events. Develop a complete strategy rather than some new tactics. After all, you wouldn’t treat a red eye without knowing the etiology.
Launch Date: April 22, 2015
Tip Number: 682
I frequently help optometrists who are promoting or hiring a new office manager and a question often comes up about what should be included in the job description. I think it is important that the duties of the job evolve over time with the practice owner actively providing training and guidance. I think the list of specific duties will be obvious as the OD/owner gradually delegates more tasks, but I am asked about this often enough that I’ll provide a list of job responsibilities in this article.
Launch Date: April 15, 2015
Tip Number: 681
I often write and lecture on the power of customer service in building a successful optometric practice. If I had to pick one single factor (not really possible, but if I had to…) that is most responsible for building a fast-growing, highly-profitable practice, it would be customer service. Not surprising, really; we should acknowledge that this key success factor is the same for all businesses. As well-known as this strategy is, however, it is still elusive and maybe even more so in health care. Executing the customer service strategy is more difficult than it appears.
Launch Date: April 8, 2015
Tip Number: 680
It is important to keep an eye on all aspects of the patient experience in your practice. If the doctor or manager does not supervise one area for a long time, the chances are good that the procedure will decline in quality. Let’s look at the eyeglass delivery visit, for example. In many offices, this visit has become extremely routine and boring! There are typically some basic adjustments on the frame and some perfunctory instructions about how to clean the lenses. The optician checks to see if there is a balance due and then it is “Have a nice day!”
Launch Date: April 1, 2015
Tip Number: 679
Now is the time to focus on selling multiple pairs of glasses to large numbers of patients. This is a strategy that will make a huge difference in your profitability without requiring you to see more patients! And it is very effective even if vision plans are very prevalent in your area.
Launch Date: March 25, 2015
Tip Number: 678
I recently attended a practice management conference at Disney World in Orlando, Florida and one of the special events was the “Business Behind the Magic” tour. This was the third time I’ve taken this tour which is produced by the Disney Institute and I was still inspired with new ideas that I could apply to my practice. One of the tour guides told our group that Disney leaders do not micromanage, but they do overmanage. I thought about that concept quite a lot and it correlates extremely well to achieving a great patient experience in an optometric practice.
Launch Date: March 18, 2015
Tip Number: 677
I’m constantly looking for ways to increase clinical efficiency which can save doctor time and allow more revenue-producing exams. In an era where physicians must accept fees that are discounted and capped by insurance plans, efficiency is a key way for us to increase profitability.
Launch Date: March 11, 2015
Tip Number: 676
I experiment to some extent with the pricing for contact lens products in my practice. I follow the philosophy of setting the professional fees fairly high and keeping the lens product prices comparable with some of the online contact lens vendors. I track my contact lens prescription retention rate as I try different pricing formulas.
Launch Date: March 4, 2015
Tip Number: 675
Last week’s tip on how to make a decision about becoming a provider for vision plans drew a nice response from our readers. I’m happy to report I did not seem to upset anyone and that is quite an accomplishment with this topic! As promised, this week I will delve into how to figure out the financial aspects of vision plans.
Launch Date: February 25, 2015
Tip Number: 674
I realize that vision plans can be a hot topic among optometrists, so it is fairly bold of me to decide to tackle the topic. Many optometrists advise their colleagues to not accept vision plans, and yet the leading plans have provider networks with over 30,000 doctors, so clearly some of these doctors do not follow their own advice.
Launch Date: February 18, 2015
Tip Number: 673
Do you ever feel that many of your eye exams are performed with this question in mind: “Did my eyeglass prescription change?” There is really nothing wrong with this question and it could quite possibly drive the reason for most routine eye exams. If my patient wondered about this, I’d certainly answer the question after the exam, but I hope optometrists are prepared to go much further than that. It is often called “selling from the chair”, but that has a commercialized ring to it that offends some ODs, so I’d prefer to call it patient education. No matter what we call it, it is very important for patient care and for practice profitability.
Launch Date: February 11, 2015
Tip Number: 672
Not having enough staff is a huge problem facing optometrists. I see practices every day that are understaffed. Frequently, the practice owner or office manager has been searching for weeks or months, but can’t find the right person. In many cases, the office has given up the search. In the short term, one might rationalize that the best decision is to simply not act, but there is a very large opportunity cost if you don’t hire someone. It could be that doing nothing is costing your practice a great deal in lost profit and reduced service quality. These negative factors can be invisible because you don’t miss what you never had, but they are quite real.
Launch Date: February 4, 2015
Tip Number: 671
As you analyze your practice within your local eye care marketplace, you should think about your competitive advantages. What exactly is a competitive advantage? It is the reason a customer chooses one business over another. In order for any business to succeed, you need several strong ones. As you read this article, make a list of the competitive advantages for your practice and think about how you can gain additional ones.
Launch Date: January 28, 2015
Tip Number: 670
I think it is great that so many optometrists are now asking patients to complete a short survey about their eye care experience. Credit the success of electronic communication companies that now make it so easy for ODs to send emails and text messages to patients automatically. Understanding the customer (patient) is extremely important to the success of any business (practice).
Launch Date: January 21, 2015
Tip Number: 669
When I ask optometrists how their practice performs in the area of customer service, the answer I always get is: great! Every OD I speak with knows that customer service is very important in growing a practice. If you talk to patients, however, and if you really observe practices in operation, you see that the service is not nearly as good as the owners think. Some of that difference may be because customer service is intangible. It is hard to describe and the standards vary widely. It’s easy to be nice to people when things are going well. A bigger test occurs when you think the other party is being unreasonable. When should you give in and when do you draw the line?
Launch Date: January 14, 2015
Tip Number: 668
As I look back on my own experience and that of many other optometrists and ask myself what single tactic has resulted in the most practice growth, I have to place moving to a new location in the top three. Most optometrists don’t think about moving as a marketing strategy, but it can be a powerful way to get your practice noticed. In this article, I’ll cover some important considerations about moving to a new office location.
Launch Date: January 7, 2015
Tip Number: 667
More and more optometrists are trying the “super-tech” concept that I have been using in my practice for many years. I have written and lectured about this strategy many times, but I receive a lot of questions on this topic, so I’ll review the highlights in this article.
Launch Date: December 31, 2014
Tip Number: 666
Many things go into building a large and profitable practice, but if I had to pick one factor that has led to success in my practice, it would be delivering excellent customer service, even when it is difficult. One of those times that it is difficult is when patients arrive late for an appointment or when they call our office to let us know they will be arriving late.
Launch Date: December 17, 2014
Tip Number: 665
As we come to the end of the calendar year, it is a good time to consider your equipment wish list for your practice. The IRS section 179 income tax deduction is limited to $25,000 at the present time, although there is hope that it may be increased in the coming year. Regardless of that regulation, there are many great reasons to invest in instrumentation for your practice.
Launch Date: December 10, 2014
Tip Number: 664
Many optometrists and staff members feel stress on the job. It's an uncomfortable feeling that leads to bad attitudes, negative office culture and more frequent errors. If you feel stress fairly often in your workplace, review these tips and take some action to reduce it.
Launch Date: December 3, 2014
Tip Number: 663
The biggest problem facing optometrists today is that they are not busy enough. There are certainly exceptions to that statement and those doctors who have more patients than they can handle may not always agree with this, but from my point of view they are blessed. Sadly, many optometrists who are not that busy have come to accept the meager patient demand and rationalize that it is enough.
Launch Date: November 26, 2014
Tip Number: 662
The term "medical model" is used quite often among optometrists, but it can have different meanings to different people. To me, it means more than just providing medical eye care, which most optometrists do quite often. I use medical model to refer to billing medical insurance plans for a medical eye condition, even if the patient has vision plan benefits available. Most ODs are network providers for Medicare and medical insurance plans and we are increasingly billing these plans for services when appropriate. But patients are often confused about the difference between medical insurance and vision plans. Here are some tips on how and when to bill various insurance plans that cover eye health and vision care.
Launch Date: November 19, 2014
Tip Number: 661
We are seeing some exciting new developments in a category of contact lenses that has been rather dormant for many years: cosmetic enhancing lenses. Contact lens manufacturers are taking different approaches to this category and you’ll see various terms being used, such as color, beauty, cosmetic, enhancement, tint, and more. Regardless of the terms or product differences, it is great news to see new products and new life in this category. I think it has the potential to create a lot of consumer interest in contact lenses.
Launch Date: November 12, 2014
Tip Number: 660
There are many good ways to design your appointment schedule. Part of that decision depends on the optometrist’s clinical philosophy about eye care and how much time they need to perform an eye exam that meets their standards. However, with the increasing dominance of managed care, many ODs are trying to find ways to be more efficient. This is a very smart strategy and it can definitely increase your profitability.
Launch Date: November 5, 2014
Tip Number: 659
As part 4 (and the final part) in my series on competing with online optical vendors, I will provide a simple patient education handout that your staff can use when they have a patient who is considering taking his spectacle Rx to be filled elsewhere. It is a handy list for staff to pull out and review with the patient in an effort to showcase all the very real advantages of buying their glasses from your office. That may be enough to keep them in your office, but if the patient does decide to shop around, having the list with them may help them compare apples to apples.
Launch Date: October 29, 2014
Tip Number: 658
This third part in our series will focus on using technology in your optical dispensary. To compete with a sales channel that is based on computer technology, you want to show the consumer that your office uses technology in a way that is superior to the optical websites they might visit. The patient who might take his Rx to shop online and the patient who pulls out her phone to check frame prices while she is in your office are very comfortable with technology. They like technology and you will not impress them with old school methods. Invest in technology in a big way so your tech-savvy patients will view your optical as a viable option for their product purchase.
Launch Date: October 22, 2014
Tip Number: 657
I knew this was a hot topic and your emails following last week’s article helped confirm that. Thanks for your comments and ideas on this topic and please keep them coming. Since this topic is rather big, I’m writing it in four parts. In this article, I’ll focus on your office policies about glasses purchased online.
Launch Date: October 15, 2014
Tip Number: 656
I tend to be the voice of reason when it comes to online optical sales. I stay objective and non-emotional. I realize that e-commerce will increase in all industries and product categories over time, but I also realize that for prescription eyeglasses, the percentage purchased online has stayed around 3% for many years. The important thing is that we monitor the trend closely and be ready to implement smart strategies when the time is right. OK, the time is right.
Launch Date: October 8, 2014
Tip Number: 655
Accounts receivable (AR) is one aspect of the practice that no one really likes. Practice owners generally agree that far too much money is owed to the practice by insurance companies, the federal government and patients. Staff members given the job of reviewing accounts receivable aging reports are not always sure what to do when people or insurance plans don’t pay. Given this unpleasant scenario, it is common for doctors and staff to procrastinate about managing AR. A few months could easily pass before anyone looks at the AR reports. If that describes your office, let’s turn over a new leaf and develop better habits with AR; it will save you thousands of dollars.
Launch Date: October 1, 2014
Tip Number: 654
Long-time readers of this Tip of the Week series know that I’ve been an advocate of using scribes since way before the advent of EHR systems. But EHR is certainly creating a huge increase in the number of doctors interested in the concept of scribes and I’m very pleased to see that. In this share some of the benefits you’ll realize if you adopt the scribing concept and I’ll help you create a plan for training and implementation.
Launch Date: September 24, 2014
Tip Number: 653
Optical dispensing generally contributes about 50% of the gross revenue generated in optometric practice, yet ODs typically pay very little attention to it. It may be time for a comprehensive review of your optical department. In this article, I'll present ideas for analyzing your frame inventory and pricing.
Launch Date: September 17, 2014
Tip Number: 652

Many practices have not raised fees in a significant way for many years. That could be due to a tough economy or to a general fear that if we raise fees, we may lose some of our valuable private pay patients. Competition is fierce for most eye care providers (ECPs). In spite of those concerns, optometrists routinely tell me the last time they raised their fees, nobody noticed. My experience shows me that patients are quite loyal to their doctor and not that sensitive to price.

Launch Date: September 10, 2014
Tip Number: 651
I know many optometrists are quite uncomfortable with the topic of selling optical products. Mention the word “sell” to a group of ODs and you may see them squirm a bit. Some will talk a good game and say how they always recommend products from the chair, but I think many of us cave quite a bit when we are actually in the moment. I think it is time we got over our aversion to selling and realize that our patients are coming to us for our recommendations for the best eye care possible. Let’s not deprive them of that as we try to prove our ultra-professionalism.
Launch Date: September 3, 2014
Tip Number: 650
The title of this article is supposed to evoke a response that makes you realize you aren’t doing much marketing for your practice and no one is in charge of it. Chances are good that I hit the mark. The vast majority of private optometric practices do very little marketing other than recall post cards and confirming pre-appoints. That used to be OK in the not too distant past. But we turned a corner recently and we need far more patients than we used to. Maybe it is due to the increases in managed care or maybe it is the increasing competition in eye care. A good marketing plan is now a necessity.
Launch Date: August 27, 2014
Tip Number: 649
In this final installment in my series on adding an associate, I will cover how to get the associate doctor to produce at a high level. We can measure production in various ways, but collected gross revenue and number of exams performed are the key indicators. I’ll also describe a few miscellaneous factors to consider when you bring on another doctor.
Launch Date: August 20, 2014
Tip Number: 648
In this third part of my series on adding an associate optometrist, I will cover how to transfer patients who have traditionally seen the senior doctor over to the new doctor.
Launch Date: August 13, 2014
Tip Number: 647
Last week, I wrote about the wonderful opportunity that exists for your practice when you can bring on an associate optometrist. In this article, I’ll cover additional details that will help you make your group practice a big success.
Launch Date: August 6, 2014
Tip Number: 646
For many optometrists who own practices, hiring an associate OD should be one of the ultimate goals. This is the first step in achieving the CEO of your practice model. Adding an associate allows you to quickly increase practice revenue and net income while allowing you to spend less time on patient care and more time on practice management.
Launch Date: July 30, 2014
Tip Number: 645
Optometrists occasionally ask me what to do about staff members who make errors. In some cases, it seems like a great many errors. The OD sometimes seems rather surprised and wonders how these mistakes can happen. I have to remind these colleagues that when we hire an optician, receptionist or office manager, we can’t expect perfection. They don’t know everything. It is the practice owner’s responsibility to provide training for staff members and that should continue for more than the first two weeks of employment. We will never completely eliminate mistakes because we are all human, but an ongoing training program can greatly reduce them.
Launch Date: July 23, 2014
Tip Number: 644
When I consult with optometrists, I often find that many of them do not look at financial reports very often. In this article, I will cover some financial data points that seem simple, but have some confusing details that I’m often asked about. I’ll cover additional metrics and reports in future tip articles.
Launch Date: July 16, 2014
Tip Number: 643
I realized that I have not written about customer service in a long time and that is unusual for me, so stick with me and read this tip because it is the most important topic there is for building a successful practice. It is important for all of us to revisit our own beliefs about customer service and then lead our staff teams to embrace it as well. If you don’t continue to make customer service the dominant factor in your office culture, service will decline. Complacency will set in. It takes an ongoing, renewed effort.
Launch Date: July 9, 2014
Tip Number: 642
I received a lot of reader email following an article that was published a few weeks ago: Tip #637, Routine Vision vs. Medical Eye Exams: Fees and Insurance. I appreciate the comments and support on this important topic. I mentioned a patient education form that we provide to patients at check-in in my practice that explains the difference between vision plans and medical insurance. Many readers requested a copy of this form, so I’ll provide it below.
Launch Date: July 2, 2014
Tip Number: 641
I believe in making my practice a great place to work. If employees have a high level of job satisfaction, they have better attitudes on the job. But there are a few situations where I believe the practice owner must set a firm policy and allow no exceptions. Personal smart phone usage by staff members is one of those situations.
Launch Date: June 25, 2014
Tip Number: 640
Most optometrists do very little marketing in their practices, but that really is something we should try to change. Most practices need more patients and we would be smart to not simply rely on vision plans to drive in patients. For independent private practice owners, your reputation in your community is extremely important to your success, but what are you doing to shape public opinion? Sure, the people who already come to your practice know you do a great job, but you need to attract the others as well.
Launch Date: June 18, 2014
Tip Number: 639
In my consulting work, I’m quite surprised at how infrequently optometrists measure and monitor their eyeglass prescription retention rate. The Management and Business Academy (MBA) Key Metrics report for 2013 shows that only 23% of ODs track their Rx capture rate! That is a very low number for a metric that is so important to practice revenue and profit. In this article, I’ll explain the two methods for measuring this data: one very easy and one a little more complex, but more accurate. I’ll also cover the norms for these metrics and what to do if your capture rate is too low.
Launch Date: June 11, 2014
Tip Number: 638
I have written many times about the need for optometrists and their staffs to be more efficient with eye exams. I know that concept can spark a negative response because it may seem like quality of care will be sacrificed or the doctor and staff will be stressed. That is simply a misconception, however. Neither of those factors has to be true. If you want to increase practice profit in this era of managed care and vision plans, let’s find a way to work faster, not harder.
Launch Date: June 4, 2014
Tip Number: 637
Optometrists are doing a much better job with the medical model of eye care, but this is still a sensitive area in practice management because patients naturally want some input into whether we bill their vision plan or medical insurance. Two major factors to consider are the exam fee structure and how to decide which insurance to bill. I’ll present an analysis of both these factors here, along with some tips on how to bill for the maximum fees without upsetting the patient.
Launch Date: May 28, 2014
Tip Number: 636
My column last week was about not selling your practice and not adding a partner too early. Adding an employed OD instead can change your exit strategy. I had some nice comments from readers on that article, but one colleague asked me to write about how to find the right doctor for the practice with an eye on reducing turnover and setting realistic expectations. I’ll cover that in this piece.
Launch Date: May 21, 2014
Tip Number: 635
Many optometrists who are at the midpoint in their career or later are worried about their exit strategy. Who will buy their practice? Should they get another OD in place now who might be able to buy the practice? In some cases, the practice owning OD is working too many hours and suffers from some degree of career burnout.
Launch Date: May 14, 2014
Tip Number: 634
We’ve all been there. Your staff asks about insurance when an appointment is scheduled by phone, but the patient says he doesn’t have a vision plan and insists the exam is just routine. Your office asks again at the appointment confirmation and again at check-in, but the answer is still no insurance. The exam is done and new glasses are ordered and the patient acts like all is well. But sometime later, maybe several weeks later, the patient (or the spouse) calls to say “Oh, darn! It turns out we did have vision insurance after all! Please file for my benefits and refund what we paid.”
Launch Date: May 7, 2014
Tip Number: 633
I wrote that title to get your attention, but I actually think it is nearly impossible to find a perfect manager. Of course, none of us are truly perfect in any endeavor, but even if we don’t take the term literally, I think great managers are made, not found.
Launch Date: April 30, 2014
Tip Number: 632
We all know that selling an annual supply of contact lenses is a good thing when we see patients for their annual exam, but most practices still do a rather poor job of this. I’m trying a new approach that is causing more patients to opt for the full year purchase.


Launch Date: April 23, 2014
Tip Number: 631
I have designed and used lens packages in my practice several times over the years, but I’ve never been completely happy with them until now. In some cases, I felt we were giving a discounted price for lens features that the patients would have happily bought at full price. In other cases, my optical staff would review all the lens features that are included in the package, only to have the patient say he wanted it, but would like to remove one item. Well, then it is not a package! We would end up going al a carte. Finally, I found that our packages revolved around presenting good, better, best options and I don’t really like that approach. I like my staff to just present the best products.
Launch Date: April 16, 2014
Tip Number: 630
A quick way to obtain a basic report card on your practice can be found by calculating the full-time equivalent (FTE) number of optometrists and staff members and then expressing those values in relation to financial production. I use the FTE numbers to get a rough idea if a practice is producing a high level of revenue (total sales) and also to determine if it has the correct number of employees. It’s really easy, so take a minute and do some rough calculations for your practice.
Launch Date: April 9, 2014
Tip Number: 629
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of staff training and I’ve had several colleagues ask how to handle the issue of wages and travel expense if employees are sent to major conferences that are out of town. I think sending one or two staff members to a major conference provides a level of training that can’t be matched in your office, plus the staff receive a huge morale boost for their career. The AOA, SECO, Vision Expo, AAO, and national alliance groups all put on outstanding meetings with world class speakers and a vendor exhibit area that is also educational.
Launch Date: April 2, 2014
Tip Number: 628
I received an email from a colleague who said he was one of those optometrists I mentioned at the end of last week’s Tip on time management who has abandoned staff meetings. He went on to ask what should go into a good staff meeting. He said he discusses practice metrics with his staff, but sometimes it feels there is nothing else to cover.
Launch Date: March 26, 2014
Tip Number: 627

If you feel time-crunched between seeing a large volume of patients and managing your practice, plus you would like to have a personal life, let me give you some tips on time management. It starts with changing your appointment schedule. With some organization, you can have a nicer life and make more money.

Launch Date: March 19, 2014
Tip Number: 626
I frequently work with optometrists, architects and frame display firms that are involved with optometric office design. I’ve also designed several different offices for my own practice over the years and lived with the results; some of it good and some not so much. Here is a summary of some of the key factors that I think make a good floor plan.
Launch Date: March 12, 2014
Tip Number: 625
I find very few optometrists actually know how much profit they make with the vision plans they accept. Oh, there is a vague feeling that it is not very much or that one plan is better than another, but when it comes to actual numbers, no one really has the facts. I understand this to some extent; after all, the payment systems are rather complex. Each vision plan has different fee maximums and there are product charge backs for some items while other parts of the lab bill are paid in full, invisibly.
Launch Date: March 5, 2014
Tip Number: 624
I’ve always had great pride in my staff; since opening my practice cold with one receptionist to the present day with a very large staff of opticians, technicians, front desk specialists and managers. I’m a teacher at heart and I’ve always worked to continuously train my staff in clinical eye care, optical dispensing and customer service. I’ve held staff meetings every week for over 30 years. I send staff to major conferences like Vision Expo or SECO as well as local meetings. I recently learned it is not enough. I need to do much more with staff training and if I do, I’m quite sure it will help my practice.
Launch Date: February 26, 2014
Tip Number: 623
Many optometric practices are set up to offer optical products at a few different levels of quality. It is often a good/better/best scenario for products like progressive lenses. We also see this in antireflective coatings. In many cases, lenses are presented to the patient in packages with several features bundled together and those may also be positioned as good/better/best or at least good/best.
Launch Date: February 19, 2014
Tip Number: 622
Optometrists, along with many other small businesses, are surveying their patients and customers more than ever before and that is a wonderful trend. Asking patients about their experience in your practice shows you care and the information you collect can help you to improve your services and your marketing. Email and the internet have made it much easier to conduct surveys and having the responses in electronic format allows you to analyze the data.
Launch Date: February 12, 2014
Tip Number: 621
Contact lenses have been at the core of advanced optometry since they first became popular in the 1950s and 60s. Optometrists pioneered the development and created the success that is enjoyed by so many people today. In spite of that leadership position, it seems to me that contact lens procedures have not changed much in the past 30 years. Contact lenses offer an excellent opportunity for profitability, but I think many ODs have lost their enthusiasm for this form of vision correction. It is time to rediscover the rewards of prescribing contact lenses. Embrace them and you will grow your practice.
Launch Date: February 5, 2014
Tip Number: 620
I study customer service and marketing in use by all kinds of companies, within the eye care industry and in my personal life. I learn a lot and it gives me ideas that can help my practice. One of my favorite fast food restaurants is Chic-fil-A. I was placing an order there recently and I said “Thank you” for something. The clerk used a phrase that I’ve heard many times by the staff at Chic-fil-A restaurants all over the country: “It is my pleasure.” This phrase is not unique to Chic-fil-A, of course. The Ritz Carlton organization made it famous and many other business use it as well, but I was impressed at how universally well-trained the servers at Chic-fil-A are. After all, most of the servers that I work with appear to be under age 20. And yet, they do not seem to forget and revert back to the more frequent response today when a customer says thank you, which is “no problem” or the popular alternative: “no worries”. And they sound natural when saying “my pleasure”; not forced or scripted, even though it obviously is.
Launch Date: January 29, 2014
Tip Number: 619
It is tempting for optometrists to acquire advanced diagnostic instruments and include the tests as part of their routine exam. This helps us to do what all business try to do: provide a better level of service and give your practice a competitive advantage. It would work very well if you could just raise your exam fee slightly and then everyone would benefit from receiving the special test at a very small cost. Some practices still function with this model, but with vision plans controlling a large and growing segment of routine vision care, raising the exam fee to cover the cost of a new procedure does not work. The more common approach is to offer the special screening test as an optional upgrade to the exam for an additional fee that is not covered by insurance. Each patient decides to opt in or not.
Launch Date: January 22, 2014
Tip Number: 618
Here is an interesting observation about the interrelationship of three extremely important factors that contribute to practice success. I have found that these three factors depend on each other a great deal and if you start with excellent customer service, you can increase patient demand and create a strong profit margin. These three factors continue to work in a circular manner: as one factor increases, the others increase as well.
Launch Date: January 15, 2014
Tip Number: 617
I recently received an email from an optometrist who asked an excellent question. It is one that I deal with fairly often, so I thought I would cover it here. The doctor started by correctly acknowledging that some important decisions, such as when to bring in an associate or whether it is smart to drop a vision plan, depend on how far out the practice is booked with appointments. Her question was how to apply that logic for a practice that preappoints, since her practice is always booked fairly solid for months in advance.
Launch Date: January 8, 2014
Tip Number: 616
Much of my work involves helping optometrists to be more efficient. If the practice happens to have enough patient demand so it is booked ahead even for a few days, the steps we take will instantly generate more gross and net income. If the practice is not booked ahead, greater efficiency still pays off because it allows the doctor to see the same number of patients in fewer days, leaving more time for other projects inside or outside of the practice.
Launch Date: January 1, 2014
Tip Number: 615
I want to wish all my colleagues who read this weekly publication a very happy, healthy and prosperous (let's not forget that one!) New Year. Thanks for your ongoing interest in reading this e-newsletter. My first article in this weekly series was published in January of 2002, so we have now completed twelve years together!
Launch Date: December 18, 2013
Tip Number: 614
I love technology and instrumentation in my practice. There are three good reasons why investing in clinical instrumentation provides a very good financial return.
Launch Date: December 11, 2013
Tip Number: 613
Most optometrists do very little marketing for their practices. While most of us don't need to do a lot or spend a lot on marketing, some effort is definitely needed to create growth in your practice. This article will provide a good review of the most successful marketing strategies. Discuss the following areas with a key staff member. You should be doing an excellent job in each category.
Launch Date: December 4, 2013
Tip Number: 612
Many optometrists and office managers don't get around to supervising staff members in action and giving them feedback on job performance.
Launch Date: November 27, 2013
Tip Number: 611

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Tip Number: 610

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Launch Date: March 13, 2013
Tip Number: 574
Many companies and staff members say they go the extra mile for the customer, but it is far more effective to go the extra inch.
Launch Date: March 6, 2013
Tip Number: 573
Many optometrists are concerned about the future of their practices because internet vendors of prescription eyeglasses are a formidable threat.
Launch Date: February 27, 2013
Tip Number: 572
If you want to make your practice more successful, start by emulating other successful practices.
Launch Date: February 20, 2013
Tip Number: 571
After going through the process of advertising the position available, reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates, we all make the best selection we can. So how do you decide how much to offer?
Launch Date: February 13, 2013
Tip Number: 570
Checking-out may not get the attention it deserves from doctors because it does not slow down their patient flow and they have generally moved on to the next patient, but there are two big reasons why you should still care.
Launch Date: January 30, 2013
Tip Number: 568
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Tip Number: 567
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Tip Number: 121
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