Optometric Management Tip # 265   -   Wednesday, February 14, 2007
What To Do If You Are Booked Far In Advance

A recent email from a reader asked me this question and I thought it would make a great topic for a tip. The doctor who posed the question admitted it was a great problem to have. It really is and sadly, itís a little rare in our profession, but it does happen.

Is it a problem?

Whatís wrong with owning a practice thatís booked three weeks solid in advance? Isnít that what we are all working hard to achieve? The biggest problem to me is that this practice has untapped revenue sitting in the appointment book. If we could collapse some of that backlog and move more patients to the present day, the practice would gross and net much more money.

A second problem is that the lack of appointment availability is stifling patient satisfaction and growth. A convenient and quick appointment is a primary patient want and need, and if our goal is to maximize the practice, we must satisfy this need.

Why is the schedule so full?

What action to take when a practice is too busy depends on how it got that way. Simply put, there are two ways a significant appointment backlog can occur:

1. The practice has a small staff and the doctor performs most clinical duties and relatively few patients are seen per day.
2. The practice is efficient and enjoys tremendous patient demand.

Of course, most practices fall somewhere in between these two extremes; there are degrees of efficiency.

If a practice is close to example number one above, I think the first step is to change the operation so it is not so dependent on the doctor. This occurs by acquiring larger office space, automated instrumentation and more staff members. These changes obviously represent an increase in expenses, but that will be easily offset by a much greater gross income. Profits will be realized.

If a practice is already highly delegated and the doctor is seeing patients at a fairly busy pace, say 25 or so in an eight hour day, the next step is to bring in an associate OD. In this case, if the practice is booked solid even one week in advance I would be entertaining the idea of an associate.

The good news is that either of these scenarios has great potential to increase gross and net revenue quickly. I think it would definitely be worth any growing pains that might be experienced as the changes are implemented.

Associate ODs

Hiring an associate OD does not have to be a painful experience at all, although I readily admit that finding candidates can be challenging. But the caliber of graduates from optometry school today is so good that you wonít need a huge pool to draw from.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management