Optometric Management Tip # 356   -   Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Can You Prosper in a Down Economy?

Some readers have asked what they should do to weather the tough economic times our nation (and world) is currently facing. While I don't pretend to have all the answers, I'll offer a few thoughts on how economic woes impact eye care practice.

Don't react out of fear

There is no question that our economy is in the worst shape since the great depression. Major industries such as banking and automobile manufacturing are failing and that leads to a huge domino effect that impacts many other businesses. Many of our patients are losing their jobs or fear they will. There is no question that people cut back on spending when times get tough.

Eye care is certainly not immune to a recession, but it may fare better than some other goods and services. As you evaluate your practice and your financial situation, I would use caution about making large strategic changes in your practice based on fear of what may happen.

What services do you offer?

This is a great time to concentrate on medical eye care services, since those are not typically elective. Increase your referral sources by visiting other practitioners and let your patients know that you handle eye care emergencies. Review the medical insurance plans you accept and apply for panel membership for major ones that you‘re missing.

Vision plan participation becomes a bigger asset to your practice during a depressed economy because these patients obtain your services with less out of pocket expense. I advise most practices to participate with the largest and best-paying vision plans, but I would still avoid the bad ones.

Reduce your business risk

Owning and operating your practice always involves some risk; it's a business investment, after all. No one can predict what will happen in a down economy, so it's smart to reduce your exposure to risk. Try to maintain a financial cushion in case practice revenue drops.

Your eye care practice can still grow and thrive during these difficult times if you use common sense and follow the time-tested primary rule of marketing: identify and satisfy customers' wants and needs.

Best wishes for continued success,

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