Optometric Management Tip # 415   -   Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Adding a New Specialty

My recent articles about new optometry school grads prompted some excellent emails, including one from a doctor from the class of 2000 who admits he is no longer a new grad but is a successful practitioner who sympathizes with the grad's plight in finding a position with a good practice. In this doctor's experience, many established ODs don't have the patient demand to just add a full time doctor, so they look to the associate to bring a new specialty to the practice and hopefully increase demand for patients. Problems can arise however, and this doctor phrased it well: “With respect to adding specialties, it seems that it would require a major shift in the culture of most practices.”

Great idea

The concept of adding a new specialty to an existing practice to facilitate the addition of an associate doctor is an excellent business strategy. But to make the new venture successful it will require a culture shift along with financial support, special training and management effort.

Even though you may not be interested in providing a specialty yourself, it could open up a whole new market for your practice without relocating. And it is still eye care – it's not like you are entering a new field that you know nothing about. One of the best aspects of specialized care is that it is often a non-covered service by vision plans. Medical insurance may or not play a role, but coverage by medical insurance can help grow the segment faster. You already have an initial patient base and referral sources to draw from and some of the basic equipment is already in place in your office.

Let's start by considering some optometric specialties.

To the senior doctor

Be prepared to not run the show in this new specialty, which will be a change from the usual practice culture. And be prepared to change some of the operations of the practice such as time slots for appointments and the adoption of new fees and billing procedures. Here are some other tips:

To the new associate

Best wishes for continued success,

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