Optometric Management Tip # 428   -   Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Managing Your Practice While Away From the Office

I realize that most eye care professionals (ECPs) do not get the chance to be away from their offices much, except for a vacation here and there. But more and more ECPs are working part time and some are increasingly dedicated to practice administration while leaving patient care to partners or associate optometrists. It is certainly possible to manage your practice from your home in town, from a second home out-of-town or while traveling.

I've long been an advocate of designing a practice that does not depend solely on the doctor/owner. Consider these benefits:

Managing the practice remotely is a great goal because it forces you to think of the practice as a business that has important people running it besides you.

A full time manager
A full time office manager is a necessity for a practice that does not have the owner always present. Someone must be in charge and have the authority to direct work and make decisions. And since everyone gets a regular day off, calls in sick sometimes and takes vacation days, it is a good idea to have an acting manager or an assistant manager as a backup for the manager. The actual duties of the manager can evolve and increase over time, but the basics begin with telling employees what jobs to do, supervising the flow of money and properly closing the office at the end of the day.

The owner can work quite closely with the manager while away from the office. Over time, the manager becomes trained to think the way the owner does. Eventually, it's up to the owner to decide how much micro-managing he or she wants to do. It is best to let the manager function at a high level and not have to check with the owner on every routine decision.

Clear office policies and a functional employee manual are tools that greatly assist with remote management. If you don't have them when you start such a venture, you will develop them quickly.

Daily communication
Even though information will always be available to the absent owner, it is best to have some items delivered as a matter of daily routine without having to ask for them. The following items can be emailed or faxed every day that the owner is away from the office.

Technology certainly makes it easier to keep track of your practice from any computer in the world. Consider these ideas:

Practice finance
Most practices I know use business financial software like QuickBooks to manage their bank accounts and track expenses. This works perfectly for a practice owner to keep close tabs on the practice finances by using the remote log-on system described above. If you simply log on from any computer in the world via a high-speed internet connection, you can access your accounting software and see all transactions and accounts. You may even develop a system where invoices to be paid are prepared electronically by a manager or bookkeeper, but the checks are placed on hold. The practice owner reviews the entries every few days and decides which ones to pay and when by placing a check mark next to the approved items. The bookkeeper then prints those checks that are marked, uses an official signature stamp and mails the payments.

More and more suppliers can be paid by auto debit with a bank draft or on business credit cards, and this process offers many advantages. Major insurance payors are also moving toward electronic deposits of funds. This makes administration much easier and instead of making deposits and payments, the practice owner simply reconciles the accounts, which can be done from anywhere.

Best wishes for continued success,

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