Optometric Management Tip # 491   -   Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Doctors: Observe in Optical

I met with a top executive with a leading frame company last week and he estimated that 80% of optometrists in the U.S. have little or nothing to do with their optical dispensaries.  My own experience with practices agrees with that.  Most ODs delegate everything optical to staff members and really don't monitor it for years.  Or decades.  It's almost like we have a phobia about it.

While I'm not implying that staff members don't do a good job in the management of the optical departments, I strongly recommend that the doctor/practice owner spend some time observing and listening to staff members as they care for patients in optical, especially when performing frame selections.

You will be shocked
I think optometrists naturally tend to think our staff is carrying out our vision in various aspects of the practice.  After all, the OD probably trained the original staff on how to do it, or at least discussed it at a staff meeting.  And if that original staff trained the others then of course things are going well.  I'm kidding, of course, but there is a difference between optical and the rest of the practice.  If operations get off track at the front desk or in the clinic, the OD probably becomes aware of it at some point.  He or she is close enough to that part of the office.  But frame selection is often more isolated.  It is semi-private and doctors are too busy to hang around.

Here are some things you might observe:

How to observe
I mention this because I know it is a bit awkward to try to observe and listen to staff while staying in the background.  Here are some tips, but practice makes it easier.


What I saw
So you don't think I try to give the impression that my practice is perfect (trust me, it isn't), I'll share with you what I noticed recently in my office.  Two different staff members on separate occasions did a poor job of managing frame selections.  The patient was walked directly to our budget frame display to begin the process.  These frames are not in the area of our nicest frame styles.  These patients had not indicated any need or desire for low-priced frames.  The optician simply presumed it.  I was shocked.  I thought we had covered this!

I recommend you take some notes about what you observe that could be better and discuss the issue in detail at regular staff meetings.  Staff will actually open up and share their best sales techniques and communication skills.  I would not criticize any individuals at a group staff meeting.  There may be value in working with specific staff on specific issues, but do it in private.

I understand that optical dispensing may not be your favorite activity as an optometrist, but as CEO of your practice, it should interest you very much.

Best wishes for continued success,

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