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Here we are at the start of another new year. My question to you is... what are your plans to make your practice better in 2007? What changes are on your horizon and what is on your priority list? I don't mean for you to predict what will happen to your practice; I want to know what you will make happen in your practice.
If your practice does not keep changing, it will become stagnate and outdated. If you continue to do things the same way you do now, you can expect the same result. Here are a few major categories to get you thinking about making good things happen.
I believe every practice owner should reinvest in the practice with new instrumentation every year. Most instrumentation pays for itself in the form of better efficiency, improved delegation, enhanced image, increased accuracy, or expanded service. The fact that some new instruments create new revenue streams by billing to the patient or to insurance is a bonus.
Only you can decide what instrument or technology would benefit your practice the most. Consider these items on my top ten list:
- Digital retinal camera
- Nerve fiber layer analyzer
- Digital visual acuity charts
- Corneal topography
- Gentle air puff tonometry. I know it has a bad rap, but it's undeserved. Delegating more procedures to staff is key.
- Practice Management software and electronic medical records
- In-office optical lab. Most likely this would focus on a patternless edger, but larger practices should consider surfacing equipment as well.
- High performance auto-lensmeter
- Patient education computer software
When was the last time you implemented an increase in fees? I believe you should reevaluate your fees once a year. Like most of the expenses in your practice and in your personal life, costs are increasing. Your fees must keep up, and it's possible they have been too low in the first place. Remember to check all aspects of your fees, including exam fees, medical procedures, office visits, eyeglass lens prices, lens option prices, contact lens evaluation and fitting fees, contact lens materials and specialty services.
This is also a good time to review the discounts that are offered by your practice. You can't control the discounts required by vision plans once you decide to accept them, but you can control all the other discounts in your practice. Most discounts are ineffective. They often do not create the increased sales they were designed to produce. Dropping a discount is like a fee increase.
Many practitioners and staff members worry about fee increases driving away business, but in my experience, that is simply not the case.
I see many practices that are simply understaffed. Often times, they have existed that way for a long time so it has become the norm. This norm means inefficient procedures where the doctor does many tasks that should be delegated. It also means mediocre service, where patients have to wait, the office is closed at times and the phone is on voice mail. Understaffing leads to low staff morale, which creates poor attitudes, apathy and rudeness.
Hiring a new employee provides the lift many practices need to improve service and create better patient loyalty and more referrals. A better, larger staff does not cost - it pays!
The start of a new year is a great time to clean house with office policies that are outdated or non-profitable. Remember that policies are really just a way to say "no". If you are going to say yes, you really don't need a policy. Try to design your policies with the patient's wants and needs in mind, not the doctor's or staff's wants and needs.
Here are a few policies to review and redesign:
- Payment policy. Do patients know what they are expected to pay in advance? Do they know if insurance will cover the service in advance? There is no need for office payment plans in this age of debit and credit cards.
- What are your office hours and policies for lunch time? Expand your hours and offer more convenience for patients.
- Eyeglass warranties. Are yours too long and too generous? Just because a frame company gives you a 2 year warranty does not mean you must extend that same term to the patient. Handling the free replacement and transferring lenses is an expense and warranty replacement prevents a new sale.
- Staff uniforms. What image is projected by your staff right now?
Consider an office face lift, from the carpeting to the waiting area chairs to the optical displays. If you think some of your decor might be looking outdated, it probably was five years ago. Furnishings are the things patients understand best in your office and they judge your entire service and quality by the things they know about.
I wish you a prosperous New Year!
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
A Proud Supporter of
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Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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