As we look ahead to 2013, this is a great time to reflect on the current state of your practice and where you want to take it in the coming year. I'm a firm believer in making things happen and controlling your own destiny. Make a New Year's resolution to take your practice to the next level in 2013.
Based on my consulting work with optometrists, here are four practice management strategies that I believe would be the most help. Let's look at each of these areas and consider what you can do to improve them:
- Medical billing
- Invest in optical dispensing
- Delegate more
Most optometrists are involved in billing medical insurance to some degree, but frequently it is a fairly small percentage. Many ODs hang on to our heritage when we billed vision plans or we collected the fees directly from the patient. But the United States is moving toward health insurance for everyone and the public is more aware than ever. It's time to modernize your office policies and bill the appropriate insurance plan. Vision plans are designed to provide routine vision exams. If a medical condition exists, the exam should be billed to medical insurance.
I realize that changing your billing procedure is tricky, but work with your staff and test new office policies until you find a system that works. Take some courses in billing and coding in 2013 and also continue to broaden your expertise in treatment of eye disease. Perform some financial projections to determine if you can acquire new technology that will allow you to monitor eye disease.
With online optical becoming a larger factor in the marketplace, it is time to focus on your optical. We really can compete with internet vendors and the big box discount stores, but we must stop taking our opticals for granted. Consider these factors to make your optical current:
- Let your optical look and feel more retail. Many ODs think in such a professional way that their optical ends up being perceived as old fashioned. Break free of the old days and give your optical a new look.
- How convenient is your optical? You may need to expand your hours.
- Consider sending your staff to training programs so they learn new techniques for selling and communicating. Bring a top speaker or consultant into your office to present a program to your staff.
- Remodel and install new frame displays.
- Many optical dispensaries in private practices are not large enough. Consider adding more space or moving to a larger office.
- Work with your frame buyer to review all your brands and add some new exciting lines.
- Host two trunk shows (style show may be a better term) in 2013.
Most practices need more patients very much. Analyze your patient demand and your appointment schedule and develop a new marketing plan. The main focus should be on the internet and electronic communication.
- If you do not work with a company that specializes in electronic communication (like Websystem3, Demandforce, Solutionreach, 4PatientCare, etc.) choose one in 2013 and let them play a big role in your marketing.
- Use email and texting for recall, appointment confirmations, newsletters, birthday greetings and many other patient communications.
- Rebuild your website with a top designer and keep it up to date yourself.
- Make your practice Facebook page more active and pursue more likes.
- Consider changing or freshening up your practice name, logo, and color theme.
- Invest in larger, illuminated signage for your office.
- Make a video of your practice and post it on YouTube and share the link on your website and social media.
It is hard to break old habits, but most optometrists need to delegate more. If you can't seem to embrace this vital strategy, consider doing things backwards: hire a new employee first; then delegate more to her. Your current staff will be much more willing to accept changes when they can see that the increased work will not fall solely on them. Consider these delegating tips:
- Work to reduce your typical exam time period and stay on time for appointments. Again, you may need to work backwards. If you only had 15 minutes for a comprehensive eye exam, what would you change? What would you delegate?
- Consider training your current staff to assist you at chair side and act as a scribe. How much time would you save per exam if you did not have to enter data into your electronic health record? Test the concept with a few patients.
- Delegate routine tonometry.
- Begin a system to delegate more of the office administration. This begins with a real office manager. Develop a method so the office can function without the doctor being present. This includes opening and closing the office, handling bank deposits and paying the bills of the practice.
- Use a service or CPA office for payroll.
- Delegate more even if you are not extremely busy. See more patients on fewer days per week so you can free up some full days to work on management.
I wish you and your family very happy holidays! See you in the New Year!
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