Article Date: 12/1/2009

Prepare Your Practice For the Post-Recession Launch
O.D. to O.D.

Prepare Your Practice For the Post-Recession Launch

If you find yourself with free time on your hands, why not use the time to plan for the future?

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

We're approaching the end of 2009 and many practitioners are hoping that 2010 brings a better economic climate. Those who graduated in 2009 are wondering where many of the opportunities went, and the 2010 graduates are wondering if the opportunities will be there for them.

With all of this, there might be a tendency to be lulled into a state of complacency, and rather than continuing to be proactive and goal oriented regarding practice growth, or finding an opportunity to practice, decide to become a victim of the economic climate. Unfortunately, there are those who have done everything in their power to succeed, in spite of the recession, and have failed. There are perhaps a larger number who haven't made any adjustments to their approach to success, haven't put forth any additional effort, or sought out any expert guidance. Rather, they continue to put their efforts into a pre-recession approach to practice management that just won't play in the economy, as it currently exists.

Turn your downtime into productive time

So, what do you do with your time when there aren't enough patients to see? How do you turn downtime into productive time? How can you benefit later from your efforts during the downtime now? Here are some insights that might help.

Think of a favorite restaurant that's typically very busy and offers fabulous customer service — you know, the one you go to for that very special experience. Then one day, you visit the restaurant before the rush. There's hardly anyone there, so the service will surely be even more attentive and the food will probably arrive even more quickly. Yet, as the experience unfolds you find the service isn't even close to attentive, and the wait for your meal is prolonged.

The same thing can happen in your practice, just because there's no pressure on your time, and you have extra to give, doesn't mean that your patients want or need it. In fact, not maintaining your same pace of throughput, but rather increasing the time you spend with patients and slowing the pace, could cause patients to be less satisfied rather than more.

Instead of "over-visiting"

You can do other things with your time instead of "over-visiting" your patients. Remember all those office tasks that never get done? Fun stuff, such as: cleaning off your desk, catching up on inventory management, keeping insurance and vision plan filing up to date, refreshing the merchandising in the optical department and putting cross-selling opportunities in place between optical and contact lens. Or regarding your staff: practicing or role-playing with staff to better communicate with patients, training staff to increase their ability to accept responsibility and thus increase throughput when patients start calling again, contacting patients for whom you ordered additional testing and they just never quite got around to it, purging your files of inactive records, converting to EMR while there's time to do it, negotiating for additional office space while landlords are dying to deal, replacing or refurbishing furniture fixtures and equipment, painting, re-carpeting, or finishing out that other exam room while contractors are hungry for work. And, the list goes on and on.

Manage with intent

The important thing is to do, plan and streamline your practice for the future. Managing your practice with intent rather than hope. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2009