Article Date: 1/1/2010

Healthcare Reform, Recession, Certification … What Next?
O.D. to O.D.

Healthcare Reform, Recession, Certification … What Next?

There are a lot of issues that demand your attention. Fortunately, you can set your own agenda.

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

Perhaps everyone will be happy to see 2009 go and celebrate the arrival of 2010. It was a difficult year for most practices and regardless of whether your practice grew or not, I think we would all agree that there have been better economic climates in which to build or grow a practice.

Plenty of diversions

We start 2010 with the U.S. senate trying desperately to "fix" the healthcare system and the public's frustration over the increasing national debt. Healthcare practitioners nearing retirement lived a lifetime with reduced reimbursements from Medicare. They now face a so-so retirement with the prospect of "reduced care" from Medicare as a result of government "improvements." Ever-increasing regulatory requirements frustrate and distract practice owners. Now add to the mix the American Optometric Association's board certification decree and the potential for distraction continues to mount.

All of these issues demand your attention, but there will always be someone with another hoop for you to jump through, another deadline to meet or another layer of nonsense to dig through. Those purveyors of hoops, deadlines, and nonsense consider themselves your first priority. In my experience, much of the effort I put forth over 27 years of managing my practice was dealing with distractive or non-productive initiatives dreamed up by someone who had too much time on their hands.

Creating our own distractions

The irony is, we don't need government or organizations to distract us from our primary focus — we do it well enough ourselves. For example, I recently met an optometrist who explained how he had bought the CAD (computer-aided design) engineering and architectural software, learned how to use it and designed his new office building by himself. OK, that's cool, and if you look at that as leisure time (which I wouldn't) I guess you could say it was relaxing, or a learning experience. But, my first thought was, how much more efficiently his resources could have been used where he already had the skill, equipment and facility to focus on his primary business responsibilities?

We all take part in diversions and I'm no exception. For myself, it was a pilot's license, then an instrument rating, then multi-engine rating, shooting skeet, motorcycles and oil painting (just to name a few).

Now, with the clean slate

I don't consider these distractions wrong or unhealthy, unless they cause us to lose focus on our primary business challenges.

When this happens, there is a solution: Starting with a clean slate in 2010, I encourage everyone to make conscious decisions about what activities or tasks are imperative, important, or elective. Then decide which of those must be handled by you personally, as opposed to delegating to a member of your staff or outsourcing. Many times, those who own successful businesses are so good at understanding so many challenges and problem solving that they find themselves doing the wrong work. It's a trap you ought to avoid.

We all need distractions, but they are always more enjoyable when we have prioritized our responsibilities and dealt with the imperatives and the important before we start jumping through hoops for ourselves or anyone else. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2010