Article Date: 6/1/2010

How To Manage In Challenging Times
view from the top

How To Manage In Challenging Times

Even if you're moving at light speed, you can still plot a solid course.


Let's first deal with CCHIT, PQRI, OCT, CMS, Dk/t and AR. Then, after that alphabet soup indigestion, let's tackle healthcare reform, staffing problems, cash flow headaches, taxes, back-ordered glasses, complaining patients, a broken auto-refractor, Internet service interruptions, increasing credit card discount rates …

On top of all this, let's put together a strategy to plan for our future. What? STOP the madness! With so many moving parts involved in running a practice, who possibly has time to formulate a cogent strategy for the future? Who can possibly plan for the future with so little time and so many things changing so rapidly? Besieged by plummeting reimbursements and alternative dispensing channels, the world of an O.D. is moving at light speed. And while we were trained in the movement and management of light, this particular wavelength is foreign to us.

Taking a step back

Sit back, breathe, and relax. The best way to cope and plan is to look at your past. Once you reflect and let the mental image of the chaos of an uncertain future go from a rapid boil to a mild simmer, one thing is left: a core philosophy upon which everything grows and develops. Stick with that philosophy, and you'll survive.

Ask yourself: "How did I get where I am now? What has been the main attraction for patients to join the practice?" Has it been a keen interest in high technology, a focus on low price or a reputation for fashion? Once you distill your main reason for success, memorialize it, and refer to it, as the onslaught of new changes are hurled at you. Put your business model stake in the ground, and stay true to it.

For example…

Let's say your practice is known for providing a great customer service experience. Your priorities should fall on those things that support the human resource side of your practice, as opposed to the more tangible product side. So, an Internet service interruption that affects your online appointment scheduler would be something you'd want to address before learning about PQRI reimbursements, for instance. Yes, when the Internet goes down all practices scramble, but in your case, invest in great back up systems that ensure your high level of customer service never wavers.

If instead, your practice model and history are grounded on low price eyewear, you should relentlessly look for new ways to maximize revenues from inherently lower margins. While you might be interested in getting a new OCT, for example, you're probably better off making sure your credit card discount rate is as low as possible.

What to do if you're new

If you operate a practice that doesn't have a history upon which to draw, stick to your core business model in the face of turbulence. Dream about how you'd like your future to look, and set up your model today to reflect that look.

I don't mean to imply that you can never impart any flexibility to your method of operations. Consider this: Although Disney got to be Disney by creating magical moments and memories, the recent economy has them offering deals that allow children to "stay and play" for free. You can bet these "free" days offer just as many magical moments and memories. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2010