Article Date: 9/1/2010

Hard Lessons About Delegation
staffing solutions

Hard Lessons About Delegation

How your practice benefits when you avoid the "do-it-yourself" approach.

BOB LEVOY, O.D.

Do you prefer to do all aspects of a comprehensive eye exam yourself and perform just a few exams per hour? Or, do you delegate as much as legally possible to qualified technicians and instead, limit yourself to: evaluating the data, diagnosing problems, designing treatment plans and conferring with patients? These two very different styles of practice each have different staffing requirements.

Many optometrists prefer the former mode of practice — and perform tasks that could be done just as well (and at a lower cost) by properly trained staff.

Many O.D.s justify their failure to delegate by saying, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself," or "It's easier to do it myself." Unfortunately, this line of reasoning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Staff members can't learn to do what optometrists insist on doing themselves. So, the doctors keep doing what they've always done.

You can gain a lot if you're willing to loosen the reins to allow staff members to tackle new responsibilities. Delegation frees you to see more patients and generate more professional fees.

Staff members will benefit as well. Their earning potential will increase as will their interest, pride and job satisfaction.

Lessons in delegation

► Optometry's architect, Irwin Borish, O.D., D.O.S., says optometry "must maintain its precision and dominance in the major areas of its fundamentals."

"This is made possible by using technicians and the latest automated equipment, by delegating techniques that determine quantitative data and reserving professional time for those who demand qualitative evaluation, concentrated listening to and understanding of patients' problems; determination of suitable procedures; and diagnosis and analysis of possible solutions," he explains.

► "Patients perceive more value in our services, "when I spend more time talking and educating rather than gathering clinical data," says optometrist Walter D. West, chief optometric editor of OM.

► Although delegation is a proven way to increase productivity and the job satisfaction of the staff member to whom a high level task is delegated, it's not for everyone. Some O.D.s prefer not to let go of the reins, and some staff members don't want the responsibility of taking them.

► "Doctors are often concerned about the additional salary costs that delegation may cause. I have always found that the increased productivity of an additional employee more than makes up for this increased payroll cost," says optometrist Neil B. Gailmard, who writes OM's Management "Tip of the Week." "Seeing a few more patients per day has a dramatic effect on the top and bottom lines. Even if your schedule is not fully booked with patients, seeing them more efficiently will allow you to… work on management issues and marketing."

► Beware of "upward delegation." If a staff member reaches an impasse in completing a task and turns to you for an answer, consider asking, "What do you recommend," or "What do you think should be done?" The results will be profound: improved responsibility, personal growth and a deep investment in seeing the problems through on the part of the questioner.

Reality check: Delegation requires a willingness to accept some mistakes along the way. Without risk, there is no growth. OM


BOB LEVOY'S NEWEST BOOK "222 SECRETS OF HIRING, MANAGING AND RETAINING GREAT EMPLOYEES IN HEALTHCARE PRACTICES" WAS PUBLISHED BY JONES & BARTLETT PUBLISHERS. YOU CAN REACH HIM BY E-MAIL AT B.LEVOY@ATT.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010