Article Date: 10/1/2010

Avoidance is a Bad Strategy
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Avoidance is a Bad Strategy

Instead, use this step-by-step approach to tackle your practice's challenges.

GARY GERBER, O.D.

Regardless of your political leanings, you've probably heard this quote from several politicians: "Hope is not a strategy." Be it addressing healthcare reform or unemployment, hope alone isn't a strategy. Instead, a strategy is a strategy. In politics or optometry, to face the myriad of challenges, you better have a strategy.

For example, solving staffing issues can have a profound impact on your practice. Many choose to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Yes, that's a "strategy," albeit not a good one. Avoidance might help you focus on your next patient, but your staff will still be grumbling because Christmas fell on a Sunday, and they weren't paid.

Move beyond the fear

Most of us are afraid to work with specific strategic guidelines for two reasons: First, we weren't trained how to do it. That leads to the second reason: We might pick the wrong strategy and fail. Most strategies, however, even if ultimately not the best, are better than hope, or the more common, optometric avoidance.

To set a strategy, start by clearly and succinctly defining what you want to tackle. Instead of saying, "staff management," be more specific (e.g. scheduling, compensation, training, etc.). After you define the exact area, envision the outcome. "We will have staff trained to triage phone calls." Be very specific here. "The result of this training will be …"

A detailed approach

Once you've accomplished the above steps, the strategy nearly writes itself. At this point, be very specific, and make sure to include everything you or your staff will need to meet the goal(s) you've set. Also, set time limits for each step in the strategic process.

For example, "By December 1, anyone who answers the phone will be able to triage phone calls. They will learn this by watching the DVD we created at our office meeting, role playing and one-on-one training with Mary. To ensure compliance, we will start a mystery calling program on December 2. That program will run for two weeks, or until each responsible person has been called at least five times. Each person will be graded based on the following parameters: how quickly they answer the phone (record the actual grading scale you'll use), accuracy of content delivered on the call, as measured by how many bullet points the person used from the approved script, etc. The penalty for a score less than 70% is …"

I mentioned above that fear of failure due to choosing a poor strategy is another reason many of us strategize with hope. Let's use the above example to see how to handle failure.

When a failure is not a failure

Using the above criteria, let's assume that the results of your mystery caller program failed. The next steps would be to examine whether your testing criteria might have been too stringent or your training inadequate. Whichever (or both) turns out to be the case, address the topic and repeat the process. Viewed this way, your strategy didn't fail per se — it's evolving.

The above concept can be used with any management issue in your practice — marketing, billing and coding, inventory management or just about anything else you can think of. OM


DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2010