Article Date: 5/1/2002

FIX THIS PRACTICE
Starting Up
Everyone can learn something from a consultation. Here's one example.
Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q What is meant by a "start-up" consultation program?

Dr. T. R. Wells, via e-mail

A: There's a misconception in the O.D. and M.D. communities regarding the definition of a start-up consultation. Most doctors feel that start-up consultations are only for new graduates.

In reality, new graduates aren't the only group who can benefit from these consultations. Here's who else can: professionals who've worked in the corporate sector; those working with a doctor as an associate; doctors working commercially who want to become independent; M.D.s who work in HMOs or other clinical settings who want to have their own practices; and doctors who've worked on the supply side of the ophthalmic field who choose to switch over to the private sector.

ILLUSTRATION GREG RAGLAND

A lot goes into starting up

Some of these doctors may have worked in the ophthalmic field for years, but never owned a practice, hired or trained assistants, operated a retail optical, defined standard operating procedures for patients and staff, or formulated a vision and medical fee structure. Nor had they developed marketing, assigned proper check and balance systems, learned budgeting procedures, how to handle patient situations, learned techniques of hiring and retaining staff and properly choosing a location and office design. Starting up a practice isn't as simple as hanging your name on a building.

Helping a rookie start up

Dr. Ernie Sheppard hired me after completing his residency. He inherited a busy family practice from a family member who passed away. This was a successfully established M.D. practice that was handed off to a "rookie" M.D. Here's how Dr. Sheppard handled walking into a busy practice and surgical schedule plus operating a business and retail optical without any experience.

I taught Dr. Sheppard which existing procedures were functional, which weren't and what new standard operating procedures needed initiating. The staff had gotten sloppy in their language, starting time, length of their lunch times, and had been taking excessive days off. Dr. Sheppard needed to develop staff boundaries, standard operating procedures and a return to proper collection policy.

Putting rules in place

Dr. Sheppard learned how to cross train staff by watching my company's Heye Tech Video Training Program. I had him establish daily organizational sessions to exhibit to the staff that the new doctor had a "hands on" management style. This style involved him giving critiques and kudos to staff daily.

Dr. Sheppard and I also established boundaries and standard operating procedures regarding staff clock-in times and lateness.

Overcoming fears

The area that caused Dr. Sheppard the greatest concern was the optical department. I taught him proper inventory control, fee structure, collection, prevention of patient erosion and reduction of re-makes. But one of the most valuable techniques I taught him was proper co-management with O.D.s.

Because of my advice, Dr. Sheppard developed the largest O.D. referral network by understanding the fact that the O.D. should maximize his licensure in a co-management situation. He now enjoys the management process with little stress. Without the start-up consultation, he would have to make costly errors that would reduce income and increase stress. 

DR. KATTOUF IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN WARREN, OHIO, AND HE'S PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING CASE FILES.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2002