Article Date: 5/1/2003

o.d. to o.d.
Reach Beyond Clinical Skills to Improve Your Practice
If we aspire to grow our practices into profitable businesses, then the basics are not enough.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Now that I have begun my responsibilities as the chief optometric editor, I want to thank Neil Gailmard, O.D., for the outstanding job that he's done over the years in presenting every optometrist with the most pertinent, up-to-date information regarding the management of a professional practice.

Neil remains a valued member of the editorial staff for Optometric Management and will continue to write on various topics. In addition, Neil will continue to write his "Tip of the Week" that so many of us find valuable. Thank you Neil -- great job!

Focus on a need

While I don't want to limit the scope of topics addressed in this column, I do want to focus the attention of all optometrists on the need to improve not only our clinical skills, but our business skills as well.

In this first writing, I want to share a theme that you'll likely recognize in my column over the next year. That theme is the need for optometrists to increase their skill sets beyond what is done in the clinical portion of their practice. In optometry, as in any small business, success comes in many forms. Some successful practices are small and others are large and some practitioners gauge their success by the enjoyment of what they do, not just by how much they earn. Professional practitioners are everywhere, in every setting.

Three primary areas of skill

The practice settings for optometrists vary from the small private practice to the Armed Services, to corporate optometry, to the largest of health maintenance organizations. For any of these optometrists to maximize their performance, they must have a certain level of skill in the following three primary areas:

As optometrists, our educational background is primarily technical. In fact, many practitioners believe that all that is needed to be successful in practice is to be a good clinician and in command of the technical complexities of practice. All of us receive the basic fundamentals of practice management during the course of our professional education, but it doesn't take long to recognize that the basics are not enough to grow a practice into the profitable business that most would aspire to.

The managerial demands of practice have and are changing rapidly and how well an optometrist can adapt will not only determine her profitability, but in many cases, their survival. On to the entrepreneur. Although there is an entrepreneur within each of us, it is on this area that most optometrist spend the least amount of time.

Increase awareness

Over the course of the next year it will be my goal not to downplay the importance of the rapidly advancing technical portion of our profession, but rather to increase the awareness for the need of optometrists to develop their managerial as well as their entrepreneurial skills.

It's my belief that by better balancing the abilities of the individual optometrist as entrepreneurs, managers and technicians that the individual optometrist and our profession as a whole will have a greater opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2003