Article Date: 6/1/2004

practice management
Working Together
Consider the benefits of sharing a practice with an ophthalmologist.
BY DARYL DEMONBREUN, Lebanon, Tenn.

Merge optometrists and ophthalmologists into a joint equity practice where there is equal ownership and governance?

Many of our associates said it couldn't be done -- too many obstacles existed. But there were too many opportunities to cast the concept aside.

Now, six years later and far, far wiser, we're beginning to realize our achievement. As peers and colleagues face difficult decisions about the future, we wanted to share our experience so that doctors can make an educated decision about mergers.

Merging optometry and ophthalmology practices creates obstacles that could appear far too difficult to overcome. Cultural differences, practice patterns, retail ventures, employee loyalties, etc., create a maze that those considering the merger must explore carefully.

The best advice

What counsel can we share? The following is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to provide a framework for your consideration.

First, get the best advisors you can. It's not enough to engage the services of a qualified attorney or CPA. You need someone who's been there and done that. Consultants are available for a purpose. Don't assume that you can deal with everything in the process without outside counsel.

Secondly, realize that the process is almost as important as the outcome. Invest time to deal with each significant issue. Too many of us want things done right away. We find it difficult to wait. But such a venture takes time, and it's an investment worth making. Ignore an issue and it will likely emerge later.

Lastly, don't view a merger as the answer to every issue or problem in your practice. There's no magic bullet. Such a venture will likely raise issues that you may have ignored. This type of venture provides a platform where the combined experience and wisdom of the merging parties can deal with those practice issues.

The best of both worlds

Our achievements, listed here, represent hours of blood, sweat and tears:

Twice the challenge

We don't want to mislead you. You have to overcome disadvantages and obstacles. For example:

We realized that this was far more complicated than we expected, but we've seen a commitment to excellence that would likely have been challenging to maintain in our independent practices. We haven't resolved all of our issues, but we're confident we can successfully resolve whatever may arise.

Offering help

As fellow colleagues who've been through this, we stand ready and willing to help you determine if this is right for you. No one can make that decision for you, but we're proof that it's possible. The Eye Center stands as a tribute to our determination and willingness to buck the norm. If it's for you, the outcome is worth the journey.

With more than 20 years of consulting and administratvie experience, Mr. Demonbreun, practice administrator for The Eye Center, has helped small and independent groups merge into single practices. Contact him at (615) 453-4906 or at ddemonbreun@theeyecenter.net.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2004