Article Date: 2/1/2005

How Trucking Imitates Optometry
Truckers go beyond the standard rules. So do successful optometrists.

Truck drivers are held to higher standards. In the event of an accident, for example, the typical motorist faces no liability if he's not at fault. However, the trucker is judged on whether the accident is preventable.

Here's the difference: While merging, a motorist speeds past a yield sign and hits a car already traveling on the highway. Here, the merging motorist is at fault (not the victim).

Yet we know that drivers often speed up to merge. If this motorist hits a truck, then the trucker may be charged with a preventable accident. By slowing down and letting the other vehicle merge, the truck driver could have avoided the accident.

The O.D. as trucker

Many optometrists, including those who are non-truckers, employ the "preventable" approach in their practices. They take patient behavior into account. The extra phone call or e-mail that motivates certain patients to keep appointments for check ups or testing is an excellent example. In these instances, it's possible to prevent the missed appointment and the corresponding lack of practice revenue, even though other practices regularly miss these opportunities without ever "breaking the rules."

Knowing that many patients don't follow labels, consider how a preventable approach might affect your instructions to patients for whom you prescribe medications.

Preventable or not?

This practice management case illustrates the preventable approach:

After his exam, Mr. Hyde looks at frame displays. The optician greets him and says, "Your benefits plan doesn't cover these and you'd have to pay more." She leads him to a rack in the back of the optical. "Not many choices here," she says. "But your plan covers these 100%."

Mr. Hyde selects frames and asks when his glasses will be ready. "Our lab is very fast, but your benefits plan requires a different lab that may take two weeks," the optician answers.

Knowing he was offered inferior services and products, Mr. Hyde later picks up his glasses and never returns. Would he have paid extra for -- and been happier with -- a higher level of service? Perhaps. Was the patient's defection preventable? Yes, because the practice never offered the higher level of service possible.

The preventable opportunity

The next time your practice follows the rules and experiences a poor outcome, you may have found a preventable accident and more important, an opportunity for your practice to improve.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2005