Article Date: 3/1/2005

staffing solutions
Improving Office Productivity

Why it's crazy to lead the band -- and play all the instruments.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

Effective delegation is undoubtedly the strongest productivity-improvement tool available to optometrists.

In his article "Technology in the New Millennium," which appeared in the January 2000 issue of Optometric Management, Philip M. Buscemi, O.D., of Greensboro, N.C., said, "In my practice, before I see the patient, our technicians have performed a history, visual acuity, lensometry, autorefraction, subjective refraction, phorias, blood pressure, topography, fields and anterior and posterior segment imagery. All of this is in the network and accessible from any computer in the office.

"Besides creating better patient throughput and more accurate documentation," Dr. Buscemi adds, "this allows me to be primarily a data analyzer, not a data gatherer. This increases profits, while also increasing the quality of care we offer."

Reality check: Many O.D.s perform tasks that a properly trained ancillary staff could do just as well, perhaps better, and definitely at lower cost.

Match the Answer to the Task

Can do

Will do

Can't do

Won't do

Learn to let go

Many O.D.s justify their failure to delegate by saying, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself;" or "It's easier (or faster) to do it myself." This line of reasoning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Staff members can't learn to do what optometrists insist on doing themselves. So the doctors keep on doing what they've always done.

If you're a "do-it-yourself" O.D., you can gain a lot if you'll loosen the reins a little to allow qualified staff members to tackle new responsibilities. Delegation frees you to do more of the things only you can do. You'll see more patients and generate more professional fees.

Staff members who are interested in personal growth, job enrichment and broader responsibilities will also benefit. Their earning potential will increase, as will their interest, pride and job satisfaction.

Here's how to get started

If lack of delegation is a problem in your practice, consider the following matrix devised by renowned performance improvement pioneer, Robert F. Mager, Ph.D., author of What Every Manager Should Know About Training. The box below will help you analyze the options.

Start with any one task and consider the qualified team member to whom you'd like to delegate it. The matrix in the box below suggests four permutations -- each of which calls for a different solution.

► She can do the job and is willing to do it. Solution: delegation.

► She can't do the job but if properly trained, would do the job. Solution: on-the-job training and/or tuition-paid CE programs for paraoptometric personnel at national, regional or state meetings.

► She can do the job but won't do it. Solution: Learn the reason. If it's acceptable, delegate the task to another team member. If it's not, consider either revising the person's job description or termination.

► She can't and won't do the job. Solution: You've most likely hired a round peg for a square hole. Terminate her unless you're willing to continue what you have been doing -- and accept the loss of productivity that goes with it.

Use the same analysis for other tasks you're still doing that you can legally delegate.

Hard-learned lesson: The more willing you are to limit yourself to diagnosing and managing refractive disorders, binocular vision and ocular health -- the tasks only you can do -- the more productive and profitable your practice will be.



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005