Practice Growth: It Ain't About
What You Do, It's About Why
are built on relationships and some of the most valuable relationships occur
between patients and staff.
WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
Chief Optometric Editor
of us with experience in creating an optometric practice from scratch, or growing
an optometric practice from the level where we first became involved (as an associate
or partner), recognize that gaining new patients and retaining existing patients
is a full-time job.
invest thousands of dollars in advertising campaigns, marketing professionals, consulting
and practice management programs, hundreds of hours in listening to practice management
lectures and reading articles. For the most part, these focus on identifying the
tactics or the little day-to-day "things" we do to gain and maintain the patients
in the practice.
Understand the big picture
Even though these
investments will pay dividends in the growth and maintenance of an optometric practice,
they are in many ways only small pieces of the bigger picture that optometrists
must understand and master in an effort to most effectively grow and maintain their
addition, focusing on practice management tactics rather than first developing your
own philosophy regarding practice growth and maintenance is often counterproductive.
The tactics are put in place without the
practitioner or staff having a true sense of how or why they are valuable.
In developing a
practice growth and patient retention program for your practice, let me pass along
a few things that every optometrist needs to know. First, you don't add patients
to your practice nor do you maintain the patients in your practice. Sure, we see
patients, and those individuals that we see as patients have sought us out to provide
their care, but you don't grow a practice by adding patients. You grow a practice
by creating personal relationships, and you don't retain and maintain patients,
you retain and maintain personal relationships.
the personal relationships that bond patients to a practice are not necessarily
and the optometrist. That's right, as hard as it may be to believe; the personal
relationship that most often bonds a patient to your practice is most likely between
the patient and a member of your staff. Now, doctor, don't get your feelings hurt,
the odds are just not in your favor. How many staff members do you have, two, three,
four, six, 10 or more? And when the patients call the office to make their first
appointment in your office, who do they speak to? They speak to a member of your
staff. When they're greeted at the reception desk, who greets them? A member of
When the patients
are guided from your reception area to begin their examination, their pretesting
is completed, ancillary testing performed, contact lens instruction provided, recommendations
provided in your optical department, payments received and their next appointment
scheduled . . . well, you get the point.
Lead the way
as the doctor want to do everything possible to build a personal relationship with
your patients. You cannot leave this up to your staff. You must set the tone, provide
the example and lead your staff in the building of personal relationships that will
ultimately determine the rate of practice growth and profitability.
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2005