It's not all
about profitability, say these practitioners, although that's important. Here's
their take on the qualities that separate a good contact lens practice from an outstanding
Does your practice
have the potential to be one of those thriving, nationally recognized practices
seen as examples of "how it should be done?" In a recent roundtable discussion
a prelude to the Contact Lens Practice Upgrade Program four O.D.s with successful
and growing practices discussed how they measure success. Some of their answers
may surprise you.
you're a naturally proactive person who's interested in new technology, you'll always
share the most recent advances with your patients. ... Not only will your staff
fall in line behind that philosophy, but your patients also will catch the excitement
to try new things."
Stiegemeier, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Making a living and more
What makes practitioners say, "This is a great
practice?" What makes them pleased with their professional direction? And how do
other practitioners characterize top contact lens practices? The answers range from
profitability to professional fulfillment.
Profitability is a given, the panelists
agree. Part of what makes a contact lens practice successful is its ability to make
money. And profitability hinges on efficiency a.k.a. time management
and patient retention, which often go hand-in-hand.
"We have to manage our time and the
patient's time efficiently," says Kelly K. Kerksick, O.D., Columbia, Ill. "That
means having a system for seeing patients and fitting contact lenses. When we're
efficient, the office runs smoothly, and we avoid inconveniencing our patients.
Efficiency boosts patient retention, which I interpret as satisfaction."
Adds Walter D. West,
Brentwood, Tenn., "Optometrists talk about growing practices by adding patients,
but for all of us on this panel if you
think about how we've built our practices to the size they are it wasn't
by adding patients but by building relationships on a personal level."
"Everyone in our office talks in terms of a continuing relationship
with our patients. ... Patients hear this not just from me, but also from my staff
throughout the visit. ... By reinforcing the relationship, I'm ensuring my patients
will come back to see me."
Dr. Kerksick concurs. "Everyone in my office talks
in terms of a continuing relationship with our patients one office visit
leads to another and another," she says. "Patients hear this not just from me, but
from my staff throughout the visit. We always have patients schedule their next
appointments before they leave the office. By reinforcing the relationship, I'm
ensuring my patients will come back to see me."
And no patient is as loyal as a happy
contact lens patient, says Mary Jo Stiegemeier, O.D., F.A.A.O., Beachwood, Ohio.
"My practice's success is a direct result of this loyalty," she says. "A practice
can't grow if it's losing patients."
Successful contact lens fittings and
word-of-mouth referrals distinguish a hallmark practice, agrees Millicent L. Knight,
O.D., Evanston, Ill., but so does quality of life.
"It's important that staff members and the
doctors are happy with their environment, the scheduling and other quality-of-life
issues," Dr. Knight says. "These factors influence our moods. If we're exhausted
and cranky, we set the tone for the whole office, and patients will pick up on it.
Successful practitioners are well-rounded and set a positive tone."
it comes to quality of life, adds Dr. West, nothing beats enjoying what you do.
"When I'm doing something interesting, facing the various challenges my patients
bring, it's satisfying and fun," he says. "Contact lenses give me more unique challenges,
professionally and cerebrally, and these challenges keep me satisfied."
need good leadership skills, but you also need good 'follower-ship' skills. ...If
we listen to patients and staff, they'll tell us what they want from us and from
the practice ... we need to be open and receptive to making changes."
Millicent L. Knight, O.D.
Embracing a new mindset
Are you ready to make some changes to drive
your practice to the next level of success and profitability? In addition to efficiency
and patient retention, the panel recommends you take a look at your overall practice
Dr. Stiegemeier explains: "If you're
a risk-taker that is, you don't mind change and you actually encourage it
you'll frequently try new approaches and new products. This philosophy moves
from doctor to staff to patient," she says.
"If you're a naturally proactive person
who's interested in new technology, you'll always share the most recent advances
with your patients," Dr. Stiegemeier says. "You'll even show a happy patient
something new and better. Not only will your staff fall in line behind that philosophy,
but your patients also will catch the excitement to try new things."
Along these same lines, Dr. West cites
leadership skills as a key to
success. He explains: "We're giving our staff the leadership necessary to work in
unity and succeed, as well as serving as examples for other practitioners. Practitioners
might begin by mirroring our approach, and then break new ground as they succeed
and gain confidence."
But breaking new ground doesn't always start
with leadership skills learned from successful colleagues. According to Dr. Knight,
some of the best positive changes in a practice can come from listening to patients
"You need good leadership skills, but
you also need good 'follower-ship' skills," she says. "We have to be open-minded,
and sometimes that's tough for doctors. If we listen to patients and staff, they'll
tell us what they want from us and from the practice, but the answers may not match
our own ideas. It can be difficult, but we need to be open and receptive to making
Read on for the panel's insights on
a variety of changes you can implement for the greatest impact none of which
involve paint chips or brushes.
What Brings Patients Back?
From a patient's perspective, successful
- Communicate well
- Take sufficient time with each patient
- Are personable
- Use the latest technology.
of a Successful Practice
According to the panelists, successful contact
lens practices rise above the rest because of:
1. Attentive, knowledgeable staff
2. Practitioner's skill set
3. Cutting-edge technology
4. Attractive office environment.
Optometric Management, Issue: July 2005