Article Date: 8/1/2005

o.d. to o.d.
Who Manages the Business Side of Your Practice?
If you don't care to manage your practice, you have options, some of which are best-approached cautiously.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
Chief Optometric Editor

Practice management can come from many sources but I thought that practice management was a responsibility assumed by the practitioner or the owner of the practice. The exception is when the owner delegates management to an appropriately-trained employee, one who possesses the necessary skill sets to handle the job as well as, if not better than, the owner. In some instances this is the case, but in most it's a far cry from what's happening in the real world of optometry.

So if you recognize that you, as the practitioner, aren't personally managing or don't want to personally manage your practice, you have to ask the question, who else could do it for you?

Who's the boss?

We've already spoken about the skilled employee, a situation which probably accounts for less than 5% of all optometric practice management performed, so we'll take that option out of the mix. Another option is to identify the staff member who has been in your employment for the longest period of time and promote them to office manager, regardless of this employee's lack of training and skills.

I've seen this technique many

times and would suggest against it. All too often this approach is the Peter Principle all over again — take someone who is trusted and excels at performing the technical responsibilities and elevate them to a position where they are doomed to fail. Now once they have failed, it's extremely important that you act surprised about it, even though you understood that they lacked the qualifications for management.

Sometimes you pay to play

There's another popular technique for selecting someone to manage your practice: outside talent. Outside talent can come in many shapes, forms and fashions. These professionals yield different results so you'll have to do your research carefully. But hey, it's only

your practice, your profitability and your livelihood we're talking about here — nothing to get all excited about.

Even though there are consultants who are both well versed in managing healthcare practices and experienced practitioners within the field of optometry, it's important to recognize that you are going to have to pay these entities for their services. It's an investment. I know there are those of you who are thinking to yourselves, "Pay someone for advice, how un-optometric!"

Does the majority rule?

Don't despair. There is an opportunity for every optometric practice in the country to have an outside entity take control of their business and dramatically impact profitability (for better or worse) without having to pay a fee for it. Not only that but you can rest easy knowing that perhaps 90% of the practices and practitioners in the country already use this outside entity to manage the business and profitability of their practices.

How do you take advantage of this opportunity? Simply contact any managed care organization and sign up as a provider. Now don't you worry one little bit about reading that contract or what your reimbursements will be relative to your chair

 



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2005