Article Date: 1/1/2006

When It's Time for a Change
The New Year brings opportunities and challenges that go along with change.

Statistics on New Year's resolutions aren't that impressive. Most people fail to keep them after only a few months and by the end of the year, many are history. I'm reminded of this each time I look at the cobwebs on my exercise equipment.

We appear to be more successful in making resolutions and changes that affect our professional lives. This would explain why the U.S. worker continues to be the most productive in the world.

It's good to remember a couple things that go along with change. First, a single change can produce unintended results, as in the "butterfly effect." Second, people (patients, staff, vendors, etc.) don't always like change.

Change for the better?

An optometrist recently told me that he decided to raise his contact lens fitting fees to be more in line with his expertise and the cost to his practice. Most readers of Optometric Management would agree that this is a change for the better. But I'm not sure they would agree with how it was communicated.

The doctor instructed his staff to give contact lens patients a letter, which detailed the fees and started with the heading, "We now charge contact lens patients a fitting fee." The patient response to the letter, as can be expected, wasn't positive. Some complained to the staff, asking why, all of the sudden, was there a need to increase fees when service levels hadn't changed. Some of the staff wondered why they were the ones who had to present "bad news" to the patients. Obviously, these weren't the results the optometrist intended.

Imagine how the response might have changed if the heading read, "It is our pleasure to provide you with a state-of-the-art contact lens fitting," and then went on to inform patients on the value of the practice's services.

We don't always need "change"

While people don't always like change, all of us like improvements. Successful practice leaders focus on how changes improve our lives. They acknowledge that there are costs involved, but the benefits outweigh these. For example, in recent years optometry has made great strides in a number of areas, including information technology (see page 32) and contact lenses (page 42). Wouldn't it be a disservice to explain these, respectively, as a complicated new office system for the staff to learn and contact lenses that cost more?

On behalf of the staff at Optometric Management, I wish you a happy New Year and the best of luck in your resolutions (improvements).

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2006