Article Date: 4/1/2006

fix this practice
Generate More Referrals
What to do when you lose your primary source for specialty referrals.
RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q: My optometric practice generates approximately 40% of its income from general care and 60% from specialty care. My referrals for my low vision specialty come from one retinal specialist who is ready to retire and I have been unable to develop a similar bond with the new specialist. Any suggestions?

Dr. E L. Edge Via E-Mail

A: Let's look outside of our profession for an appropriate analogy. If a town or city is heavily involved with one major industry and that company leaves the area, the local economy takes a beating.

I congratulate you for developing at least one specialty in your practice. The answer to your dilemma is two fold:

Expand your referral base

Create relationships with other retinal specialists or general ophthalmologists. Corporate doctors are a great source of referrals, but you must court them. Have a specialty seminar in your office for all corporate O.D.s. Follow-up with specific referral forms that are easy to use.

Develop a professional newsletter for corporate O.D.s to help keep your name and services fresh in their minds. Unfortunately, most independent optometrists have not learned to refer. This has created a true weakness within our profession. Developing a much broader referral base can give you safety and security.

Add an additional specialty

Corneal refractive therapy (CRT), developmental vision, orthoptics and computer vision syndrome are all viable optometric specialty options. Your patients benefit from these great services and you reap much higher financial rewards due to the fact that these are fee-for-service specialties with a low cost-of-goods. The distance patients are willing to travel to see a specialist is far greater than they will travel to a generalist.

Explore your options

Dr. J. Babst called my company after losing his main referral source for his orthoptics and developmental vision specialties. The source was referring at least $350,000 of this practice's professional services annually. During my interview, it became evident that Dr. Babst had taken these referrals for granted and allowed other facets of his practice to slide. Medical optometry, optical and general revenues on the non-referral side of the practice were low.

During my on-site consultation, I taught Dr. Babst and his staff techniques that enabled them to fill their schedule with patients as opposed to waiting for the telephone to ring. I incorporated CRT and taught them both the clinical and management aspects of this specialty. The increased patient volume and the addition of high fee-for-service specialty, combined with maximized medical reimbursements grew his non-referral practice from $250,000 to $550,000 in two years.

As optometrists and practice owners, we must always evaluate the big picture of the entire practice. Do not allow yourself to become complacent. Continue to add instruments and services that expand the practice size and raise your net income. Do not lose focus. Continue to push out and make things happen.

DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.



Optometric Management, Issue: April 2006