Article Date: 5/1/2006

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Benchmark Your Office Tasks
Measuring office procedures can distinguish you from the competition.
GARY GERBER, O.D.

You probably do some degree of benchmarking and monitoring in your practice already. For example, you (hopefully) know how much you gross and net. Additionally, you have a sense of how that compares with other O.D.s. Many of us also have a sense of how our practices stack up to national averages in overhead categories like rent, staff wages, cost-of-goods sold and marketing expenses.

A local focus

While you should keep track of these conventional practice indicators, there are other non-conventional metrics that you should also track. And, unlike things such as practice net that are usually compared on a national level, you should analyze these items locally.

If you price-shop your competition, you already do a form of this type of analysis. But you can measure many other items in your practice beyond price.

The phone is ringing

How many rings does it take your staff to answer your phones? Does this vary with time of day and day of the week? A quick, thoughtful and courteous greeting, even during your busiest times, is one index you should track. You should also track how well your competitors perform this important task. Is your phone answered with a quick, curt and harried, "Doctor's office," or does your staff respond by the second or third ring in a calm, welcoming and inviting voice? 

Appointment scheduling

When is your next available appointment? How about your competitors'? How do you stack up in this important customer service area? If you're booked too far in advance, you risk losing patients to competitors who might have an opening sooner than you do.

Untangle the competitive web

If you're like a lot of practices we work with, you may be chronically understaffed. If this is the case, you may have a longer appointment waiting time and your staff may not answer the phone promptly and courteously. Additionally, you may participate in more insurance plans than your competitors and have a cash-patient fee schedule that is lower than it should be. Try to find out how many employees your competitors have, how many hours their offices are open, which insurance plans they accept. Cross reference this data and you may uncover practice growth opportunities.

For example, you may find most practices that accept insurance plan X do not have evening hours. You may also find that their fees are on the lower end of the spectrum. An opportunity for your practice, if you don't accept this plan, would be to alert phone callers that do have this plan that you offer convenient night time hours.

Another example: A large percentage of practices in your drawing area, with a large staff, do not offer on-line appointment scheduling. Therefore, when you mystery-call these practices, you are put on hold for inordinate amounts of time. Marketing an on-line scheduling system — with the benefit of the patient never being put on hold — may help position your practice as one that is more patient friendly than your competitors'.

You certainly should know how many hours you worked last week, how many patients you saw and the balance in your checking account. But the less obvious practice markers mentioned here are no less important, especially to those who help build your checking account balance — happy patients.

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.



Optometric Management, Issue: May 2006