Article Date: 9/1/2006

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Frustrated with Frustration

How you handle your aggravation can impact the future of your practice.

Recently, a large vision plan came out with a new incarnation of one of its myriad plans. We received many questions from our clients asking us if it made sense for them to participate in this plan. As we usually do with these questions, we make our recommendations based on two main considerations.

What to do?

The first thing to consider is how the plan will fit with the practices' position in the market place. If the plan is heavily discounted and the practice is well established and traditionally presents itself as a high-touch, high-service, high-fee enterprise, we would advise against joining. For a younger practice in a retail setting, the plan might be a perfect fit. 

The second consideration is purely economic. It's our belief that for most plans and practices, if you can't cover operating expenses, then you probably shouldn't sign up. There are, of course, exceptions.

It's this second consideration I'd like to discuss and specifically, the frustration clients feel in trying to determine if the new plan makes economic sense for them.

The blame game

Several different bright, capable doctors contacted the vision plan and reported back to us with many different sets of data and interpretations. Instead of a straightforward, "The plan will force us to take an X percent hit in fees," we were besieged with complex spread sheets with no clear-cut conclusions. What should have been a simple exercise turned into something analogous to interpreting IRS tax code. And this led to all clients winding up in the same place — frustrated.

How they dealt with it was interesting. One took it out on the vision care plan phone attendant. Another blamed his partner for even thinking of signing-up. Another blamed herself for poor business management skills. Regardless of where the blame was placed, the frustration was real and palpable. 

Breathe deep

This example of an O.D. dealing with a monolithic insurance conglomerate brings up just one of many issues business owner O.D.s need to deal with. Staff scheduling, brutally ruthless competition and clinically challenging patients only add fuel to the fire of frustration. These issues are not likely to abate soon, so learning how to deal with frustration is critical to your practice success and personal psyche.

Start (and usually end) by trying to find the real source of the problem. In our example, given these doctors were not numerically challenged, blame can probably be fairly placed on the poor quality information they received. Blaming themselves or someone else doesn't appear to be reasonable here.

The next step is to non-emotionally examine how the core issue fits into the big picture of your practice. In our first practice above (highly customer-service driven), it would have been smart to hang-up on the plan's customer service representative after repeated unsuccessful attempts to get a straight answer. For the other practice, while it's frustrating to deal with a bureaucracy, the doctor should recognize that it's not his fault he can't get a straight answer, not their insurance biller's fault or anyone else's. From there, he should use the frustration energy to start a potential plan to allow him a future in which he won't have to deal with the next confusing plan that comes his way. That planning may very well include drawing a line in the sand and rejecting this current plan.


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006