Article Date: 10/1/2006

o.d. to o.d.
May I Make a Prediction? Your Year Will End ...

... in one of three ways. But as is always the
case, the future is in squarely your hands.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

As I write this, summer became a memory only two days ago. For optometry the back-to-school push is complete and practitioners are doing one of three things.

One group of optometrists is settling in for their slow-down for the fall. Others are, for the first time, looking at their production for the year and trying to decide whether their practice has grown. Finally, others are already hibernating, settled in for their long winter's nap.

I'd like to make a prediction of how all three of these groups will finish the year.

The complacent ones

The first group settling in for the fall slow-down will finish the year and nothing more. Their complacency dictates that the market will guide their practice to greater or lesser practice growth and/or profit as opposed to them or their practice driving the market.

The reactors

The second group who are just now, and for the first time in 2006, looking at their production and practice patient flow to see how they're doing, will tell you that they didn't need to monitor their practice all year long because they "have a feel" for how they are doing, that their finger is on the pulse of the practice and that they have a sense that everything has been going well.

This group will act in one of three ways:

1. They will recognize that once again their practice hasn't grow or in fact that it may have shrunk. They can always blame the discount stores or managed care, so there's no need to take responsibility for lackluster performance.

2. In an attempt to produce enough between now and the end of the year — to save themselves from the doldrums — they will panic and begin to flog their staff as well as their recall system, neither of which they have paid any attention to all year long.

3. They will recognize that a year's productivity is not a function of taking a snap shot of their performance once 75% of the production calendar has passed them by. They will begin to regularly monitor their performance and attempt to impact their market, rather than letting the market impact them.

The nappers

Now for the nappers: I think anyone could predict their outcome and unfortunately, it's not pretty. The nappers won't use the slower time of the year as an opportunity to plan for the future, educate themselves as to better billing and coding, or seek opportunities to train their staff and enhance their efficiency. They don't feel the need because everything will rock along the way it always has.

The optometry that the nappers participate in is alarmingly not that rare. In fact, it's a rather large group. The nappers are not a group comprised only of older practitioners, nor are they only the optometrists in private practice or the ones who aren't therapeutically certified. They are everywhere and cut across all modes of practice.

Perhaps this is why I've heard that optometry is a sleeping giant.

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2006