In today’s world of “act first, ask later,” I see more shooting-from-the-hip decision-making than ever before. As for those whom we mentor, such as kids or staff, I think in many instances we need to counsel on the repercussions of acting in this manner. This also applies to doctors and the decisions we make with our practices. It’s easy to get riled up regarding industry moves, legislation, integrations, take-overs and threats we face. Our way of practicing is challenged from many angles, but I really encourage doctors to pause. Think. Analyze. Then act. Here are several situations where this sequence of action may be beneficial:
• Switching optical labs/vendors. I guarantee it’s happened to most of us that sell any sort of prescription optical product: the late arrival, the messed-up order, over-charges, etc. Lab performance can certainly be detrimental to patient service and product delivery, but before you sever ties with a lab, make sure you have due diligence in moving to the next lab. Did you talk with your account manager about your concerns? Have you analyzed the programs you have with the lab, pricing, the discounts you may get in volume or with your contract, and any other added advantages? Have you sat down with key staff to go over what’s happening and make sure YOU have done your homework on the issue at hand, not just one or two upset staff? For what can be a significant “business within your business,” you need to make sure decisions regarding changes are well thought out.
• Dropping an insurance plan. This is a hot topic, always. Reduced reimbursements, mandates of what services you can provide and discounts you have to give, what lab you have to use, de-mystifying the payment check from said insurance plans…the list goes on and on with our grievances with many insurance plans we accept in our offices. I have gone through the process of dropping plans, and in my own experience and also watching the process of others who have done so, my biggest question is this: Are you prepared for the possible change in revenue and what repercussions that has on your business by dropping this plan? This may mean you take a pay cut, or you have to let staff go. It may only be temporary, but a big decision like this has the potential to affect lives significantly. Have a plan in place to replace that income in some way. Add a specialty, increase private pay revenue streams, cater to the patients you have, work on co-management relationships, and get out in the community are a few strategies that have worked well for me as I’ve gone through this process now (twice). As gratifying as it feels to say “Adios!” to the pain we perceive, be prepared for possible fallout and be humble. Your practice just may not be there…yet. Put the motions in place that will make it so.
• Cutting ties with a vendor. There are some instances where this decision is relatively easy, as what you purchase and sell with particular frame, contact lens or other ophthalmic product vendors may be a very small part of your practice. Substitutions can easily be made. However, when a vendor represents a significant source of sales revenue for you, and their reach spans across several product lines, you may need to approach more cautiously. Again, have a plan for slowly reducing and replacing a major vendor if need be. Don’t just sever ties altogether, at least at first. Remember, there are sometimes advantages to working with vendors you can do larger volumes of business with, especially with volume discounts and efficiencies in the practice with ordering.
The overall idea here is that although it can be gratifying to swiftly make a change, it’s usually not that straightforward. What’s your plan? Take a moment to think things through, all the way and with all possible outcomes. The great thing about our industry is that even if you do make a change you ultimately regret, backtracking is allowed, and you can salvage most decisions. But, if well-laid and played plans are put in place, you probably won’t have to do so. Best of luck.
Gina M. Wesley OD, MS, FAAO owns and practices at Complete Eye Care in Medina, MN. Accolades include Minnesota's Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011 and the Early Professional Achievement Award from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2013. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and enjoys practicing, writing and lecturing in the industry. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.