I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you a very prosperous new year! This is the perfect time to identify one or two large projects or purchases for your practice for the coming year. I'll make eight suggestions in this article for items I believe are very smart aspirations. These products and services can provide a much larger benefit than you might think. They are not just fun toys; they are vehicles to practice growth.
Here's why: practices that stay the same in the way they look and function lose their edge. They become dull and boring. The doctor and staff feel that the practice is not really special and they unwittingly project that to patients. Investment in any of the following projects brings a spark of pride to the practice that does wonders for growth.
You may decide to acquire one of the items listed or you may have something else in mind. The right choice is whatever you believe will be the best for your practice; it is the item you have a passion for. Your practice is a reflection of you.
Wish list ideas
Which one or two of the following items gets you excited?
Optos. A recent change in this company's business model allows you to buy an Optos retinal imaging instrument outright instead of leasing it on a per use basis. This makes great economic sense for many practices. The technology is amazing with two models to choose from including one that is quite space-saving. You will continue to decide how frequently you need to dilate patients, which is, of course, how it should be. The primary ways that an Optomap can generate revenue are: charging a fee for routine screening, billing medical insurance for appropriate imaging and increasing efficiency with fewer dilations. Don't be put off by the relatively small size of the optic disc and macula in these wide field images; the image resolution is so high you can zoom in with excellent clarity.
Electronic communication service. If you are not already using a company like Websystem3, Demandforce, Solutionreach and others like them, you should plan to research this field and choose one this year. These are services you subscribe to for a monthly fee and they automate many aspects of marketing and patient communications. They specialize in communication via email and texting. In my opinion, these services deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
In-office lens edging. This may fly under the radar for many ODs who think they are simply not interested in doing lab work, but edging can decrease your cost of goods sold and improve your customer service. Even if you just do single vision lenses, you can buy premium anti-reflective stock lenses very inexpensively. The technology today makes cutting perfect lenses very easy!
OCT. OCT technology keeps getting better and the pricing is getting lower. This instrument allows you to manage glaucoma, macular degeneration and many other retinal conditions with a much higher degree of certainty. The data is amazing. Most medium to large practices can pay for an OCT from the revenue generated by billing for the procedure. In that case, it is a no-brainer! Why not own one? Do a quick break-even analysis: If your monthly payment on an OCT is $800, let's assume the procedure fee is $45 per patient and let's also assume that 50% of those OCT patients cause the need for an additional office visit at $80 each (for calculation purposes same as 100% of them at $40 each). $800 divided by $85 means you need 9.4 patients per month with a billable diagnosis. How many do you see?
Corneal topographer. This device provides important data for many niche patients (CRT, LASIK, etc.) but most of them are not very prevalent in the average optometric practice. I recommend a topographer in every practice because it raises the level of service for all contact lens patients. I recommend requiring the test every year on every contact lens wearer. The contact lens evaluation fee is increased to cover the cost of the technology. The patient education value of each patient watching the doctor review the corneal maps is outstanding. It builds patient loyalty and the practice reputation.
Digital dispensing device. The Essilor Visioffice and the Zeiss iTerminal2 are two well-known examples of this new technology that brings greater accuracy to the fitting of eyeglass lenses. There are other companies who also provide products and software, including Hoya's new app that works with an iPad. You will dispense far more premium lenses when you elevate the art of fitting glasses above that of the Sharpie pen and a plastic ruler. I believe this technology also helps differentiate why your practice is a smarter place to buy glasses than the internet.
A new practice website. Most optometric practices have a website, but most of them are not very good. Your website speaks volumes about your practice and it should be beautiful, functional and up-to-date. Promise yourself to spend some serious money with a top web designer this year and also be willing to devote the time to take photos, videos and write the copy for the site. Insist on having user-friendly administrative access to your site without the designer's input so you can make many changes by yourself. If you can't get that easy access, I'd find a new designer.
Remodel your office. It's so easy to not see your office objectively over time and many ODs kid themselves into thinking the décor and the optical displays still look fine, but I see many offices and they often don't look fine. I realize that new carpet or wood floors are a big bother and beautiful new frame displays are very expensive, but there is usually an excellent return on these investments. Referrals from existing patients go way up when they can take pride in the office they use. The only factor to consider is whether you would be better off moving to a new office facility in the near future.
Consider these and other major changes for your practice in 2013 and decide which ones fit best with your practice philosophy. Perform some projections and calculations to see if you can afford the cost on a monthly basis. There is no better investment than your practice.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.