If you feel time-crunched between seeing a large volume of patients and managing your practice, plus you would like to have a personal life, let me give you some tips on time management. It starts with changing your appointment schedule. With some organization, you can have a nicer life and make more money.
Change your appointment schedule
In order to create some more free time, you must become more efficient in some significant way. For many ODs that may mean seeing patients a bit faster. Before you say you can’t do it, think about all the benefits you will derive and try. You really can see 25 patients per day with good technician help. I’m referring to all types of exams, but of the 25, most should be comprehensive. It does not matter if you have a lot of patient demand or not, I want you to compress the patients you are currently seeing into fewer days. In the process you will create at least one or maybe two management days per week when you will be in the office but no patients are scheduled. You will still produce the same revenue (or maybe more) because you will see at least the same number of patients per week.
Hire more staff
In order to handle more patients per day, you may need to hire more staff. Go ahead and do it; many good things happen when you add more staff. Start with one additional employee and see if you can rearrange some of the existing staff schedules to have more people work on your busy clinic days and take the day off when you are in for your management day.
As you hire more staff, and if you are truly ambitious and serious about making more income, consider having your office open at least two evenings until 7pm and every Saturday morning. New employees generally agree to this quite easily. Your existing employees may have more of an issue with those hours, but see what you can do.
With more staff on board, work to delegate more of your clinical testing and patient education. Work to make the doctor time shorter. Don’t fret over this change; instrument technology is so good that you’re your quality of service will be just as good. Patients actually like to get done faster and it gives them more time to spend in optical. And the shift toward managed care demands more efficiency.
If you are already seeing 25 patients per day, you may not be able to compress your patient schedule, in which case you should consider hiring an associate optometrist on an employment basis. This may be part time or full time, depending on how far in advance you are booked with appointments. With an associate on board, you can reduce your patient care schedule and add some management days.
Part of your quest to manage your time should include delegating some of the administrative duties. This should be a gradual process, but if you don’t have an office manager, you need one.
In small to medium size practices, the manager usually has a dual role – like manager/optician or manager/front desk. In large practices, the manager may spend all his or her time on administration and not work with patients at all. You could promote someone on your current staff or hire a new employee with management experience. If you go the latter route, tell your staff in advance that you are recruiting for that position. It is best to not surprise them.
The OD/owner should work closely with the office manager. The manager does not replace the need for the OD to work on the business aspects.
Make time for weekly staff meetings
Optometrists who are time-crunched often change the weekly staff meeting they intend to hold to every other week, or once per month or maybe they just drop it altogether. The immediate result is a little relief, but weeks turn into months and months turn into years and soon you are not meeting with your staff very much. You may rationalize that you don’t really need to meet with staff that often, but you know that is really not true.
As you embark on smart time management, be sure to schedule at least one hour per week for staff meetings. Place it on your calendar at the same time and day each week and block out the appointment schedule. Your staff needs to communicate with the manager and owner on a regular basis. They need your leadership. Blocking out an hour per week will result in more income.
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.