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Delegation is one of the single most important management strategies that leads to success in practice - yet many optometrists resist it. I've heard all the reasons that are offered, but they never make much sense to me. But I won't discuss the pros and cons of delegating in this tip; I'd rather concentrate on how to do it if you decide you want to.
First, we must realize that the very nature of delegation involves staff support, so an optometrist who is already in practice and wants to delegate more should meet with the existing staff to discuss the idea and formulate a plan. We want to get the current staff to support the change and see it as a positive move. That should not be too hard, because the principle of delegation is good for the practice. Here are some points to consider in your plan:
Consider the delegation plan from the staff's point of view. Change can be threatening and people naturally resist it. They may think - will I have to work harder? Will I be able to perform the new tasks? Will new staff members diminish my importance? In reality, none of these issues will likely be a problem - but it can be scary. To make it work - the staff must derive a benefit, so what's in it for them? See the next few points.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from optometric staff members is that there is not enough opportunity for advancement. Well, delegation brings that opportunity. Technicians, opticians and business office staff can all grow in their jobs, learn new skills and rightfully expect to be compensated more when these skills are mastered.
Staff should understand the business aspects of our profession. Tell them the reason the practice needs to see more patients per day, and needs to be more efficient. It is the only way a practice can grow in this era of managed care, since fees are not completely within our control.
If delegation is good for the business - then it's good for the employees. A healthy business can afford raises, benefits, better equipment and offer job security.
Once the staff is on board with the premise, pledge to them that you will provide the training to do the new tasks, the patience to allow them to gain experience, and the willingness to hire additional staff as they take on new responsibilities. Of course, if the optometrist/owner is not willing to do these things, don't start the plan.
Make a list of the tasks you can delegate in the exam, optical, contact lenses, and business office. Take small steps, implementing the new procedures over time.
Look at your office floor plan and find ways to have technicians use existing space for pre-testing. They can work in one exam room if the doctor is in the other.
Consider investing in one new automated instrument each year.
Consider devising a pre-test exam form to guide the technician through the process and to record the data.
Doctors are often concerned about the additional salary costs that delegation may cause, as they hire additional staff. I have always found that the increased productivity of an additional employee more than makes up for this increased payroll cost. Seeing a few more patients per day has a dramatic affect on the top line and bottom line. Even if your schedule is not fully booked with patients, seeing them more efficiently will allow you to use other days of the week to work on management issues and marketing.
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.