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Stop Feeling Sleazy About Your Handoff

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Face the (sometimes awkward) duality of optometry.

[Editor’s note: This is one of three honorable mention winners in INVISION’s essay contest. Eyecare professionals submitted essays in response to the prompt, “If you could order all eyecare pros to do one specific thing, and they had to listen to you, what would it be? And why would you ask them to do it?”]

I have two questions for you. Question No. 1: Do you cringe at the handoff? Question No. 2: Do you understand Question No. 1?

If the answer to No. 2 is no, then please feel free to stop reading right now. If, however, you cringed just reading Question No. 1, allow me to share with you how I got over it and how you can get over it, too.

Scenario: You have just finished explaining to Mrs. X the reason for her decreased vision. You have expertly explained that she has early cataracts, an epiretinal membrane, and have recommended an appropriate follow-up schedule. She is duly wowed by your professionalism and sheer brilliance and exclaims, “I have never had such a thorough eye exam before in my life!”

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You bask in the warm glow of her praise and think how awesome it is to be an optometrist. You walk her up to the front desk and turn briskly on your heel to get to the next patient.

“Oh doctor!” Mrs. X calls out. “Can I have a copy of my prescription?”

Your heart sinks because, well, you kinda blew it. Again. The two voices inside your head start fighting. Again. “She thinks I am an awesome doctor, a real doctor! I didn’t want to have the glasses conversation in the exam room, that would have ruined my credibility!”

The other voice shakes its metaphorical head and retorts, “How do you think this practice is going to thrive if you don’t sell glasses!?! Half of your income comes from sales!”

For many years, this was me. As a young female OD, I was constantly challenged to prove myself. Yes, I am just as good as the senior male doctor. Yes, boss, I can generate enough sales to cover my salary (even though I sometimes willfully ignored our optical). Yes, I can juggle two children and a career and a student loan … oops, different essay.

“It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, employee or employer. We are all faced with the sometimes awkward duality of optometry.”

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Bottom line though, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, employee or employer. We are all faced with the sometimes awkward duality of optometry.

About 10 years ago I started to contemplate buying the practice I had been working in for the last decade. I knew that I really had to get into the sales aspect of the practice, but the truth was that our optical was uninspiring.

Along with my amazing office manager, Amy, we slowly began to change the face of the optical until it morphed into something that was cool and eclectic, yet still affordable for our community. I started to build up a glasses wardrobe and wear trendier clothes to match my new aesthetic, and I found I was able to maintain my professionalism and actually feel authentic selling from the exam room. Not every OD is accomplishing this mindset shift with a makeover, but my advice is, find an aspect of the optical you are passionate about and you won’t feel sleazy about the dreaded handoff!


Dr. Chani Miller graduated from SUNY in 1993. In 2015, she bought her practice and has been living the joys and horrors of being a practice owner. She has raised two daughters with her husband of 29 years and in her spare time is a serious knitter and crocheter. You can find her on Instagram @ccspecs or cmiller@parkeyecenter.com.

 

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Don’t Do Do-It-Yourself Optometry … Do This Instead

Even the most successful DIYers know when to call in a pro — and doing so can free up their time for bigger and better things.

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I CONSIDER MYSELF A competent Do it Yourselfer, and during a recent house remodel I was determined to handle as many tasks myself as possible. My father is a retired master carpenter, and I spent countless childhood hours watching him craft pristine custom cabinetry.

Clearly, I had no reason to doubt my ability to handle some basic trim work. This was going to be easy, right? Wrong!

Similarly, while a wealth of DIY-style info is available, DIY optometry practice management is no piece of cake. The goal of running an efficient, profitable practice is not as easy as it sounds.

Perhaps the most important sign of a competent DIYer is knowing when to hire a professional. Honestly, I knew I couldn’t manage my own plumbing or wiring.

Hiring specialists to manage certain aspects of your practice can outweigh the self-satisfaction of DIYing. More often than not, the main benefit is prioritization. Here’s why:

Ten years ago, the optical dispensary comprised at least 70 percent of the overall practice revenue, while exams and services made up the remaining 30 percent. Today, with the increase in medical-model eyecare, exams and services can match or exceed dispensary revenue.

Most ODs once dedicated significant time to dispensary operation, but more time is now spent learning new equipment, interpreting test results and filling schedules with more non-optical patients. Managing inventory and lens purchasing now takes a backseat to offering other specialty medical services. Such profitable specialties are where you should be focusing your energy, rather than overseeing day-to-day dispensary management. To compound the problem, optical dispensing is becoming increasingly complicated. Patients have vision plans with specific criteria, lab networks and products, mandating that optometrists be masters in maximizing profitability and understanding plan contracts.

Delegating allows you to focus attention on next-level eyecare and promotes overall practice development. Let’s discuss a few aspects of optometry dispensary operation that benefit from less DIY and more professional management.

  • Staff training. Optical dispensary management services provide staff with professional education sessions. Performance standards are established and regular meetings held to discuss products and technologies. Incentives programs entice staff to meet sales goals.
  • Revenue cycle management. The capture, management, and collection of patient and insurance revenue as well as cash flow, audit risk and ultimately profit can be outsourced to professional firms.
  • Marketing materials and initiatives. Demographic-specific marketing programs tailored to a practice’s patients can boost sales. Collateral may include educational patient information or professional courtesy programs.
  • Third-party billing. Staff are trained to maximize plan benefits, and ODM services process all optical claims on the practice’s behalf.
  • Dispensary inventory management. DMs purchase existing inventory while transitioning to new inventory targeted to a practice’s specific patient demographics. This includes an analysis of the practice’s market showcasing competitive price structures and consumer preferences.

Enlisting professional help isn’t an admission of lack of skill, it’s the practical awareness that not everything can be accomplished on your own. So, while you may choose to keep your home remodeling efforts DIY, let experts take your optical practice to the next level. A little help never hurt anybody.

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Danielle Richardson

A Case for Yoga

Let go of any preconceived notions… yoga is for everyone.

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I KNOW, I KNOW — yoga is not for you… but let me stop you right there. Yoga is truly for everyone! Yoga is finding its place in the mainstream as 1 in 7 American adults reported practicing yoga according to a 2017 survey.

However, as the number or practitioners continues to rise, so too does the number of people who feel alienated by yoga. Social media has warped the perception of this ancient practice into something that more closely resembles gymnastics or acrobatics. This shift distances many would be practitioners because of feelings of not being “flexible” or “fit” enough. I’m here to tell you that’s BS! This article is to make the case for yoga and its inclusion in your wellness routine.

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The true origin of yoga can be disputed, but the most popular types of yoga in the West are derived from a 5000-year old Indian philosophy system and body of knowledge. Yoga takes a holistic view of the human experience and consists of practices to unite the mind, body, and soul. Yoga extends beyond physical movement to combine meditation, self-discipline, and breathing practices to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Below are a few things to remember about yoga:

Yoga is for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, yoga does not require fancy tights or expensive studio memberships. Additionally, you don’t have to overhaul your life or become a Himalayan monk to practice. The only requirements for yoga are your body and your breath. Yoga is most often practiced on hard wood with a mat or blanket, but carpet is suitable as well. Yoga can also be made accessible to those with disabilities using chairs and props for modifications. There truly is something for everyone.

Beginners are always welcome. There are plenty of resources available for new yogis. You can go the in-person route and sign up for a new student special at a local studio. Local yoga studios often have classes designed for beginners where you can receive in-person guidance and personalized tips to make the practice more comfortable. Additionally, you can use online beginner yoga videos on YouTube via my channel “FierceClarity” or another excellent source like “YogaWithAdrienne.” My recommendation is to begin once per week and gradually increase frequency. There is no right or wrong amount of yoga to do, but the longer you stick with the practice the more benefits you will see.

Yoga has real benefits. According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an NIH affiliate, research shows yoga may help relieve stress and chronic pain, manage chronic disease symptoms, and even aid in smoking cessation. Other studies have found yoga to successfully decrease inflammation, improve heart health, and improve some symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Additionally, yoga aids in weight loss and can help maintain a healthy weight when practiced regularly.

I started practicing yoga at the end of optometry school when I was burned out and sick from an unhealthy lifestyle. This simple practice has changed my life for the better. I became so passionate about it that I now teach yoga to others. I hope you will let go of any preconceived notions and give yoga a try. It is a rich tradition with several different styles and teachers. Be like Goldilocks and experiment a bit until you find the yoga that is just right for you.

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John Marvin

Forget Opinions, Measure the Hard Facts and Data to Improve Your Business

In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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THERE’S A BUSINESS axiom that says if you want to improve something, measure it. The sheer act of quantifying an issue and then determining how to improve its outcome incrementally, will itself create improvement.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement, believed that management decisions should be made using facts and data; and that successful managers use that data to best understand customers and their ever-changing expectations of goods and services.

The contrast is making decisions based on opinion. I believe that this is done far too often by optometrists and managers in our industry and these are the reasons why:

It’s easy. What could be more comfortable than offering your opinion about patients’ preferences and behaviors? In some ways, it just makes sense. You spend all day, several days a week observing people in your practice. Naturally, your opinion is enough on which to base your decisions.

It’s popular. Everyone has an opinion. The dilemma is when team members’ views conflict with one another. Whose opinion is correct? Usually, it defaults to the person with the most authority. When this happens, you can diminish the perspective of others.

It’s cheap. Opinions are free. You don’t need to go to the expense of both time and money to gather facts and data. Why go to all of that time, effort and spend money when your opinion will do the job just fine? However, a decision based on belief and not facts can be the most expensive decision you’ve ever made.

Recently, I was working with a young optometrist to open his first practice, and as you can imagine, he was full of enthusiasm and confidence in his opinions. He had classmates that had started new practices. What could be so difficult?

Of course, he had an opinion about his location. He had already determined where he wanted to open his new office. When I pointed out some of the challenges this selection would create, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. It had everything he believed, in his opinion, that was critical to a successful location.

It was close to where he wanted to live. It was half the price of locations in areas with much higher traffic patterns, and there were no other optometrists within a five-mile area. In his opinion, this location was ideal.

I explained to him that selecting the right location is probably the most critical first step in building a successful practice. That he should consider the households in the area, the exposure that a site will provide his new office, and that is all a part of what you pay for in lease payments. Basing this decision on his opinion is an example of how expensive a wrong decision can be.

Another practice data area that is neglected is the retention of patients. We don’t measure the percentage of patients we saw a year ago that return in twelve months. Why would we? We are great at what we do, why wouldn’t they return?

After all, we sent them a postcard telling them it was time to come back for an appointment.

The office most successful at retaining patients that I know measures and reports to the team each week the percentage of recalled patients who booked an appointment. They have learned that success in this area requires a phone call to follow up on those who do not respond to their postcards, emails, and text messages. The OD/owner is proud that 87.3 percent of their recalled patients return for their annual exam and he is still working on improving this percentage.

Managing your business using facts and data is crucial. It takes the emotions, personal perspectives, and biases out of making improvements. In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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