When things aren't going well in your contact lens practice, it's natural to
question your management acumen. For example, if you found that last quarter an
inordinate number of patients complained
that they spent too much time waiting in your office, you would (I hope) attempt
to find the cause.
What Works Leads to Repeated Success
GARY GERBER, OD
But what happens when your practice thrives? Questioning your
management skills at this point can pay huge dividends. Savvy managers will attempt
to decipher why things went well and attempt to replicate them.
Following are some examples of how to use this concept to help
grow your contact lens practice.
Take Time to Investigate
Perhaps last quarter you exceeded your customary number of new
contact lens fits by 20 percent. Sit back and ask why that happened. Was it a new
marketing campaign? If that's the reason, repeat the effort until it stops working.
A less obvious cause for new fits could be an increase in patient
referrals. This could be the result of an increase in a new modality you're fitting.
Perhaps you recently found success with a new GP bifocal and the word is spreading.
Whatever the reason, find out why you're seeing more patients. Don't rest on your
laurels and become complacent.
There are other areas in your practice to examine. Maybe you've
noted a recent increase in profitability per patient. Practitioners focus on this
statistic when it decreases, but rarely investigate when it increases.
Have you increased fees or decreased the cost of the lenses you've
been fitting? Perhaps you eliminated a poor paying insurance plan and the patients
who stayed with you are now paying a higher out-of-pocket fee for their lenses.
Take the time to decipher why profits are up and do your best to maintain those
reasons. Maybe it's time to eliminate another plan.
Consider the Cause
If the number of patients not complaining about their contact
lenses is markedly higher than in the past, find out why. As in our other example,
perhaps it's because of a new modality. Additionally, experienced practitioners
know that the way their staff manages their contact lens patients has a marked effect
on patient satisfaction. Did you just hire (or fire) a staff person? Might that
be the reason for the recent increase in patient satisfaction? Using patient exit
surveys, carefully track patient encounters to determine the source of their enthusiasm.
Maybe patients are cheering because you recently added new technology to your practice
or because you extended your office hours and are now open later on Tuesday nights.
If so, try staying open even later and cut back less favorable hours to keep
labor costs under control.
As mentioned with regard to profitability, patient satisfaction
can fluctuate with changes in fees, too. Don't assume that lowering fees gains instant
patient satisfaction. We've seen cases where our clients have raised fees and had
patients report increased satisfaction with the practice. This is because invariably,
after a fee increase, both practitioners and staff are on their best "behavior"
to make sure patients are happy. "Mrs. Jones, that last right toric lens isn't quite
right for you? It would be my pleasure to try another." Consider how you would reply
to Mrs. Jones' complaint if you recently lowered your fees!
Repeating Your Success
All businesses go through ups and downs. One of the best times
to learn how to improve is when business is going well. Examine the reasons for
your success and then repeat them.
Dr. Gerber is the president
of the Power Practice® – a company offering consulting, seminars and
software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: October 2005