Article Date: 10/1/2005

contact lens economics
Examining What Works Leads to Repeated Success

BY GARY GERBER, OD

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.

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 DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.

 



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: October 2005