the business of contact lenses
Work Smarter, Not Longer to Increase Practice Dividends
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Even during this down economy, most of us still complain of working too many hours. Logically you'd think that if you're seeing fewer patients you'd spend less time in your practice. However, for most practitioners that's usually not the case. Instead, those of us with 9-to-5 office hours who have only three morning appointments will still be in our offices all day. The common reason for this is to accommodate walk-ins or patients who call and want to be seen right away. These are valid points until you examine some data from some top performing practices and analyze how they allocate their time.
You might expect that practitioners in top producing practices have longer office hours than those in lower income generating ones. However, our data show little statistical differences in total number of hours worked between these two groups. Rather, we see large differences in how these practitioners spend their time.
Conceptually, think of there being three core chunks of time involved in every patient encounter: the time preparing for the visit, the clinical care segment, and the time after clinical care is completed. Thought of in this way, we find that higher producers spend the most time preparing for a visit (nearly double that of lower earners), and slightly less time both during and after the clinical care encounter. Let's look at each segment in more detail.
Before the Visit
In addition to marketing the practice, top producing practitioners spend a lot of time devising systems to make upcoming visits smooth and profitable. Office forms and software are constantly tweaked for maximum efficiencies. Staff training is relentlessly and incessantly tended to. Phone technique is chronically reviewed and tweaked. Anticipated patient traffic flow through the practice is analyzed, with necessary adjustments made.
With this intense and unending attention to detail, the resulting patient visits are faster and more profitable. And because so much energy is put into this crucial step, much of the redundancies seen in post-visit paperwork and "systems" are eliminated. For example, it's not uncommon for our consultants to see a practitioner examine a patient on Monday morning, but not have his toric lenses ordered until Wednesday afternoon because his chart had to work its way through various station stops, employees and piles of other charts. With a better system in place before the patient's visit, the lenses would have been ordered on Monday and received on Wednesday.
The Actual Visit and Post Visit
Due to the planning during the first phase, the patient's time in the office can be set up so that every minute and step serves a purpose. Of course this concept is not meant to imply that patients should be mechanically rushed through your office. However, keep in mind that given a choice, nearly every patient would prefer a thorough and attentive encounter in less time versus more.
When the first two steps receive the proper attention, billing, ordering, and notification of received products happens much easier.
You've probably already heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder," and I certainly agree with that. It's just as important to know where to concentrate your efforts so your smart work pays maximum dividends. As we've seen repeatedly in hundreds of offices, like a chef who prepares a great meal that takes only minutes to eat, the planning phase is by far the most important. CLS
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.