The Business of Contact Lenses

Time to Uncover by Going “Undercover”?

The Business of Contact Lenses

Time to Uncover by Going “Undercover”?


I am a mentalist, so indulge me while I do some long-distance mind reading of your staff: “The practitioner has it so easy. All he has to do is ask patients a few questions, play around with the phoropter (refracting is so easy), and write the prescription, which is usually just −0.25D more than it was last year. A few clicks on the computer, and he’s done.

“I do all the hard stuff around here. With all the changes for insurance these days, just booking an appointment requires a PhD in statistics and psychological counseling. And does he think that all of those trial contact lenses just magically show up in the stock room? He ought to try doing my job for just a few hours. Then he’d know what really makes this place tick. It certainly isn’t asking ‘which is better, one or two!’”

Staff, if you’re reading this, how’d I do? (Email me—I’d really like to know!)

Anyway, back to our story. Your staff is right. You absolutely should do their jobs and see what it’s like. Just like the TV show “Undercover Boss,” here are two reasons why you should consider going “undercover,” which is in quotes because actually pulling that off would be close to impossible.

You Really Have No Idea, but You Should

First, there is more than a modicum of truth in the above staff member’s comments, and frustration is often to be expected. Your staff is indeed on the front lines of running your practice. Patients will say certain things to staff members that they’d never say to you, and those things aren’t always complimentary or positive. The same patients who only sigh to you about their lousy insurance coverage will vocally complain about it outside of your exam room. For some reason, patients find it OK to talk down to what they perceive as an inferior part of your team. Whatever the reason, your staff’s job on the firing line isn’t easy. Additionally, you won’t ever fully appreciate it until you actually do it.

So, yes, I’m advocating that once or twice per year you should spend some time answering the phones, ordering contact lenses, opening up the shipment boxes, counting frames, pre-testing patients (it’s not so easy using that camera with those dirty optics that you refuse to have professionally cleaned, is it?), etc. Doing this will give you a sense of the real work that your staff is doing.

Learn What Needs Fixin’

Second, it’s important to realize that going “undercover” does a lot more. As you uncover issues that your staff is facing, you can prioritize if, how, and when you’ll address them. For example, the chair at the front desk that has three wheels on it rather than the four it came with is something you’d fix right away. The cable on the crackling phone handset can be replaced now, but upgrading the entire phone system will have to wait.

Similarly, you’ll be offering a fresh set of eyes on your systems and processes. If checking out is taking 15 minutes because of duplicate data entry and reams of forms, fix it. If checking in is too mechanical and lacking a personal touch, address it at your next office meeting.

Make It Work

But what about going “undercover” if you’re a one-practitioner office? Of course, I’m not advocating that you swap practitioner roles with non-practitioner staff members. Instead, you can block out one morning with no patients to do this—you’ll have more than enough to keep you busy.

You really won’t get a sense of what your staff members go through, or what should be addressed, until you walk an eyecare office mile in their shoes. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.