The Business of Contact Lenses
“White Coat” Thinking Can Hinder Your Practice-Building
BY GARY GERBER, OD
I was recently invited to speak at the Indiana University (IU) School of Optometry “White Coat Ceremony.” I’ve been lucky enough to get invited to speak around the world to some eclectic groups in amazing locations, but I felt especially honored to be asked to speak at this event.
In my opinion, the ceremony is intended to symbolize that transition point from student to doctor, with the white coat being the iconic symbol of a doctor. While personally never a huge fan of white coats when I practiced, I certainly understood the intent and profound significance of the event and was very aware that students and their invited family and friends were probably expecting me to say something very philosophical, stirring, and motivating as they started this important step in their careers. With that in mind, I approached the podium and said, “Take off your coats.”
Why I Became a Doctor
I asked students to revisit some key memories and emotions in their lives that led up to their decisions to become doctors. And as expected, many of those included being influenced by another healthcare professional when they were patients, or a personal experience they had as a patient.
In those memories and emotions, I asked them, as I’m asking you now, to recall why you decided to become an eyecare professional. My point was that as they transitioned into this important phase of their careers, they must be continually mindful to not let their white coats be a barrier to the memory of why they chose their careers. If the reason was “to help people” or, more specifically, “to help people see better,” then do that—always.
We have all been patients at one time or another. And without question, my most successful, happy clients are those who always, without fail, make their practice-building decisions—no matter how small—from the point of reference of their patients instead of themselves. So, “make patients see better” as though you were one of those patients!
Next, removing our white coats allows us to realize that our practices’ successes are largely limited by our own thinking and imagination and less so by external forces. This is not to imply a naivety about real practice-building challenges, such as third-party payers, online contact lens sellers, and constantly changing governmental regulations. Instead, it’s meant to remind us that it’s not a cliché to say that all of those challenges are indeed opportunities. But, only for those willing to shed classic white coat thinking and explore those challenges with no limits, barriers, or restraints.
I was recently reminded of this during an office design project for a client. The client decided to use a space designer from outside optometry. The designer asked the doctor to explain a “typical patient journey.” The doctor responded with, “The patients come in, fill out some paperwork or use a tablet, and then are taken into an exam room for their exam.” Sounds simple enough until the designer innocently asked, “Does it have to be in a room?” Of course, HIPAA guidelines and other logistical realities dictate that it should be, but the point here is that the designer was 100% white coat free and was able to offer a viewpoint that our client had never considered.
IU students, wear your white coats proudly—you’ve earned them. But, don’t let them be a barrier to success by allowing them to cause you to forget what it was like to be a “civilian” patient. Don’t let them lock your practice-building thought process into conventional white coat thinking. 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 www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.