When you have practiced for a long time, you get set in your ways. You’ve seen the “latest new thing” come and go a hundred times. You have (hopefully) read thousands of journal articles. It adds up; you get a little intransigent. You are probably also dealing with life cycle events like elderly parents, boomerang children, a generational distance between you and some of your staff, personal physical impairments that you never had before, or even the realities of retirement.

All of this conspires to knock you off your game. You find yourself struggling to deal with new paradigms in prescribing, dispensing, and marketing. When you got out of school, social media was a wedding invitation and not a platform to complain to millions of people about you and your practice. The only thing that went on line were wet clothes. The number of lenses that a patient used in a year could be counted on one hand. And, you had your first automated visual field instrument. Now, you are paying for your fifth.

You worry about stuff now that you never had to before. Thirty years ago, the vision care plans were really run by-optometrists-for-optometrists. Now, the plans have an online presence as well as brick-and-mortar stores. We didn’t worry about accepting medical insurance, because most of us couldn’t get on the panels. Now, we spend our day dealing not with our patients, but with their prior authorizations.

You start falling behind, but at first, it happens imperceptibly. The younger practitioners whom you mentored are now the featured lecturers at big conferences, and rightly so. They possess that perfect intersection of vitality and experience that make them the kind of expert that you once were.

You find yourself using lens materials and design techniques that were once at the cutting edge, but now are being cut out by the key opinion leaders of today.

A Path to the Future

So, what do you do? How do you reinvigorate yourself so that when you want to read something, you grab Contact Lens Spectrum instead of Sailing World or Golf Digest? The first thing you have to do is honestly assess where you are; you have to admit that there is a problem.

The next thing you have to do is take a good hard look at your practice. Would you come to you? Would the way that you interact with your staff inspire you to refer to you? What does your office say about you? Does it say that you have dialed it in or checked out? Does it say that you are looking to the future or stuck in the past? Is your office as tired as you are?

I have been in my current location for 15 years. I have no debt and am comfy; that scares me. So, I am diving in and building a newer, bigger office that will knock the socks off of my patients. Yes, I am about to spend a bunch of money, but it will translate, I hope, into continued growth and energy.

However, you can’t just put lipstick on a pig. You have to invest in yourself. You need to look the part, play the part, and genuinely be the kind of practitioner to whom people want to go. You have to be current with the latest lens technologies and actively prescribe them. You have to plug in to the newest ways to communicate with your patients—especially the younger patients in your practice. If you don’t, they will go somewhere else.

To survive in the future, you have to be on top of your game. CLS