Insights From Our Editors

5 Ideas to Make Your Practice Better

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

April 11, 2018

You have opportunities to improve your practice every day. Here are 10 ideas offered by the American Academy of Family Physicians’ publication, FPM, which also can be applied to optometric practices.

And here are five ideas especially for optometric practices.

Understand the Value of a Half-Day’s Work
Should I take an extra half-day a week off? There is a famous nursery rhyme that tells how the absence of a nail leads to the loss of a horseshoe, and then to the loss of a horse, and then a rider, and then a battle, and finally an entire kingdom. The poem is a reminder that something trivial can set a series of events into motion that leads to larger problems.

What is the cost of taking off one half-day a week? In four hours (i.e.: one half-day) you should be able to see eight patients. At an average of $306 per patient that calculates to be $2,448. If you take off one half-day per week, and work 48 weeks a year, that calculates to be $117,504. If you work 40 years, then that calculates to be $4,700,160.

$4.7 million is the price of taking off one half-day per week over your career. It didn’t seem like that big a deal. It was only four hours. That’s the price of the absence of a nail.

Let staff members share a job
Rather than hire one full-time employee, hire two part-time job-sharing-partner employees. One person works Thursday and Friday, while their job-sharing partner works Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The two people alternate Saturdays. If one person takes off a week, then the job-sharing partner can cover for them. This approach can decrease staff burnout.

One important key to making this work is excellent communication between the two job-sharing partners.

Ask:”What does my reception area say about me?”
A great reception area is broken up into three separate sections: the bistro area, the fireplace area and the television-viewing area. The bistro area should contain beverages, such as coffee and tea, or small cans of juice and soda. The fireplace area (you don’t actually have to have a fireplace) is an inviting and comfortable place for people to sit and read. And the television-viewing area can be set up with wireless headphones so that people can watch TV without disturbing others.

You can use your reception area to help set the mood for the patient’s visit. To achieve this goal, make sure that everything in the reception area is comfortable. Make sure there is a place to sit down an infant carrier. At least one couch, or larger chair, is important for larger patients.

Solve Problems the Toyota Way
Toyota developed a quality-improvement technique known as the “Five Whys.” To show how this could be used in your practice consider this example:

“… everyone was frustrated that clinic sessions were ending late. Why? Doctors were behind schedule. Why? Patients were being roomed late. Why? The clinical staff noticed that charts were put in the rack late. Why? The clerical staff were constantly interrupted by phone calls while they were checking in patients. Why were our phone volumes so un-manageably high? The front staff complained about a high volume of calls from pharmacies for non-formulary prescriptions.”

The next time you are problem-solving an issue in your practice, try the Toyota Five Whys approach.

Follow the Example of the Hedgehog
Jim Collins categorizes business leaders as either hedgehogs or foxes in his book “Good to Great.” He quotes an ancient Greek poet who said, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Hedgehogs are successful because they understand three things: what they are best at, what they can make money at, and what they are deeply passionate about. Foxes are less successful because their efforts are scattered, diffused and inconsistent.

Your practice offers limitless options. You need to find your niche. Like the hedgehog, determine what you are best at, what you can make money at, and what you are deeply passionate about. Be the hedgehog.

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