Forward-thinking ODs provide fresh ideas that colleagues can use. This month, we honor ODs who are innovative in business management, selected from our fourth annual Optometric Business Innovators report from Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business.
JOSEPH V. DE SPIRITO, II, OD
HOOSIER EYE DOCTOR
(TWO LOCATIONS IN BLOOMINGTON)
“The staff needs to be compassionate but diligent at maintaining the profit and loss of our company.”
Joseph V. De Spirito, II, OD, understands his practice brand—at both of his Bloomington, Ind., locations. “Our first location is fashion frames and contact lenses with an average age of 29,” Dr. De Spirito says. “The second is ocular disease and pediatrics with vision therapy and average demographics split at the high and low end. Staff at both locations do a fantastic job of understanding patients’ needs and scheduling them at the right location,” he notes.
Dr. De Spirito, who got his start in optical with S&H Engineering re-manufacturing optometry equipment, was then trained in surfacing and finishing spectacle lenses, working for surfacing labs and then graduating with a two-year degree in opticianry. After becoming LensCrafter’s first retail manager in Florida, Dr. De Spirito decided in 1997 it was time to go to optometry school. He opened Hoosier Eye Doctor in 2006. “With passion in optometry, I decided to pursue an optometry degree and post doctorate degree in binocular vision,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur at heart, and having a great practice name available, Hoosier Eye Doctor was born.”
Important to Hoosier Eye Doctor’s success has been its optimization of technology. “Our EHR, OfficeMate, and Marco equipment are integrated for refraction efficiency,” says Dr. De Spirito. “Our patient education is provided by video, paper handout and doctor’s instructions, which allows us to retain direct contact with our patients. Professional networking, through EHR, allows us to more efficiently follow up and track our patients’ health conditions.”
GWEN GNADT, OD, MPH, FAAO
EYE VISION ASSOCIATES
LAKE RONKONKOMA, N.Y.
“If someone walks through our door, and their condition can be treated by an OD anywhere in America, (unless it is restricted by state law) they will be treated within our walls.”
Gwen Gnadt, OD, MPH, FAAO, of Eye Vision Associates in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., heads a practice of multiple specialists who provide a full range of vision and eye health services. This allows the practice to refer patients “internally,” rather than lose business to outside specialists.
“If a patient is being seen by one of our ODs who is not comfortable treating the patient’s condition, there is another OD in our office who can and will treat them for it,” Dr. Gnadt explains. Her own specialties include low vision rehabilitation and medically indicated contact lens fitting.
The practice has doubled in size in recent years to include a team of six ODs and a staff of 15. Many of the ODs have part-time office hours, and this allows for doctors to spend more time outside the office, in activities that promote referrals. “We encourage participation in organized optometry, both locally and nationally,” she says. “This promotes a great exchange of ideas on clinical and practice management issues.”
When making a hiring decision, Dr. Gnadt values the varied case experience that an optometrist gains from a residency, a step she took in her own career. ODs in her practice are involved with a local VA hospital, where they work alongside young residents and recruit outstanding candidates. “The key is to find complementary skills so that we can serve all of the needs of all of our patients within our scope of practice,”Dr. Gnadt says.
Another key to growth: Eye Vision Associates networks actively with local ophthalmology and neurology practices, state and local associations, and local school districts. Promotion is done through social media and the practice web site, where good patient communication and candid patient feedback are emphasized. “We’ve built up a good reputation among the professional community,” Dr. Gnadt says.
AARON LECH, OD, FAAO
CLEARVUE EYE CARE
“Commit to doing what only you can do. Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
Creating a consistently high-quality patient experience is important to Aaron Lech, OD, FAAO. “We employ systems in medical care, optical and technology integration, which allow us to standardize delivery across a wide variety of personalities and to consistently outperform industry profitability metrics,” Dr. Lech says.
With 10 years in practice, Dr. Lech is proud of having turned a small practice into a thriving multi-doctor enterprise. “I built a single-doctor, one- lane, 1,100 square foot practice (open just 1.5 days per week) into a five-doctor, 4,000 square foot multi-specialty, technology-driven practice,” he says. Prior to purchasing his practice, Dr. Lech practiced for over three years at Balboa Naval Medical Center as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.
A key to ensuring a standardized patient experience has been the addition of a chief operating officer to the practice’s staff. “Over two years ago, I hired a chief operating officer (with a commensurate executive salary) to oversee day-to-day operations and corporate management. This allowed me to remain focused on our vision and where we need to position ourselves for future growth and opportunity.”
Also essential to providing consistent quality, Dr. Lech points out, is having your staff on board with your efforts. “Staff must understand why we do what we do and be comfortable communicating that to a patient respectfully, succinctly and unapologetically,” he says. “Patients seek out our expertise, but not everyone values what we value. We know we will not be able to serve every patient, but those we do will always receive our highest care and concern.”
Supporting the efforts of the practice’s staff is topnotch technology. “EHR was implemented day one in my practice,” says Dr. Lech. In addition, the practice makes use of an OCT, digital photography and topography. The office also features networked diagnostics using FORUM. “We provide baseline digital retinal imaging on all patient exams (primarily with our OCT).”
And with all these accomplishments, Dr. Lech continues to strive: “We’re constantly testing and pioneering new technologies for patient communication—particularly in the area of health care delivery.”
ANDREW J. NEUKIRCH, OD
CARILLON VISION CARE
“I strive to maintain a friendly and comfortable practice for both my customers and my staff, one that also remains innovative and up-to-date with the advances in the profession.”
Andrew J. Neukirch, OD, knows about business efficiency—and getting up to speed in a hurry. Dr. Neukirch, who purchased his 56-year-old practice in 2011, said there was an immediate need to update the office’s technology. “When I bought the practice, the retiring doctor and staff members had systems in place that certainly worked well, but technology was not utilized to a significant extent,” he says. “Within the first year, we implemented EHR, purchased a SD-OCT, added 50-inch displays in the exam lanes for patient education and displaying testing results, and implemented online appointment scheduling with Demandforce.”
Complementing the practice’s new and improved technology was participation in the IDOC optometric alliance. “I took the first two years researching all of the major optometry groups before discovering that IDOC was the best match for my practice,” Dr. Neukirch says. “At this early point in my career, IDOC has allowed me to network with experienced and successful practitioners who openly share ideas and strategies that have proven useful to integrate.”
With such an emphasis on technology and business efficiency, it’s no surprise the practice prides itself on its accessibility online. “Our practice’s online presence is unmatched in the area, and over 50 percent of our new patients find us on the internet. Prior to 2011, our online presence was a simple web site. I now have a blog that has over 500 views per month, active Facebook and Google+ pages, an interactive online ‘walkthrough’ tour of the office, and the practice shows up number one on all search engines in the area,” says Dr. Neukirch. “Through our marketing efforts, most new patients have already read about our office before walking in the door, and we tend to attract high-quality, compliant, health-conscious patients who are not looking for an optometrist who simply ‘takes their vision plan.’”
THUY-LAN NGUYEN, OD
THE EYE CENTER
PEMBROKE PINES, FLA.
“Always start with ‘Why?’ Why do you do what you do? Not what you do or how you do it. If you don’t know why, nothing else matters.”
The Eye Center is a multi-doctor practice specializing in contact lenses and sports vision. Home to the Florida Institute for Sports Vision and the eyecare providers for the Miami Dolphins for over 30 years, The Eye Center has five ODs, an MD, two interns from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and a staff of 30.
Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD, a graduate of NSU, has been with The Eye Center since 2004 and bought into the business in 2011. Since then she has been managing the business and seeing patients, as well as being a part-time clinical and adjunct faculty member at NSU.
“The Eye Center builds relationships,” Dr. Nguyen says, “At the Eye Center, we work hard at building and maintaining relationships with our patients through outstanding service. We’re also the first to incorporate something new. If there is new technology or equipment or service, we are the first to use it.”
“Change is very difficult for some people, especially those who have been doing things a certain way for a long time,” she adds. “If something is working well, I won’t change it completely, but I believe that even if it’s good, I might be able to make it better.
“While The Eye Center uses the newest technology for all aspects of our practice, I train my staff to remember that patients are people. We focus on the health and vision benefits of our products, not just the technical features. We will do anything and everything possible to give the patient the best possible experience every single time they call or come in,” she concludes.
DANIEL E. QUON, OD
SOUTH COAST OPTOMETRY
COSTA MESA, CALIF.
“Dedicated and passionate in the pursuit of independent optometric excellence!”
Daniel Quon, OD, graduated Southern California College of Optometry in 1974 and purchased South Coast Optometry in September 1979. Today, South Coast Optometry is known for providing the latest in high-tech eye examinations, cutting-edge instrumentation, preventive eyecare, advanced contact lenses, color and dyslexic vision diagnosis and correction, quality eyewear and premium quality spectacle lenses. In addition to therapeutic excellence, his practice exudes a “concierge-like” feel, with attention toward medical and preventive care, ocular wellness and eye health.
Dr. Quon observes, monitors and evaluates the constant changes in the field of optometry. He has also been known to have the uncanny ability to “think out of the box” to resolve challenging problems. Additionally, he also incorporates a “whole body” approach to eyecare as he educates his patients on the importance of proper diet and nutrition to total ocular and body health.
“I believe that people have a natural tendency to resist change, especially in an office setting,” adds Dr. Quon. “Persistence is my only recommendation to overcome this obstacle. Persistence with an end goal in mind is the best way to implement change within a practice.”
To that end, Dr. Quon holds weekly staff meetings that incorporate staff education from a vendor or office review of the week’s occurrences. “The meetings serve to keep everyone on the same page and foster an environment of camaraderie,” he says.