Practice Management

3 Practice Management Courses That Helped Build My Practice

By Dave Anderson, OD

Feb. 8, 2017

When I think about which practice management courses I will take each year, I think about how I want to build my practice. The courses I have taken over the years have taught me lessons that have resulted in improvements that have increased profitability and enhanced patient care.

Here are the three best I’ve experienced.

Essilor’s ECP University 
http://ecpu.com/management-business-academy/

Why is this program so good?
I attended this meeting several years ago, and learned so much about the business of optometry. I never truly understood where the money came from, what metrics should be watched, and what led to profit, and how I could save on certain areas without sacrificing patient care.

What did you learn & how was it applied?
After attending this meeting, I had a great grasp of the key metrics of optometric practices, and the benchmarks that average independent OD offices should fall within. After reviewing my own metrics, I realized quickly that our cost of goods were too high and needed attention. The best part of the meeting was not just seeing where I could make changes, but also ways to help facilitate the change.

At the time, we were using four optical labs to manufacture our lenses. A simple question–why are we doing this?–helped us improve. We currently use two labs, with one primary lab producing over 80 percent of our jobs. This helped us leverage our volume for decreased pricing by consolidating labs.

Another important takeaway was learning proper staffing levels. I realized we were under-staffed, and increased staffing. The result was an increase in revenue of an additional $60,000 in the first year we added new staff, as this allowed us to have more walk-in patients, and more scheduled frame selection opportunities, especially on our busiest days.

Revenue added as a result of lessons learned:
The additional profit within the first year was nearly $100,000 from our cost of good savings, as well as the additional revenue from better patient care and more time to devote to patients when selecting their glasses. We were able to better explain what frame would be best for them, increase our second-pair sales, as well as discuss all the premium options for their purchase.

Cost:
This meeting was supported by the optical industry when I attending, so the cost was defrayed at the time of my attendance. This is often the case–it’s simply a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity and stepping outside the office to improve your business.

ROB Professional Editor, Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, teaches an ECP University class. Dr. Anderson says Essilor’s ECP University programs offer insights in understanding your practice metrics and how to improve them.

Who is this program for?
This meeting is  meant for business owners to help better understand their business. However, office managers also benefit from attendance, especially if they are involved in managing office work processes and financial outcomes.

Other pearls:
The biggest advantage to attending meetings such as this is the investment in your practice. To improve patient care systems and make money in business, owners need to constantly invest in their business, either in financial updates, such as equipment or facilities, or in time dedicated to the growth of the business, or time spent bettering their business knowledge. Never stop working, and always continue to invest.

IDOC Regional and National Meetings
https://www.idoc.net/Site/Education

Why is this program so good?
These meetings, which happen a few times throughout the year, combine medical knowledge with business knowledge. After learning about the new treatments for dry eye or macular degeneration, there are long discussions in how to implement this type of improved patient care into your office. The hardest thing after attending any meeting with good ideas is implementation of these ideas. These meetings go over ways to incorporate the strategies taught into a typical patient flow, as well as a discussion on how it can be profitable, including the billing strategies and per patient revenue expectations.

What did you learn & how was it applied?
After attending one of these meetings, we immediately hired enough staff to incorporate scribes into our office. We looked at our typical time spent with patients, and it was clear that much of that time was spent in charting, and this was even before electronic records. After adding scribes, we went from having a total of six non-comprehensive exams a day, all scheduled in a block, to a total of 15 additional slots available for medical disease follow-up care and two additional exam times. These typically take less time, and without the need to record significant amounts of data in a chart, we were able to nearly double the amount of patients in a typical day, more than offsetting the cost of the new staff.

Revenue added as a result of lessons learned:
In the three months following the addition of scribes, we saw an extra $15,000 a month, and this was only the start, as this included a significant change in the patient care model that was in place for many years at the practice. Within a year, our average additional monthly revenue was over $25,000 as we continued to see more patients for follow-up care as we better cared for our patients with eye diseases that were previously either ignored or referred.

Cost:
The meeting registration is typically at no cost for members, or very minimal cost, only the cost of travel and hotel is needed to attend.

Who is this program for?
A few times we have brought several staff, both management and optical staff, and they always learn several pearls far beyond patient care, such as how to manage frame inventory and how to hire staff in a better way.

Other pearls:
The topics vary widely, and regardless of the specific group–whether a buying group or state association–there are many opportunities to improve your business. Look beyond the need for continuing education as you consider the course you attend.

 

Practice Management Institute, Ohio Optometric Association  
http://www.ooa.org/aws/OOA/pt/sp/events_institute

Why is this program so good?
Every year there is a new topic, and it is always relevant. Some years the information was related to ICD-10 changes, some years the topics covered marketing and social media. The great thing is that every year there are break-out sessions that are intended for staff and some for doctors.

What did you learn & how was it applied?
After attending a few years ago, I was able to better target our social media marketing and increase our following by two-fold. Some of the ideas centered on having contests to draw in new followers. We marketed this in our office to our current patients, and this expanded our reach tremendously. Now, any time a relevant post is published, it reaches three times the number of people compared to this time a year ago.

Revenue added as a result of lessons learned:
The revenue is hard to measure for this specific marketing strategy, however, being on the top of the minds of our patients allows us to be the first place they think if there is anything wrong with their families’ eyes. The more we show our presence online the more we are a part of their lives, even if it’s in the background.

Cost:
The meeting is a full day away from the office, and costs about $100 per attendee. I typically take my staff every year, so the cost can be pretty large.

Who is this program for?
All the staff find good value in attendance, and usually have a few pearls they encounter. The other huge dividend is the staff bonding experience. Any time they can be with each other outside the confines of their daily job is great for staff morale, and being made a part of an optical industry event always gives them a heightened sense of worth.

 

Dave Anderson, OD, is a partner with Miamisburg Vision Care in Miamisburg, Ohio. To contact: doca@burgvision.com

 

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