By Jerry Sude, OD
April 18, 2018
With consolidation in the optical industry, and changes in the delivery of healthcare, just doing what you’ve been doing may not be enough to secure your continued good care of patients and profitability. You need a plan to stay on top of care and business growth. Here are seven strategies to help you do that.
Practice in an OD-MD Model
Our healthcare system is transitioning to an outcomes-focused model, in which good care will be judged by the outcome for the patient, rather than the process of treatment. That means there is more focus on care by a team of providers.
You can optimize outcome-based care by partnering with one or more MDs, to leverage shared expertise, and provide great overall care.
I am a senior partner in a shared OD-MD practice with eight employed ODs. This model has allowed us to grow consistently nearly every year since our founding.
Build Relationships with Other Practices
If you don’t feel an OD-MD model is right for you, you can also improve the outcomes of patients by creating referral relationships with OMDs and other MDs, in which you work with the same patients, and, in some cases, even share support staff and instrumentation.
Invest in Multiple Locations, If You Can
Part of succeeding in the new healthcare environment is joining accountable care organizations (ACOs), in which your practice can provide the vision component of care for the ACO.
A practice with multiple locations, allowing your care to be accessed from more than one place, will make you more attractive to ACOs.
My practice has four locations in the Akron, Ohio, area, and we find that patients appreciate not having to travel farther than necessary to benefit from our care.
Make Yourself Available to Patients
A key part of enhancing access to patients is to also have flexible hours. That means evening hours, and hours on the weekend, for at least one doctor in your practice. After all, prime locations mean little if the offices are closed at the times when most patients can seek care–after work and on the weekend.
It’s also important that patients requesting an appointment can be seen within a reasonable time frame, preferably within a week of seeking care. Support staff can be trained to do their best to work every patient into the schedule within a week of their request for an appointment. If this sounds challenging, it’s a challenge that we may all have to confront sooner than we think.
The most forward-thinking practices and healthcare organizations, such as the Cleveland Clinic, are offering not just same-week appointments, but same-day services.
Expand Medical Eyecare
Hand-in-hand with building relationships with other practices and ACOs is a need to expand the medical eyecare you offer. Specifically, your practice has an opportunity to serve the full range of ocular surface disease needs, especially dry eye. Our aging population, prescription drug use and digital eye fatigue syndrome, make expanded dry eye diagnosis and treatment services a strong practice-builder.
Tread Carefully If PE Comes Knocking
Private equity (PE) purchases of independent practices is a trend that is only strengthening. Before you make the leap to sell to a PE organization, consider whether this is an approach that’s right for specifically for your practice, your approach to doctoring and your plans for the future.
For instance, you want to press a PE group making you an offer to paint you a picture of what work life will be like for you after the sale. One idea is to have a representative of the PE organization spend a day shadowing you as doctor to get a sense of how you practice, or at least to have a member of the PE company spend a day in your reception area, observing the practice culture, and how you approach the patient experience. If you plan to sell to a PE firm, and would like to continue practicing more before retirement, you want to make sure you will be able to continue being the doctor you want to be.
Just as you would ask a potential new employee for references, ask PE firms for references. That means other ODs with practices similar to your own, who sold their practices to the same PE firm, and who can talk to you about how their work life was impacted.
Make Sure You’re Delivering a “Wow” Experience
In addition to offering thorough, speedy care, patients need to feel like you’ve exceeded their expectations. One way to do that is to send patient surveys after each office visit. The same technology you use to recall patients, and send marketing e-blasts to them, often can be programmed to automatically send post-office-visit surveys, and can sometimes even be programmed to send prompts with links for patients to click on to easily leave an online review of your practice.
Along with paying attention to how patients fared after each visit, my practice sends a survey to all our patients at least once quarterly, and sometimes more. We track those results, and make changes whenever we can to make our patients’ time with us even better.
Jerry Sude, OD, owns the Novus Clinic, a shared OD-MD practice in the Akron, Ohio, area. He also is the founder and chairman of OD Excellence, an optometric practice consultancy. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org