Staff Management

Add Associate, Add to Your Patient Base

Adding an associate OD to your practice can build your patient base, even after the associate moves on…

Alan Glazier, OD Shady Grove Vision Care Rockville, Maryland

Yoongie Min, OD

Many Associate Patients Outlast Associate

Traditionally, practices wait until they are so busy the current doctors cannot handle the patient load before adding an associate. But my partner and I have taken a different view. About 10 years ago, for instance, a doctor practicing a few miles from us was struggling in his independent practice and having employee issues. We took the opportunity to ask him to join us. We offered him 15 to 22 percent of the revenues that he generated, while we would provide all the staffing, frames, and cover all other facility costs. This arrangement allowed us to lower our risk in taking on this new associate because we were only paying him based on how many patients he saw. The legal agreement my partner and I made with this associate was that if he ever chose to leave, he could take his patient records with him. He ended up leaving the practice after four years, but it was a win-win: 20 to 25 percent of the patients he brought with him to our practice decided to stay with us after he left.

Choose Associates Leaving Nearby Practices

In recent years, two other doctors joined our practice under the same arrangement: They took 15 to 22 percent of revenues that they generated from their patient load. Like the first OD we added as an associate, these two doctors were each from practices located in the general vicinity of our office. The key to adding associates who will help you build your patient base is to add only doctors who are leaving practices within 10 to 15 miles of your office. In the case of these two doctors who joined our practice temporarily, the number of their patients who decided to stick with us after they left was even more impressive than that of our first associate. Some 30 to 40 percent decided that even though their doctor had left our office, they believed in our practice enough to continue seeing us. Practice revenues reflected the increase in patient base. The addition of these doctors’ patients to our practice boosted revenues by around 20 percent–a boost that continued beyond the doctors’ stint in our office.

Match Exam Efficiencies to Make Associates Long-Lasting

The ideal situation is for the new doctor to stay with your practice, along with his or her patients. To make that happen, look for ODs who not only share your doctor-patient philosophy, but who also conduct exams with a similar level of efficiency. The two doctors who boosted our patient base so impressively tended to spend more time with each patient than my partner and I. Clinically, they were good doctors, but because they were always running behind schedule, they disrupted the work and patient flow of our office. Before adding an associate, find out the average length of their exams. Those times don’t have to exactly match your own, but you should never experience a scenario, for example, in which you require 20 minutes per exam, and the new associate typically requires close to an hour to conduct exams.

In addition to throwing off the other aspects of the practice, like pre-testing, doctors whose average exam times greatly exceed your own create varying expectations in patients. They communicate a mixed message about your practice. If you are in practice with another doctor, you have to be ready to take on their patients if they are busy or out of the office. What happens when the patient who is used to spending an hour with your associate sees you, and you only are willing to spend 20 minutes with him? There is a good chance that patient would not stick with your practice following the associate’s departure.

In summary, offering nearby ODs with complementary doctoring philosophies and efficiencies a position as associate in your pracftice enables you to grow your patient base and revenues–often well beyond the associate’s time in your office.

Yoongie Min, OD, of Northwest Vision Center in Columbus, Ohio, has been in practice for nearly 20 years. To contact him:

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