Insights From Our Editors

Minimum Wage is Increasing in 19 States. Are You Ready?

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

Jan. 30, 2019

Minimum wage increases can impact the money needed for your payroll budget. Here are tips for planning effectively for the minimum wage increases that will be occurring in many states this year.

What happens when the government increases the minimum wage? A quick look around lets us see what is happening. My cardiologist replaced a receptionist with a kiosk for entering history information when patients present at the practice.

Our kids’ dentist did the same thing. Even McDonald’s has kiosks for ordering food. The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center utilizes robots to deliver food, linens and other items to multiple floors. We were in a Walmart a few months ago, and a robot was scrubbing the floors. Estimates are that 1.7 million truck drivers may be replaced with robots.

Robots do not ask for a raise. Robots do not call in sick. Robots are on time for the job – every day. Robots do not engage in gossip. Robots do not need a parking space. Artificial intelligence and robots are changing the workforce – even in eyecare practices. If a cardiologist and a dentist can replace a receptionist, can you? Not would you, but can you? The answer is yes.

Before you get too worked up, have you installed a phone routing system in your practice (i.e.: press 1 to schedule an appointment, press 2 to talk to someone in the optical …)? Why did you do that? It was to manage payroll. Instead of hiring a person to route those phone calls you utilized a “robot” to help manage your payroll more effectively.

As a profession, we are currently having discussions about remote-access eye examinations. A core factor driving these discussions is employee-doctor payroll cost.

As the cost of having employees increases, here is a three-step plan to follow:

Review what you are paying each employee in your practice. Make sure you are neither underpaying, nor overpaying, them.

Read these articles published in Review of Optometric Business for background information on this topic:

Track Your Staffing Costs: A Key to Practice Profitability

Hitting the Staffing Sweet Spot How to Compute Optimal Staff Size

Optician Compensation: Are You Paying a Competitive Salary?

Find & Retain a Good Office Manager by Offering a Competitive Salary

22 Specific Ideas to Incentivize Optical Staff

Review these web sites to help you determine the appropriate pay for each staff member:

The first place to go is the government Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm

Then, you can explore these web sites to confirm the numbers you discover:

https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Country=United_States/Salary
https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/index.htm
https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries

Identify what each staff member produces for the practice. In this step, identify the end-product of each job. For example, the recall person produces established patients returning for care. We can count very easily how many established patients return to the office for care. If the recall person is doing their job well, then we should meet our goals for the number of established patients who return for care. If the recall person is not doing their job very well, then we will not meet our goals for the number of established patients who return for care. Use this same approach for every staff member.

Examine the practice systems and work-flow. Make sure you have the appropriate systems in your practice so that high-quality care occurs at every patient visit. As you examine each of the practice’s systems, ask these two questions: Can the workflow be made more efficient? Can the workflow be made more productive?

Will staff wages go up in the future? Yes. Take some time now to prepare for what you know is coming.

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