By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
Jan. 9, 2019
Practice management education has the reputation of being hard to come by, but it’s a required part of the curriculum, at least where I teach, University of Houston, College of Optometry.
UHCO requires all students take two three-hour accredited classes in practice management, one in their third year and another in their fourth year.
Keith Davis, OD, and I teach the fourth-year class. We teach it like a CE program, sorta, delivered over two weekends, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.
We cover starting a new practice, insurance, billing and coding, financial management, staff management, personality profiling, interviewing for a job, corporate-affiliated practice, private practice, military practice, teaching, common mistakes, patient management, practical clinical tips, retirement, contact-lens profitability and optical profitability, among many other business-oriented topics.
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Better Practice Management Education = Better Associate ODs
In addition to teaching new ODs the business side of managing a practice, the right practice management education focuses on ways to do better optical hand-offs and understanding the bottom line better. When an associate doctor understands the percentages behind optical profitability, and also gets a better understanding of patient management, any practice they join will benefit.
Thinking about where you want to be eventually, having an open mind, really listening and engaging during class and after is the best way make to make the most of these business-learning opportunities.
Be sure to ask questions of your professors during class, and be one of those students eager to participate by answering questions, and contributing to class discussion. You also can engage with the professors after class. Some may be open to corresponding with you long-term offering guidance after you graduate, look for work and start a practice of your own.
Students should realize that their experiences at their externship sites are important for many reasons. One reason is to use the experience to become a great clinician, and learn how to manage patients and schedules. The second reason is that when you are looking for a job upon graduation, your best reference is your preceptor at your externship site, so use that time to learn, grow and impress your preceptor. When finished with your externship, ask your preceptors for letters of recommendation.
Along with to engaging fully with a practice-management course, taking practice-management-oriented CE, and making the most of your externship, we recommend making learning an ongoing process by continually reading business books.
The practice management education you get in optometry school is just the start. You should then build on that education by seeking out opportunities to learn on your own. Finding a mentor, who has achieved the same practice-management goals you are working toward, is invaluable after graduation.
Every Day a Learning Opportunity
That expression, you only get out of it what you put in, applies to practice management education. After engaging fully with it in optometry school, and doing your due diligence to continue learning via CE and business books, and finding a mentor, consider the lessons available to you everyday.
For example, you have a chance everyday to observe, and listen, to patients to discover how you can deliver a “wow” experience, and if you closely monitor your metrics, you have a chance on a weekly, or even daily, basis, to brainstorm new ways of becoming more profitable. The ongoing examination of patient service and business practices is an essential part of practice management education–one that’s available to all optometrists, without even registering for a class or buying a book.
One idea is to keep a journal, or even blog you could share with other ODs, in which you track the patient service and business lessons you’ve learned from your daily work. You can note any mistakes made, and how you will do it differently next time.
Trial-and-error is a huge part of the practice-management learning process, and one which you can’t learn in a practice-management course, or in a book written by someone else. Think of the practice-management education you receive in optometry school, and through continuing education, as just the first step of a lifetime of learning.
What are the most valuable practice-management lessons you’ve learned over the years? What practice-management courses in optometry school helped prepare you for your work as a practice owner?