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The Most Important Question for an Efficient Office

An employee in Dr. Sorrenson's practice hands a patient their completed eyewear in the practice's drive-thru window. Dr. Sorrenson says the employee's are cross-trained to fill in for one another if one leaves their job or calls in sick.

An employee in Dr. Sorrenson’s practice hands a patient their completed eyewear in the practice’s drive-thru. Dr. Sorrenson says the practice ensures that there is a back-up plan for all critical functions in the office.

Boosting practice efficiency with employee back-up plans.

By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO

June 5, 2024

I know I have a thing about efficiency. It’s weird how much being efficient drives me both personally and professionally. 🙂 Ask my husband!

In my last column, I shared “Why Efficiency is Critical & 7 Ways Our Practice Improved It.”

Now, let me introduce another method I haven’t mentioned yet to boost efficiency, productivity and prevent both minor and major disasters within your practice! It is so simple, but ended up creating profound positive changes in our practice.

Have you ever had an employee unexpectedly out for an extended period of time or quit without notice?  (If you haven’t yet, you will eventually!)

Who Are Your Most Essential Employees?

On a routine basis, (I suggest at least quarterly), ask your management team the following question: “Who would be the hardest to replace if they quit today with no notice?” Then ask the follow-up question, “WHY would they be the hardest to replace?”

Fortunately, over time, the “Who would be the hardest to replace” question becomes more difficult to answer which is what you want to happen!

Create a Plan for What You Will Do If They Leave

Let me give you some true-life examples from when we first started asking the management team this question.

  1. Our chief operating officer” Why? What would be an immediate crisis if she left today? We realized the most urgent problem would be payroll! She was the only one who actually knew how to do payroll! So, our COO created a step-by-step Google Document with a link stored in our M-Drive on how to process payroll. Problem solved.
  2. “Our myopia management counselor” Why? She was the only one who knew how to do consults, follow-up exams and was the only one comfortable talking about fees with the patient’s parents. We proceeded to train TWO other technicians how to do this, and now they work as a team. Bringing in two others helped our systems become better as they saw some things that could be improved upon. Great result!
  3. “Our contact lens ordering specialist” Why? No one else knew all the nuances of ordering contact lenses. We started using CLX and then trained two other people to do the job. She went on vacation and everything went smoothly.
  4. “Neuro-visual doctor” Why? If she left, we would have no other doctor able to take over care of her patients. We then sent two other optometrists to neuro-visual medicine training and now have three certified neuro-visual doctors. This helped create even better systems for taking care of this difficult patient population.

Ask the Same Question of Your Whole Team

We recently modified the question and asked the whole team (50+ people):“What thing does only one person know how to do well?”  This was an interesting meeting that generated many new ideas.

We ended up creating Loom videos, or just videos done by phone recordings, that we uploaded to our M Drive for reference over the next several weeks. Here are examples of videos we created from the ideas from that one meeting:

  1. How to do prior authorizations.
  2. How to apply for Cherry Financing or CareCredit
  3. How to set up alerts for a patient who pre-selected frames on Optify
  4. How to set up the doctor with the proper tools to do a dilation/irrigation.
  5. Best practices for taking meibomian gland pictures and everting upper lids.
  6. Dilating small children
  7. How to clean the optic wash
  8. How to clean and stock the Starbucks coffee machine

Remember to revisit these questions regularly. Trust me, having backups in knowledge and skills is absolutely crucial for building solid systems, improving efficiencies and avoiding chaos when someone is unexpectedly out of the picture!

Try asking these questions and let me know how it goes!

Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas, and the Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business (ROB). To contact her:

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