I'm often dismayed by the negativity that is disseminated on social media not only within our esteemed profession, but also by other healthcare professionals.
I was reminded of this while reading Dr. Ernie Bowling’s editorial, “What Doctored can teach us about optometry.”1
In his editorial, Dr. Bowling quotes cardiologist and author Sandeep Jauhar, MD, from the book Doctored when he asks, “What kind of doctor do you want to be?”
I found this question unbelievably thought-provoking. In an era where many healthcare providers feel more like cogs in a wheel than independent professionals, this question is vitally important.
So, in optometry, with online refractions, online sales of eyeglasses and contact lenses, and in the face of reduced insurance reimbursements, is true practice autonomy attainable?
The answer is yes. But the question is how?
Know your why
You have to develop the reasons why before you determine how.
Most recent graduates are focused on getting a job, opening a practice, earning a high-end living, or some variation. The truth is it takes much more effort to establish what you want from your chosen profession than it does to prosper from it.
So what’s the secret to practice independence?
There is one immutable truth: Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. It’s that simple.
Most of us suffer from varying degrees of attention deficit disorder; our focus continually changes from one area of our practice to another. For some of us it is contact lenses, for others it is dry eye, eyeglasses, orthokeratology, vision therapy, or medical optometry. For our surgical colleagues it may be specialty intraocular lenses (IOL), LASIK, anti-VEGF injections, or expanding the number of locations from which they practice in order to cultivate more procedures.
If you don't know what’s most important, then everything seems important.
What has become universally accepted is the misconception that in order to be successful in health care you must enroll in several insurance plans and become proficient in coding and billing. This, in my opinion, is simply the wrong focus.
A better focus would be to reassess why you became an optometrist in the first place and on what values you made that decision. Once you understand the values that make you tick as a provider (values, when fulfilled, result in a feeling of passion and pure enjoyment), you can begin to design a practice that provides freedom and true independence.