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Outsourcing is a popular concept that can grow ODs’ businesses. Why work harder when they can work smarter?
Proctor & Gamble hit the jackpot when it decided to outsource to fuel ideas for its research and development division. The result was a 60-percent boost on innovation productivity that generated a whopping $10 billion in revenue.1
ODs can learn from Proctor & Gamble’s success in that outsourcing opened the doors to a new pool of talented and expertly trained employees with fresh ideas.
The advantages of outsourcing will pay dividends to a practice owner. Most services are reasonably priced when compared to the cost of contracting out versus hiring an in-house staff person.
Furthermore, outsourcing makes it manageable to balance in-house staff and overhead expenses. Also consider that outsourced staff are expertly trained in their field, which makes the transition time to add new staff as seamless as possible. In a short amount of time, services are fully integrated into the office.2
Outsourcing may also create a more positive environment for staff. By moving some of the responsibilities from in-house staff to outsourcing, staff are able to focus on their primary responsibilities without feeling burdened by multiple tasks.
Previously by Dr. Recalde: Blog: 3 updates to treating SjÃ¶gren's syndrome and dry eye
Moreover, coverage for services provided by outsourcing is consistent throughout the year.
There is no need to worry about extended leave of absence and work falling behind where other staff members need to pick up extra responsibilities. For offices with limited space, contracting out services solves the problem of not having enough workspace for more staff.
Keep in mind that outsourcing still requires close monitoring. A staff person or practice owner needs to communicate and monitor activities to make sure targets are met and services are rendered correctly.
An OD should also communicate with in-house staff on why the decision was made to hire outside services to assure them that their jobs are secure. It is important to also train and educate staff on how the contracted services will improve their productivity and help the business run efficiently overall.3
Here are four opportunities in optometry to outsource services.
Related: How to see 50 patients a day at your practice
1. Payroll and human resources
When I first purchased my private practice a few years ago, one of the first actions I took was to outsource payroll. While the previous owner had his wife process payroll, I knew that I would not have the time or expertise to manage payroll effectively.
I originally used my bank, Wells Fargo, to process payroll and paid extra fees for human resources. However, after more research, I switched to Landrum HR a few months later. This company not only provided payroll services and a human resource consultant, but it also bundled additional benefits.
I was impressed that the package included 401K retirement as well as health, dental, vision, and life insurance. Other companies that may have similar benefits include Paychex and HR for Health.
Also by Dr. Recalde: Blog: Mission trips make an impact
2. Communication software
Largely gone are the days when ODs would mail reminder postcards to patients. I have also found that reminding patients of appointments through phone calls are also not as effective.
With telemarketing calls bombarding cell phones every day, many people have chosen to ignore unknown phone calls. Emails are a slightly better method of sending reminders. However, statistics show people check their emails less frequently now-with about a 44 percent chance of being checked once a day.4
Text messages may now be the most effective form of sending appointment reminders. According to SolutionReach, 90 percent of text messages are read within minutes of receiving them.5
Also, the best time to send a text appointment reminder is at noon because of the increased response rate.6
Make sure the software integrates with the office’s practice management system to help save extra steps for staff. Options to consider in a communication software program include email blasts for marketing, text-to-pay, patient caller ID, digital fax, patient reviews through Google/Yelp, eyewear reminders, phone call recordings, and a phone calling tree.
Related: Know what practice metrics to measure
3. Virtual front-office receptionist
Which factor is more likely to motivate a patient to switch providers: great customer service or an office with a sooner available appointment?
According to new data, patients are surprisingly more motivated by a sooner appointment date rather than great customer service. Patients want instant gratification thanks to Amazon-style, on-demand transactions.
Most patients call an office to schedule an appointment. However, if the front desk is multi-tasking other responsibilities-like most other front desk receptionists-it makes it difficult to answer phone calls while being attentive to patients in the office.
We hired DATAppointment to be the virtual front desk receptionist at our practice. The live representative answers scheduling calls 24/7 and will also contact an OD for emergency calls received outside of office hours. The individual also works on recalls to patients who are overdue for an exam. Other services offering front desk or receptionist assistance include MAP Communications and Answering Service Care.
Related: How I built a customer service-centered practice
4. Accounts receivable
My former accounts receivable staff person was cross-trained to work at the front desk and pre-test. When staff called in sick, she would step in to fill the gap. Unfortunately, her primary duties in accounts receivable fell behind. After she left, I realized the severity of the problem way too late.
I decided to outsource accounts receivable to help manage and clean up the mess as soon as possible.
As in all other outsourcing services, it is important to choose a company that integrates with an OD’s practice management. The company should communicate weekly with the OD to review claim questions as well as monthly teleconferences to review goals.
An in-office staff person is still needed to communicate with the accounts receivable company and ensure claims are being resolved in a timely manner, but most likely this may be a part-time position.
Why it works
The goal of outsourcing is to hire experts to complete time-consuming responsibilities and to allow an OD to use in-house staff more effectively.
It can be a win-win situation for staff as well as the OD. Less stress and a happier work environment will translate to better patient care. In my experience, I have found outsourcing to be a wise business strategy that has already reaped rewards for the office.
Read more by Dr. Recalde
1. Muzychko A. 5 successful stories of outsourcing. Linked In. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-successful-stories-outsourcing-anna-muzychko. Accessed 8/14/19.
2. Patel D. The pros and cons of outsourcing. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/07/17/the-pros-and-cons-of-outsourcing-and-the-effect-on-company-culture/#6b7413bd562d. Accessed 8/14/19.
3. Patel D. The pros and cons of outsourcing. Forbes. Available at: Accessed 8/14/19.https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/07/17/the-pros-and-cons-of-outsourcing-and-the-effect-on-company-culture/#6b7413bd562d. Accessed 8/14/19.
4.Walker B. Patient appointment reminders by text, email & phone: Which are most effective? Patient bond. Available at:
https://insights.patientbond.com/blog/patient-appointment-reminders-by-text-email-phone-which-are-most-effective. Accessed 8/14/19.
5. Boyer L. 3 appointment reminder tricks every practice should follow. SolutionReach. Available at: https://www.solutionreach.com/blog/3-appointment-reminder-tricks-every-practice-needs-to-follow. Accessed 8/14/19.
6. The best times to schedule a text message campaign: Updated. SimpleTexting.
Available at: https://simpletexting.com/the-best-times-to-schedule-a-text-message-campaign/. Accessed 8/14/19.
7. American Association for Physician Leadership. Patients more loyal to quality and experience than providers. Available at:
https://www.physicianleaders.org/news/patients-more-loyal-quality-experience-than-providers. Accessed 8/14/19.