Creative and effective approaches to use when outsourcing services

July 1, 2010

While many optometrists outsource services such as payroll, bookkeeping and public relations, they often overlook creative strategies that can help them save money and compete more effectively with big box retailers.

"One of the major problems that most optometrists experience right now is predatory pricing by big chains that makes it very difficult for small optometry practices to sell products like contact lenses or eyeglasses," said John A. Lutz, a health-care consultant with EthosPartners Healthcare Management Group in Albany, NY, which services hospitals, physicians-including ophthalmologists-and optometrists throughout the United States.

"The greater market strength that these chains have, the less likely patients will stick with an optometrist they've had an established relationship with because the price differential becomes too high," Lutz said.

According to Lutz, this approach can even be effective with marketing, advertising, or public relations firms. Consider rotating months or select specific times of the year when such services will be needed by each practice. Firms can then adjust their pricing, offering volume discounts, since you will be delivering two key opportunities valued by any firm, big or small: steady business and an ongoing revenue stream.

"If there are six optometry practices instead of one coming to a marketing or advertising firm, that leverages the relationship," Lutz said, adding that optometry practices typically pay a premium for such services. "While it can get sticky, work through it because the savings is worth more than the perceived humiliation of helping your competitors."

An offshoot of that same approach includes each optometry practice promoting a specific, but separate area of expertise, such as sports or geriatric medicine. However, in geographically divided markets that support less than 1 million people, Lutz said this approach probably won't work since optometry practices in these locations usually offer a full array of services to anyone who walks through their door.

However, other opportunities may exist to leverage the vendor's own purchasing power. For instance, maybe an outsourcing firm who processes your payroll uses its economic clout to purchase employee benefits or life insurance at discounted rates for thousands of clients.

"Whatever you can do to reduce your operating overhead is important," Lutz said. "Try to further develop relationships with those vendors who are willing to negotiate."

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