My nine-month optometry practice

March 2, 2015
Charles Klein, OD

Dr. Klein graduated from PCO in 1967. E-mail him at drcbklein@aol.com.

I‘m sitting in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in mid-January. The temperature is 70 degrees, sunny and bright, and I’m reading online about impending cold and snow back in New York. I just called my office for an update on the practice, and I’m thinking how glad I am to be here.

I‘m sitting in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in mid-January. The temperature is 70 degrees, sunny and bright, and I’m reading online about impending cold and snow back in New York. I just called my office for an update on the practice, and I’m thinking how glad I am to be here.

I’m 70 years old. I opened my office, Euphoropia,  in 1975 in the wonderfully stable community of Forest Hills, NY. The bulk of my practice is people I have known seemingly forever. Many are now second and third generation patients. It’s a practice built on loyalty in a locale where people stay for long periods of time. A number of years ago, I was fortunately able to effect a merger between my office and a younger existing practice “down the block.” The merger put me in the position of no longer being the sole person of ultimate responsibility and no longer being the sole OD. It also gave me freedom to consider creative scheduling options, with a view toward cutting back to a less than full-time work load.

Related: Why I work Saturdays

Buenos dias!

After a particularly difficult winter five years ago, my wife and I decided that we needed to get away to a warm climate for at least part of the season. We had heard of this beautiful old city in Mexico, populated with a mix of locals, expats, and months-long winterers. Just about everyone seems to be some sort of artist-painter, sculpture, writer, musician, you name it. For our first year, we rented a house for the month of February. Starting the previous November, I sent out my monthly recall cards with handwritten, personalized notes outlining my upcoming winter schedule and asking patients to plan accordingly. As I hoped, I found myself much busier than usual during December and January. Even more of a delight was my heavily booked schedule after I returned. Although there were some patient concerns while I was away, my associate and staff handled them well, and I had e-mail and cell phone contact with any patient with a question or concern.

The following year, we extended our vacation to six weeks. Because it worked the previous year, I repeated my process of sending personalized recalls and notes, and I again found myself busy until the day I left and busy upon my return. My patients seem to have had no problems adjusting to my new schedule.

During that second winter in San Miguel, I ran into an old patient who was now living in Mexico full time. Surprisingly, he was still working in the investment industry, mostly by Internet and phone. He explained that he needed to appear in New York only one week out of every six to see special clients by appointment. Sounded like a good plan to me.

My former patient’s idea resonated in my brain, and I thought that we could try to do much the same thing. Thinking that five weeks seems like a more reasonable interval for patients to wait for non-emergency annual visits, we thought why not go away for five weeks, come back to New York for an interim work week, then return to Mexico for another five weeks? Contact lens cases started in January could be followed up in the interim week. Cases started in the interim week could be followed up on the next return. Patients could send feedback via e-mail, and I could then instruct the staff about replacement lenses or lenses to “try next” if five weeks seemed an unacceptably long interval. Cell phones and the Internet make the world a lot closer and more accessible.

If a patient calls for an appointment while I’m away, she is offered one within a month. My associate can see emergencies and handle problems that need more prompt attention.

Related: Why residency was the best thing I ever did for my career 

This is now our second year on our five-one-five schedule, and we’ve already signed up for next year. I’m not looking forward to the cold weather during our week back in New York, but I know it’s only a week. Last year, I was incredibly busy during the interim week, but that is exactly the point of the schedule. The inconvenience of the interim trip is more than worth it to keep the practice afloat.  

Of course, it’s naïve to think that I’m not going to lose some patients and some revenue due to these changes, but at this point in my life, I need time and warmth more than I need anything else. Life’s not a dress rehearsal.

As I sit here in the sun after a tennis game, reading online about winter in the Northeast, I’m thinking life’s pretty good! Una margarita mas, por favor.

Related Content:

News | Practice Management