Operational efficiency keeps OD focused on patient care

Demands for increased efficiency from doctors will intensify as vision plans and medical insurance plans drive reimbursement downward. To meet these demands, doctors need to train staff members to handle more responsibilities and keep the doctor focused on taking care of patients.

Key Points

It is a simple fact that, in every practice, the doctor is the revenue source. The more efficient the staff can make the doctor, the better the chance for capturing revenue.

Successful optometrists understand that successful practices focus the doctor's time on performing tasks that only the doctor can do. Whether it is the patient care services that he or she provides, or the prescriptions written that feed the optical and contact lens departments, the doctor's efforts determine the success of a practice.

As reimbursement is driven downward by vision plans and medical insurance companies, demands for increased efficiency at all levels of a practice will intensify. To meet these additional demands, doctors need to train their staff members to handle more responsibilities and keep the doctor focused on taking care of patients. Doctors can help staff members-and themselves-achieve maximum efficiency by teaching employees how and why a practice becomes successful and by identifying specific goals for the practice and individual staff members.

You can achieve your goals if you create a practice culture that encourages staff first to consider patient satisfaction and doctor efficiency when developing processes.

Here are some tips to help your practice run more efficiently.

Define your goals

The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland reminds us, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." Make your goals clear to your staff members so that they are not headed down many different roads.

Knowing where you want your practice to be in the future and with clear information on the current status of your practice, you should be able to define three to five measurable goals every year. Don't worry about developing a complex, 50-page business plan. Southwest Airlines was founded on a cocktail napkin. The key is to write down your goals and commit to them. Great business plans that earn an "A" in management class but end up gathering dust on a shelf are useless. Make your goals realistic and meaningful to you; they will be easier to embrace.

For instance, let's say that a practice is focused only on selling eyeglasses and garners 80% of its revenue from the retail side of the business. The owner-doctor would like to reduce his or her exposure by diversifying.

For that practice, the long-term goal might be to increase total revenue and profits while maintaining patient satisfaction levels at 90% or better and diversifying the practice so that 40% of revenues are generated from sales of glasses and contact lenses, 30% from routine eye exams, and 30% from medical examinations and testing.

The same practice might set as its short-term goals for the first year:

Assess your current situation

Before finalizing the tactics for achieving your goals, understand where your opportunities are for improvement in each area. The most challenging goal for this particular practice will be to increase the number of patients per session. Because the practice also is focusing on more medical exams, the length of additional exams will be shorter. Although making that change will help, the overall patient flow process will need adjusting.

Some pertinent questions to ask when assessing patient flow: