Top 10 reasons to sell your optometry practice and retire

funny man portrait real people high definition grey backgroundSports fans rarely get to see their icons retire in their prime. Unfortunately, many athletes near the end of their careers as their dedicated fans are praying they will give it up. Holding on for too long can be as detrimental to legacies as never winning a championship.

In optometry, holding on too long might mean you will have to bury your practice. The best that you can hope for is getting a reasonable price for your patient charts.

When you are the owner of the practice, no one tells you it is time to take the severance package and retire. Relying on yourself alone to determine when it’s time to stop practicing might be a bit dicey.

Here’s a funny and not-so-funny Top 10 list to determine if it’s time to go.

You need to sell your practice and retire if . . .

  • You think Silicone Hydrogel lenses are new.
  • The refraction takes longer than seven minutes.
  • Most of your patients are in conventional lenses.
  • Your practice has a full page ad in the Yellow Pages.
  • You believe a practice website is unnecessary.
  • Your youngest patient is 72.
  • You routinely fall asleep during exams.
  • Patients have to yell for you to hear them.
  • Your social security check is more than what you make practicing optometry.
  • You consider one exam per hour busy.

No one wants to be told it’s time to retire. Facing the end of a career is difficult and possibly depressing, but there’s more at stake than an optometrist’s pride. Just as it pains sports fans to watch a game in which their favorite player struggles, it is increasingly painful to watch an optometrist whose patients are not receiving the standard of optometric medicine they deserve.

If you have a partner or associate who needs to retire, do the patients a favor and have a difficult conversation with him or her. If you are an optometrist and only you know that many of the reasons on the Top 10 list speak truth about you, have the courage and strength to think about your patients first and retire.

5 Offline Marketing Tips that Still Work

Salesgirl assisting senior female customer in selecting glassesAn effective marketing plan for your optometry practice will include both online and offline messages. When creating your marketing strategy for 2015, you need to coordinate your online and offline efforts to ensure consistency and maximize both marketing methods. While online marketing has tremendous results, there are several often overlooked offline marketing methods that still work when executed properly.

1. Timely Print Mailings

Well-timed mailings to your contact list can be an effective way to put your business in front of your existing patients or potential patients. Consider sending out a holiday special mailing or a back-to-school promotional postcard. Personalized cards for birthdays and anniversaries are another great way to connect with patients and remind them it is time for an eye exam.

Link the mailing to your online marketing efforts by including the URL for your website and social media pages. Include a sentence asking them to follow you on social media for specials and online-only discounts.

2. Referral Programs

A strategic referral program is a terrific way to encourage your existing patients to refer their friends. In many cases, the referral bonus doesn’t need to be large to be effective. Local eye care providers have offered $10 coffee cards or 10% off your next frame or contact lens purchase to patients who send in referrals.

Promote your referral program on your website with a simple message, such as “Ask Us about Our Refer a Friend or Family Member Special.

3. Participate in Local Events

Local events in your community like street fairs, small business events, and networking occasions are an excellent opportunity to build up your reputation as a trusted eye care professional and share eye health information.  Have business cards, educational brochures, or promotion flyers on hand, depending on the type of event.

Publicize your participation in these events and invite your patients and followers to attend by posting to your social media.

4. Local Team Sponsorships

Sponsoring local youth and adult teams in your area are a tried and true method of building up your reputation in the community. Often, the sponsorships only require an investment of a couple of hundred dollars and you typically get to have your practice’s name on the team’s banner. Additionally, you can showcase your sponsorship in your optometry office and create stronger bonds with your patients.

Highlight your sponsorship on your website and post occasionally about team events or successes.

5. Customer Service

Face-to-face customer service is one of the most important, often ignored offline marketing methods. Marketing your business online with a professional website, engaging social media, custom video, well-executed pay-per-click, and advanced SEO is all wasted if a patient or potential patient has a poor experience with your office. Always coach your team on great customer service and lead them by example.

An easy way to create a great patient experience is by ensuring strong team communication. Make sure your team is aware of any online specials or promotions you are running and empower them to take whatever steps are necessary to keep patients happy.

Consistency, coordination, and communication are essential to running a successful online and offline marketing strategy in the New Year. Maximize the results of your online and offline marketing efforts by creating a clear, cohesive plan that uses advanced online marketing and traditional marketing methods.

RachelRachel Cunningham is Content and Social Media Manager at iMatrix, a provider of affordable web marketing solutions for small, practice based businesses. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English from CSU Long Beach and a Bachelor of Science from Boston College in General Management. Rachel is experienced in writing content optimized for search engines and users, creating engaging content for social media, and crafting articles about SEO and social media marketing for small businesses.

How to reward staff based on team performance

Employers and employees most always disagree on compensation. Optometrist owners feel they are paying fairly–or even generously–to keep staff members happy and motivated. The optometry staff members believe they are working harder than ever, and deserve to be paid for extra effort.

hands holding togetherA bonus system that rewards increased team production can alleviate this tension. A team approach replaces the “us vs. them” mindset as everyone works together for the additional compensation.

Below is the formula for an incentive where staff members are rewarded for increased production for the optometry office.


Production Incentive Formula

1. Calculate your annual staffing costs

  • This would be all costs for staff in 1 year (hourly wages, taxes, social security, IRA, health insurance, etc.)

  • Example: $240,000

  • (Staffing costs 2013) / (Total Collected for 2013)

  • Example: $240,000 / $1,200,000 = .20 (20%)

  • Use 20% as your constant (keep staffing costs at this %) to determine the production incentive.

2. Calculate baseline from last year’s monthly gross

  • October 2013 = $100,000

  • After the practice gross reaches $100,000 for the month the production incentive starts

  • Everyone in the practice should be aware of the current month’s collections

  • $100,000 is the collected amount, not the charged amount

Each eligible staff member gets a percentage of the difference as extra money above and beyond his or her normal pay.

Example

  • The month gross collected totaled $110,00; ($110,000 – $100,000 = $10,000)

  • Staff share = 20% of $10,000 = $2,000

  • Production Incentive = $2,000 /# participants

  • If 10 staff members are eligible for Production Incentive, each will receive $2,000 / 10 = $200

The Equation

End of month gross collected* – $100,000) x 20% / # of staff eligible = Your Production Incentive

  • *If this amount is less than $100,000 then the total is defaulted to zero (0)

  • Each month will vary, you need to average your months

  • % will vary by # of employees eligible (CEO determines eligibility)


Creating incentives for your team to work together and win together encourages group effort. Too often traditional bonuses divide the office into partitions because they are seen as subjective or unfair. The production incentive allows the owner to motivate the team together during staff meetings. When the office wins, the staff members win. Rewards are directly related to team production.

Does your optometry practice really need YouTube?

Happy couple looking at something on the laptopIndustry experts say businesses need to be active in social media, but with so many different channels and platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to decide which forms of social media give a good return for your investment. Is it even necessary for Optometry CEOs to spend the time and money to create an online social media presence?

It depends on the level of competition around your optometry practice. If you are in a small to medium-sized town of 5,000 to 40,000 people, social media is probably less important for your success. In contrast, if you are practicing in a city of 150,000 or more, not only is having a social media presence important, but dominating that presence to stand out among the crowd is extremely important. And YouTube is one key to dominating the social sphere and online space.

YouTube is necessary because. . .

  1. Expectations – Potential patients are searching for their next optometrist and would like to get a glimpse of the personality and demeanor of him or her. People like video and good video persuades people to choose your office.
  2. Separation – It is very difficult to set your practice apart from the other practices that are around you. Patients are looking at websites to determine if they are going to schedule an appointment for an eye exam. To be different is risky, but it can also be extremely rewarding if done right. A great YouTube video produced by a professional company will set your practice apart from a stationary website with no video and pictures that look like they were taken with a 5 year old phone.
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Websites compete with each other to come out on top in internet searches. The goal is to consistently have your practice website high on the list. Now that Google owns YouTube the formula for SEO, which no one supposedly knows, is speculated to be partially tied to traffic on YouTube.

From personal experience, I can testify our website received an exponential amount of increased traffic, and subsequently referrals, when we started using iMatrix. Recently we increased our level of our commitment to them by going from the Social package to the Media package. The higher monthly fee has more than paid for itself in the increased traffic we have received. In the first month after adding YouTube video to the Wichita Optometry website url www.eyedoctorwichita.com, we had 1,110 impressions where people saw our video and 199 views where it was clicked on and played.

Keep your best: tips for staff retention

Full length portrait of smiling business woman pointing on blank billboardThe sun is still rising on a Monday morning as you walk through the back door of your practice. As an experienced optometrist, you have a full schedule and you immediately prepare yourself for your first patient. Then your assistant takes this opportunity to let you know she is turning in her two weeks notice. She found a position in the ophthalmic field with greater benefits and higher pay.

You take a deep breath. You try to say something congratulatory, but inside your mind is reeling: “How am I going to replace her?” you wonder. “I’m tired of going through the hiring process. Not again!”

So many of you have found yourself in the shoes of the optometrist in the above scenario. You’ve successfully hired a staff member who is now fully trained and executing the assigned duties exactly to your specifications. You did all the right things, didn’t you? You followed the guidelines set forth in optometric practice management journals. So how do you protect your investment in staff?

Three ways to keep great staff:

  1. Ensure they are having fun. – The culture of an optometry practice is a reflection of the leadership. If you are not having fun, your staff will not have fun. In an office that creates a fun atmosphere patients are more likely to feel comfortable and cared for. Having fun during the work day doesn’t mean you are not serious when situations call for seriousness, it just means that you and the staff laugh, smile, and genuinely enjoy life.
  2. Demonstrate appreciation. – Budget $500 every month to buy gifts for your staff. It can be as simple as bringing a bag of M&Ms to fill the office candy bowl on a Monday morning. If you don’t like chocolate, order flowers and have them sent to the office for the staff. Promotional products websites have great ideas for useful employee appreciation gifts like engraved desk accessories, drink ware, and company logo apparel. Do the little things and their emotional buckets will be full.
  3. Pay enough to make it hard to leave. – Once you have identified a great staff member, make sure you know the average pay that optometric staff get paid in your area and significantly exceed that. The additional money that you pay your top staff will reap long-term rewards in practice loyalty and patient care. Remember, staff compensation is more than dollars per hour, it includes health insurance, profit sharing, bonuses, etc.
Keeping your best staff members is never guaranteed, but with forethought and sensitivity you can increase the chance they will want to stay. Great staff members are the key to sustainable growth, not to mention an improved quality of life for you. If you do not do what it takes to keep great staff you will most likely end up with mediocre staff and the continual headache of staff turnover.

3 essential survival tools for your optometry business

Man wearing tie holding toolbox in front of faceOptometry practices that survive in the future will be the ones that have made technology an integral part of their operations. Over the past five years optometry practices have gone through an excessive amount of change. The “wait and see” approach, which was successful for optometrists in the past two decades, is no longer a viable option for managing a practice. Technology turnover occurs at a rate of every three years or faster, and this pace will only increase.

I’ve always had a passion for using the newest internet technology to improve our business, but lately I’ve found that even I can no longer manage it on my own. My partner and I were afraid of the cost/benefit ratio of hiring a company to handle some of the technological responsibilities, but we have since realized we can’t afford not to.

Here are 3 essential survival tools for the optometry practices of the future:

  1. Online management company – One lesson that I learned through website development and search engine rankings is that professionals are worth the money that you pay them. Our practice has been using iMatrix for the past 18 months and have found it takes only two or three new patients a month to cover the fees in the media package. Since signing on with them, we have consistently had two or three new patients within the first five business days of any given month. As an owner, the return on my investment is a no-brainer.
  2. Patient e-communication tools – This tool took a little bit of time to sell to our doctors and staff, but we needed to get highly compensated opticians off the phone and onto the dispensary floor. We chose SolutionReach to send patients text messages or emails when their eyeglasses or contacts were ready for pick-up. Patients immediately gave so much positive feedback that it was easy for staff to buy in, and we quickly started using all of SolutionReach. We currently can get a competitor’s software free due to our volume with the company but we decided to stay with SolutionReach. We more than pay for SolutionReach each month with the archiving feature that quarries all patients who haven’t been seen within two years and sends out appointment recommendations.
  3. Physician referral e-network – Since the onset of Meaningful Use Stage 2, companies have been racing to develop a tool that will allow physicians to communicate with each other in a secure network. OcuHub is emerging as the choice for optometrists and ophthalmologists. The OcuHub (Covisint technology) platform allows doctors to communicate with all doctors that have a DIRECT messaging address (i.e. – health exchanges). The platform allows for exchange of Continuity of Care Documents (CCD) and subsequent imaging to be shared in a secure environment. It also allows for seamless PCP referrals. The PCP can schedule an appointment with the optometrist for diabetes eye care and send one document that has pertinent information of the patient’s PCP visit. OcuHub has been our connection to the huge network of hospital and medical practices.

Many practice management solutions of five or ten years ago are no longer viable in this constantly changing digital age. As the CEO, you have two options; the first is to embrace change and see technological advances as opportunities to grow your practice. The second is to be frustrated with a moving target and take the old approach of “wait and see.”

In my opinion, the “wait and see” method of approaching management is too risky. I don’t think everyone needs to be with the front five percent in embracing change, but I do think a CEO needs to be in the front 20 percent to sustain a successful optometry practice model.

Avoid a malpractice lawsuit by doing these 3 things

gavelWorrying about possible lawsuits can take away the enjoyment of practicing optometry. Unfortunately, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Just because you have been sued or might be sued in the future does not make you a bad optometrist.

Instead of letting anxiety become a chronic fear, wise optometrists have procedures in place to prevent litigation. Here are three things you should be doing now to avoid a malpractice lawsuit.

  1. Dilate routinely – When pupils have not been dialated, it’s easy to miss diagnosing common diseases like glaucoma, retinal detachments, and tumors. If you don’t make dilating patients a routine part of your examinations, you are setting yourself up for a potential lawsuit. The Optos is a great instrument for medical eye care, but it should not be a replacement for dilation. The addition of an Optomap image over time works in conjunction with dilating the pupils to ensure a thorough eye exam.
  2. Explain a decrease in visual acuities – With busy schedules and children who do not cooperate, it can be very easy for practicing optometrists to default to an amblyopic diagnosis in the absence of amblyogenic causes. The largest lawsuits against optometry have come from an incorrect amblyopia diagnosis. When you do have decreased acuities it is important to document in the record why they are most likely decreased.
  3. Refer/Recall appropriately – When you refer a patient to another physician it is extremely important that you follow through in scheduling the appointment for them. Some of you may work with cataract surgeons who perform surgery, evaluate the patient the next day, and then tell the patient they need to schedule an appointment back with the OD in the next 2-4 weeks. The surgical center then releases the patient without scheduling the next appointment. For those of you wanting to decrease the risks of a malpractice case, it is wise for you to have your staff schedule the next appointment.

Patient Abandonment–How to avoid optometrist malpractice suits

broken glassesOptometrists are less likely to be sued than other healthcare professionals, but it still happens.

Lawsuits may even increase as optometrists embrace the medical model and its greater level of liability in patient care. Practicing ODs now have more situations to lose sleep over, like when a 20-year-old patient wearing contact lenses comes in with a white lesion in the cornea and a hot red eye.

Many times malpractice cases are for occurrences outside of actual exam room care.

 

A surprising amount of litigation deals with a patient’s care being abandoned. Thankfully, a well-researched and well-executed system can help your practice prepare for–or prevent–a patient abandonment case.

 

Contact your malpractice insurance carrier and state board to ask for guidelines specific to your state. Ask, “What are considered best practices for avoiding ‘abandoning’ patients when they have a history of not showing for appointments, not following your medical advice or routinely canceling appointments?”

 

Four guidelines to protect your practice from being sued for patient abandonment

 

  • Use a scheduling system that documents an exam was scheduled and then cancelled or the patient did not show up. Educate staff on proper note-taking in each situation. Don’t just erase or delete the exam entry on the chart. Mark it properly with a “N/S” (No Show) or “cancel.” Your practice management software should have within the patient’s chart a list of all appointments whether completed, rescheduled, cancelled, or a no show.
  • Repeat the scheduling at least three times before stopping your pursuit of the patient. Document every attempt made. If you use an automated system, I would recommend having your staff contact them directly and notate each conversation.
  • If there are no results with the above, write a letter to the patient and send by mail a return receipt request (this is when the recipient signs for the letter and the post office returns the receipt to you). Make sure the letter states  reasons why you want the patient to return and the possibility of losing vision permanently. Ask your malpractice insurance carrier to review the letter for appropriate wording and completeness.
  • If your malpractice carrier does not review your template letter, hire an attorney to read it for loopholes. The peace of mind will be worth the minimal costs of doing this.

 

Our office is completely digital with medical records, scheduling, recalls, and appointment reminders. However, we believe it is important for the final letter to be written on paper.

We currently use these guidelines based on our research. They are not official guidelines that can be used exactly for each state and malpractice carrier. I strongly recommend you use this to start the process of having a formal system in place tailored for your state and insurance to ensure your practice is not listed in a malpractice suit for abandoning a patient.

Three reasons to fire a patient

hand farewellAs optometrists, we have to make many decisions, both clinical and business-related. One of the hardest decisions is whether to fire a patient. Ironically, early in our careers we were willing set up any living body with an exam. As our careers advance, we see in rare instances that keeping every patient is not beneficial. With our core principles of practice in mind, I have personally had to request three patients see other providers. Below are three real-life examples of habitual patient behavior that signal it is time for that patient to be fired.

 

  1. Irrational requests – Unfortunately, some patients have unrealistic ideas of what health care should include. In rare instances patients will make requests that are irrational. For example, a patient might repeatedly request to have her prescription rechecked by the doctor, and then raises a fuss at the front desk because a staff member informs her additional charges may be incurred to carry out that request. That same patient also does not expect to pay for her glasses, even though she broke them. She also might raise her voice in disgust when staff refuse to continue to supply her with trial contact lenses because she neglected to show up for eher follow-up contact lens exams. After putting up with all of these irrational behaviors and arguments, we finally drafted an exit letter and gave her all of her patient records.
  2. Theft – When you have a kleptomaniac as a patient, you may want to ask him where he would like to have his records sent. Our practice lost condensing lenses, tonometer tips, dilating drops and anything else that would be considered customary to store in an exam room cabinet. We discovered after the second time this individual and his wife were in that they had a habit of cleaning out our cabinets. The patient was politely told that supplies and equipment seemed to disappear when they were in the exam room. We sent them a letter and sent their charts to another office.
  3. False accusations – A patient’s mother repeatedly accused me and staff members of intentionally messing up her son’s glasses prescription so we could charge her extra. She wrote me a nasty letter that included many inaccurate statements she claimed were spoken in the exam room about her child. We kindly asked the mother to have her family’s records sent to another office, and we gave her a letter explaining that our office is not a good fit for her and her family. Ironically, she was surprised that we would terminate them as patients. What we felt was ironic was that it took us as long as it did.
In all three situations above, we gave the patients second and sometimes third or fourth chances to redeem themselves after the initial conflict. Our office leadership firmly believes in forgiveness and second chances. However, after repeated incidents we believe some patients are not meant to be a part of our practice. Firing a patient is one of the difficult responsibilities of owning your own practice.

Easy Tips for Using Online Video for Your Practice

Don’t be intimidated by video marketing. With the advancements and popularity in smart phones, making online video is a snap. Before your start recording video on your smart phone or tablet, check out these 5 easy tips for creating online video.

Man Having Video Chat With Doctor

1. Have a Plan
Create a general strategy for your optometry online video efforts by answering a few questions. Who is your audience? What is your goal? What resources can you draw on to record, edit, and publish the video?

Determine if you are trying to reach potential patients or educate existing optometry patients. Next, set goals for your videos. Decide whether you are looking to increase new patient appointments, patient referrals, or increase brand awareness of your optometry practice. Lastly, determine which smart phone or tablet that you have access to has the best video quality. In many cases, you will likely use YouTube to edit and publish your video, although Apple has video editing software that is easy to use as well.

2. Write a Schedule
Create a simple schedule that includes topics and dates. As a busy optometrist, your best bet is to create a monthly schedule and plan out six months to a year in advance. Address topics that your optometry patients frequently ask about or common vision and eye health conditions.

3. Enlist Help
While you can record video yourself, it’s best to enlist help for recording and publishing video. Many members of your staff are comfortable with recording video on a smart phone or tablet. Ask around to see who is willing and excited to help.

4. Choose Quality Over Quantity
Once you get the hang of recording online video for your optometry practice, it’s easy. Don’t get carried away with recording and publishing a multitude of videos. Rather, stick to your schedule and ensure each video is clearly thought out, properly recorded, and optimized online.

5. Take the Plunge
There is no time like the present to get started. Once you have laid out a strategy and enlisted additional resources, get started. For many optometrists, online videos will improve over time. Have realistic expectations, relax, and have fun with creating great optometry online videos.

RachelRachel Cunningham is a Marketing Content Writer at iMatrix, a provider of affordable web marketing solutions for small, practice based businesses. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English from CSU Long Beach and a Bachelor of Science from Boston College in General Management. Rachel is experienced in writing content optimized for search engines and users, creating engaging content for social media, and crafting articles about SEO and social media marketing for small businesses.