From conceptual to practical

Do practice management consultants have a secret file that they adjust slightly and present as suggestions to all practices?

Do practice management consultants have a secret file that they adjust slightly and present as suggestions to all practices?

Mary Sue Jacka, MBA, COE, joked about the "secret file" of consultants to illustrate the commonality of issues found in optical dispensaries in ophthalmic practices and the struggle to get staff to tackle these issues.

Jacka, administrator, Eye Associates of Northeast Louisiana, West Monroe, LA, said, "Everybody who has an optical in an ophthalmologist's office has the very same problems.

How to sell more

Measuring capture rate can be tricky. Jacka's practice keeps track of each prescription given out on the charge ticket and uses a "prescription only" code in its computer system.

The practice compares the number of prescriptions written with eyewear sales, noting the doctor who wrote the prescription, the optometrist, and the optician who made the sale. Capture rates are tracked for the clinic and also for individuals.

"We work with the nurses all the time," Jacka said. "The problem is that nurses don't feel like glasses are a valid part of the office." She explained that the nurses echo the sentiments of the doctors. "You really need to start at the beginning, and that's the physicians," she said.

Jacka's practice requires that every patient with a new prescription is escorted to the optical to finish the prescription with a final measurement. "You can't sell patients glasses if they don't go to the purchasing place," Jacka said.

To get nurses in the correct mindframe, she uses several tactics.

"It's a constant battle, but you can use incentives to get them excited," Jacka said. She uses a scratch-off bonus program, for example. "You can also make it part of their job, a condition of employment. Also, we have our department heads rate the nurses. They need to interact well with every function of the office."

There is a bonus system in place at Jacka's practice, too. "[Nurses] have to have eight sales to play," she explained. "They get $20 for each pair of glasses they sell after they sell eight that day. And there is a $50 weekly prize for the highest dollar-volume sale."

A commitment from the doctors is important, Jacka said. When her doctors review the monthly optical profitability report, she reminds them that optical profit reduces overhead. "They can also see where they rated with each other," she said.

In addition, she suggested that doctors and nurses read customer satisfaction surveys to realize the quality of their work.

"Doctors love the surgery center," Jacka said. "The goal at my practice is for optical profit to mirror the profit of the surgery center. Doctors sell cataract surgery and they make only $500. We can teach them to sell glasses." She recommended having on hand staff who are trained in optics to assist doctors in fielding questions.

When the profit margin seems too low, Jacka suggested looking at other opticals in the market and industry benchmarks.

More dispensing pearls

"If it sells, stock it," she said. "You've got to measure the demographics of your patient base, find out who is buying glasses, and buy your inventory based on that clientele. Have price points for every group."