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Independence and optimizing your practice


No matter how you celebrated the 4th, you can have your own “freedom day” in your practice starting today! What this means is you have the freedom to be your best, every single day of the year.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

No matter how you celebrated the 4th, you can have your own “freedom day” in your practice starting today! What this means is you have the freedom to be your best, every single day of the year.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event that eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, many Americans celebrate this historic event.

Have you taken the time to ask yourself what does practice freedom truly mean to you? To be free of personnel issues and managed care issues? The mental, fiscal, and emotional baggage of either or both?

Sprinkled throughout past blogs have been suggestions and innovations used by other peak performers that you can self-select from to begin plotting your own course to freedom.

Just as important can be a list of what not to do. Here are a few to contemplate:

1.     Don’t wipe down chairs and phoropters with smelly chemicals that can overpower patients your technician is seating. However, before you decide to wipe down the equipment at the end of the patient encounter, today’s germ-a-phobic patients will think the lane is unclean if he or she doesn’t see the technician clean everything in front of him or her.

2.     End the obsession with endearments: There is nothing appealing about a team member or a doctor referring to patients as Sport, Hon, Sweetie, Dear, Young Lady, Dude, Bud – need I go on?

3.     Don’t scrimp on instrumentation. Nothing annoys a patient that has been waiting for 20 minutes more than a technician who can’t find the hand-held Goldman or some other piece of diagnostic instrumentation needed to complete a routine eye health examination. Each lane should be identically equipped.

4.     Don’t let your clinic look its age: Refresh paint, replace tired furnishings (especially chairs that have gone flat in the reception area), and update décor.

5.     Don’t feature stale frames in the optical. Of course those irreplaceable signature lines keep loyal patients coming back to the optical for more, but everyone appreciates seeing something new and exciting. New designs from your tested lines help, but a small boutique-line fresh to your optical often energizes the optical experience – for opticians and administrative personnel as well as for patients visiting the optical.

Continued: Digital don'ts


6.     Don’t think that developing your website is a ‘once and done’ event. Refreshing and updating your website ensures compatibility with hand-held devices. Adding new content, especially videos, improves search-engine results as well.

7.     Don’t think that digital messaging takes the place of traditional patient communication modalities. Provider-to-patient outreach monitoring suggests that each time you reach out to patients using a different kind of modality or a different offering, your results should be the same.

    What this means to you is that if 5 patients you haven’t seen in four years respond to an email blast, then 5 patients should respond to a text message, 5 more to a postcard and 5 to a newsletter mailed to his or her home.  For purposes of illustration, let’s assume that your Average Patient Fee is $230. Therefore, stacking how you communicate to your patients just yielded you a gross return-on-investment of $4,600.

8.     Don’t think that a bad review posted online is the end of the world. A complaint offers insights into the mind of disgruntled patients. As long as you respond to complaints in a sincere manner (I recommend using this three-step process: 1. Show you listened, 2. Acknowledge the emotion, 3. Own the issue and share action steps to resolve it as appropriate), your credibility with the virtual world might actually be elevated, not decimated.

In addition to the freedom of what not to do, freedom also includes making your own choices about your practice future. Everything you need to set a course for your future success is readily available: good people, sophisticated diagnostics, business advice, and your own leadership style. The leadership needed to energize both your team and to confidently make recommendations about a treatment plan, eyewear or contact lens to patients.

While frames, diagnostics, and employees are not free, eyecare practitioners are free to decide how he or she will use these precious resources.

As you navigate practice management this July, I hope you’ll remember Independence Day. See it as not only a national holiday but as your personal call to action. The brave men that signed that document were ‘all in.’ They fought for what they believed. There will be days when you, too, will feel you are locked in a battle. It is then that you must remember today’s resolve.

Independence is a heady feeling. Take the time to decide what you want to be free of and how you’re going to release it. Whatever the practice issue might may be, enjoy your summer without guilt and celebrate improved practice metrics and increased positive energy year round.

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