It almost seems odd to talk about one part of the eye care practice as some different entity than all the rest of the parts of the practice. For years we have been talking about building the medical services side of your practice when in reality it should have always been part of our practice. After all, it is our job to treat all aspects of our patients' needs. Sometimes this means we are treating their visual needs, while other times it means that we are treating the medical needs. But once again, at the foundation of it all is that it is our job to serve our patients. We sell eye wear in hopes of providing the best vision care through vision wear. When it comes to treating a disease state of the eye, the rules are not different. Just like there are certain rules or guidelines to follow about being profitable in the world of vision wear, there are also certain guidelines that a business must follow to be profitable in the medical eye care world. Interestingly, the guidelines are remarkably similar to those that will create a profitable eye wear practice. These guidelines are just the simple rules of good business and good patient care. So during the rest of this blog we are going to review my 10 GUIDELINES for developing the medical side of your eye care practice.
- 1. Set goals—Like in any business, if you don’t have a goal to hit, it is really unlikely that you will actually be successful at hitting anything. You will instead wander aimlessly, trying first one thing then the next without ever really getting anywhere. You might be marginally successful in some instances but you will never realize your full potential. In terms of setting goals for your medial practice, first determine what you want to focus on.
- 2. Develop a realistic timeline—Layout a timeline of what you want to achieve. Write it out. Post it where you can see it every day. If it is truly important, then you should remind yourself of it every day. A realistic timeline may involve months or even years. It is not a destination but a process. Don’t expect to build your medical practice in a day. It is done one brick at a time.
- 3. Adapt your mindset or philosophy. As we discussed in the first paragraph, the medical mindset is not different than your “doctor” mindset. It does mean that you have to be open to the fact that there are many ocular diseases that present to you every day. You may just not want to “see” them. For example, unless you are in a pediatric practice, at least 20% of your patients every day have some form of ocular surface disease. This includes 50% of your contact lens patients. Are you treating 20% of your patients every day for their ocular surface disease? If not, you just found the population to start on. Embrace that these patients are, and likely have always been, in your office.
- 4. Market research-Do you have the right practice to develop your medical practice? For instance, if your normal patient is in their 40’s, you will likely not have a very successful medical retina practice. However, you may have exactly the right demographic for a dry eye practice. Hopefully, you have thought about your average demographic because this group is the key to your marketing strategy and many of the business decisions that you make such as optical inventory.
- 5. Develop your knowledge—The great thing about the medical profession is that we have the opportunity to continually learn new things. If you want to focus on ocular surface disease, set aside 30 minutes every week and submerge yourself in learning new things about this disease. Read journals, go to a lecture, join a focus group, read a blog, DO SOMETHING to learn more.
- 6. Develop your tools—As you continue to learn more about the disease, start thinking about the questions that you and your staff need to ask your patients. Think about what tools you will need to have to best educate both your staff and your patients about this disease. There are countless references online, from industry reps and even on our website. Use these or invent your own. It is not difficult. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can always be “upgraded” and changed. Your tools might also involve clinical protocols or reminder tools such as how to bill a certain condition and what other test you should be contemplating with certain conditions. Once again, many of these are available in our library. You can also purchase a comprehensive guide “The Guide to Building Your Medical Services” so we can help you start progressing in your goal to incorporating medical eye care into your practice.
- 7. Develop your staff—As you are learning, be sure to share some of this information with your staff. A great practice builder is to have an impromptu 5 minute meeting to discuss something you learned today. The more you share with your staff, the more they can help you and the more engaged they will be in the practice. You might also want to use some of the procedures that we discussed earlier to help them develop a process for themselves.
- 8. Develop your schedule—Here is where most practices fail. They assume that they are too busy to add any more medical patients. (If this is you then you need to check out our workflow podcast series). Let me sum it up for you: unless you are seeing more than 40 patients a day, you are not too busy; you are just not very efficient - YET. You will not one day decide to treat the medical issues of your patients and the next day double the size of your practice. It takes time. Right now you most likely have a 10 minute slot somewhere where you could slide this medical patient into next week. Start there (and check out our efficiency podcast series).
- 9. Develop your fees—Look at the standard medical procedural codes 992X1-992X5 and designate a price according to the fee schedule in your practice. We don't have time to go into all of the fee setting rules in this article but check out some of our fee setting podcasts to learn more
- 10. Market your practice—Talk about what you see to your patients. Tell them that you take care of red eyes or glaucoma, cataracts or whatever. Make sure they know where they are supposed to go when something about their eyes is not working right. Don’t assume they know or leave it to chance. Give handouts. Educate your staff as to what you can do so they can likewise disseminate this information. Set up a speaking event to small groups in your area. If you are not good at speaking, write a small article and hand it out at a rotary or chamber meeting. The more you educate the consumers, the more likely you are to have a new patient walk in and say, ”I heard Dr. XXX can help me!! Here is what is going on...”
We hope that you have found this blog useful. Pass it on to your team or your colleagues. For those inclined to watch instead of read you might also want to watch our podcasts series on Building the Medical Model.