10 Action Items to Improve Your Optometry Practice

We have doers in life, and we have sayers. Doers are the people who get off their asses and get shit done. It’s pretty simple. They say, “Hey, I’m going to wash the car,” and then wash the car. Sayers say, “Hey, thinking about washing the car,” then four weeks go by and they finally decide to pay ten bucks to go through the automated car wash.

Here are 10 actionable items to improve your practice today.

 

1: Clear the clutter off the front desk. Looks matter!

 

 

Short story: I used to go to a dentist named Dr. Neufeld. He had piles of charts sitting on the front desk, clutter, tangled phone cords, a Big Gulp always on display. It’s just not a good look.  At the time as a kid, I didn’t notice, all I cared about at the dentist was the laughing gas. Man, I still love laughing gas, it’s fun. This clutter needs to be erased from your desk surfaces. Move it somewhere. Move it to the back office and make the front look presentable. You don’t have to have a completely bare front desk, but just something presentable. Think about additional storage during your next remodel if needed.

 

2: Consider charging $25 for frame/lens warranties to cover staff labor and shipping.

 

 

Warranties are not free. You pay for warranties. Even though a manufacturer doesn’t charge you, there’s still a labor and shipping cost for fixing that left temple spring hinge a patient sat on. It takes time and labor to process a warranty.

Your staff will have to:

  • ship the frame back
  • possibly ship the lenses back
  • wait and look for the credit memo

There can be two hours of labor involved in dealing with one warranty. PLEASE consider charging $25 per frame and $25 per pair of lenses.

Patients don’t mind paying for fair warranty repairs and fixes you’ll be surprised. You don’t need to have patients sign anything when you sell eyewear; we are too paperwork and signature obsessed. Don’t make a big deal out of it, you know? When they come in to ask for a warranty, you just tell them, “Hey, it’s going to be $25 for the warranty of your left temple to cover labor and shipping costs.” Patients completely understand that you need to recover your labor costs. If someone has a microscopic scratch on the bottom left corner of one of their lenses, just leave it. It’s a fine hairline scratch, doesn’t obstruct their vision, and you can’t even see it until you hold it up to a fluorescent light? Leave it! Don’t let patients abuse warranty benefits and clearly set boundaries what is eligible.

With this approach, if you do 100 warranties a year, you’re going to recover $2,500 in revenue that would otherwise be lost. That can be used toward bonuses, staff lunches, or anything else you can think of.

Again, don’t make a big deal about warranties.

  • Charge per incident.
  • No signature is needed.
  • Easy as saying, “Hey, it’s going to be $25 every time you do a warranty.”

Of course, there are situations where you’ll want to bend the rules. Yes, it’s okay not to have hard black and white rules.

 

3: Drink more water. We’re all dehydrated.

 

 

When I was working in my Dad’s practice, by the time 3 o’clock came around, I’d be SO thirsty. My brain was fuzzy and I’d be ready for a nap in the recliner we had in the back office. Don’t be like me. Keep a water bottle filled and drink it. Have a competition in your office to make it fun. Just remember it and stay hydrated.

Here’s an app if you really want to be committed to drinking water.

4: Assess if your EHR data is backed up to two different offsite locations.

 

 

We have two different types of practices: ones that like to finagle with their own on-site server, and ones that get it professionally managed by an outside IT firm. I don’t care what you do, but please have your data backed up in multiple locations. I’m not an information technology officer. I don’t have the exact details on what to do, but you should consult with someone who does.

Let’s say your data is in Texas and they get a big snowstorm that puts everything on hold for two weeks. You have to have redundancies in your life. The same thing goes for your local machines. They should all have backups. Stick a one terabyte drive on local machines and ophalthmic equipment. Don’t let those patient images you worked so hard for disappear. Check with your EHR company for true best practices on backups. It may not be likely that you’ll lose data in an outage or get hacked, but better safe than sorry.

 

5: Drop your lowest-paying medical plan.

 

 

We all have crappy payers in every medical field– optometry, dentistry, you name it. So if your schedule is jam-packed, you need to decide if it’s worth getting paid a crappy amount for what you’re doing. If it’s not, drop them. Don’t even think about it, just do it. There are exceptions to this, of course, but this is an easy win for you.

 

6: Give all of your opticians business cards and work emails.

 

 

I don’t know about you guys, but to me, seeing @gmail, @Yahoo, @AOL, etc. in an email address is a turnoff. Just spend the $2 a month and get your staff some legit email addresses. I personally recommend Google Workspace. The suite of tools is awesome. Google Drive is perfect for sharing documents, spreadsheets, and all kinds of stuff. It’s super convenient. I also like the Microsoft Office 365 suite. I don’t like the email per se, Outlook is kind of mediocre. But Microsoft Teams? Whew! THAT is great in-office communication software!

Everyone in optical needs their own email. They need to feel comfortable in their own inbox. Give them business cards. Get on VistaPrint and design some cards (they can help you design them), get on Canva, or hire someone on Fiverr.com to make them. You empower your staff by providing them with business cards. Just think about it. You’re 30 years old and for the first time in your life, you get a business card. Imagine you’re getting dinner and someone compliments you on your beautiful, fancy, sparkling eyewear, and you’re proud of it. You can give that person a card and get some inbound referrals to your office. Don’t be cheap and say “Well they’re just going to quit eventually, why spend the money?” Don’t be cheap. If they quit, just throw their cards in the recycle bin. Empower your people.

 

7: Learn how to use a scribe in the exam room.

 

 

This can’t be done overnight. It might take you six months to perfect it. There will be a learning curve for both doctor and the technician, but after that, you’ll have a super-tech. Your goal as the doctor is to be present and personable. Look the patient in the eye and talk to them about the things you remember about them, like their kids or their work. People are lonely. That’s what they want. It’s a dead assumption that you’re going to be a great doc, that you know your medical stuff, and that you’re going to make a good diagnosis. If treatment is involved, you’re either going to do it in the house or refer out. People expect that.

There’s nothing worse than going to a lame medical system with a frumpy PCP who comes in slouched over and just stares at his/her stupid laptop. Be present for your patients to make it a better experience.

 

The benefits of scribing:

  • Your exams are going to go a lot smoother. It’s like conducting an orchestra— “OK, hand me the flippers, here’s the occluder, turn off the lights, click this on your EHR, finalize the Rx,”
  • Save you 5-10 minutes per eye exam
  • Give the patient 1 on 1 time
  • Don’t stress your body physically

There are many components of the exam that you don’t need to do as a doctor. Let your techs do it. Pay them more money and let them do their job to the fullest extent they can. All of you will have more fun! Scribing is easier than you think and here’s an extra resource written from a tech’s point of view.

 

8: Bring in a frame line that is $100 more expensive than your most expensive line. Don’t prejudge your patients.

 

 

You don’t know what you can sell until you try it. It might feel completely absurd to sell a $350 frame if the average frame in your office costs $250. You’re thinking, “Crap, I’m literally going to shell out $3,500 in opening this line and the company is not offering 90-day terms. So it’s really $3,500 cash on delivery. Can we sell this?” I don’t know, have you tried it?

Please pick up a great line that’s $100 more than usual. It’s going to be out of your comfort zone, but what you’ll find is that you WILL have demand for it. The only way to sell a more expensive frame line is to display it prominently in your office at eye level and ACTUALLY SHOW IT TO PATIENTS. A lot of optical consultants have said this before. Show the $150 frame, show the $250 frame, and show the $350 frame. Once you show the $350 frame, the $250 frame looks like a fair average cost. What you’ll find is that over time, you’ll know who the high rollers are who likes nicer eyewear. C’mon, guys, it’s only an extra hundred dollars, and it’s likely going to be an independent frame line in these higher price points. If you don’t know where to find more expensive eyewear, here is a link to 10 more expensive independent frame lines you can try.

 

9: Buy a picnic table and eat outside at lunch.

 

 

The sun does wonders for attitude. It’s getting a little late in the season, but it’s Fall. Go to Costco, get one delivered, build one if you’re handy! At my Dad’s office, we put one out in the parking lot, and 4-5 staff members would be out there on their lunch, soaking up that vitamin D. I really think it does change attitudes and build a sense of community. Everyone wants to hang at the picnic table in the sunshine. When you’re stuck in your office with those fluorescent lights, you go kind of crazy, and everyone just stares at their phone. When you bring people outside, they actually get the conversation going and start staff bonding.

 

10: Invite your friends to our Facebook group.

 

 

The Facebook group will give you ideas on how to grow your practice and stay motivated. I provide the coaching you need to make that money, baby!