Why do we do what we do? Is there a way to do it better? If you haven’t asked yourself these questions recently, your practice is likely leaving a LOT of profitability, efficiency, room for competitors on the table. Dr. Darryl Glover and Dr. Adam Ramsey sit down with Perry Brill of the Eyetrepreneur Podcast on this episode. Brill is the practice manager at Brill Eye Center in Mission, Kansas and the founder of EyeRockIt, a consulting service for optometrists that specializes in practice efficiency to increase productivity and profitability.
So how can you amplify your practice assets?
1. Crush Eyewear Sales
“If you don’t hear some patients push back about price, you are charging to little,” Brill shares. To make your optical more profitable, focus on the patient experience. Brill is a big believer that you must slow the patient experience down when it comes to optical – get them seated and get them comfortable. Don’t have people wandering the frame board; your optician is the expert and they should guide and explain the why of their recommendations with every frame tried on, and every lens option prescribed.
Dr. Ramsey shares that fulfilling the needs of your patients is key to his practice success. He starts exam with asking the patient about any vision issues. At the end of the exam he prescribes the solution for each of the patient’s complaints. He doesn’t sell glasses – he matches his patient’s needs with the technology that is designed to address the issue. “All of the optometrists that are successful prescribe from the chair,” Dr. Glover agrees.
2. Crush Patient Collections
Collect upfront as much as possible and if any medical billing comes back, don’t be known as a business that is going to waive charges. Dr. Ramsey shares that his office requires 100% payment before glasses orders are placed, but medical payments can be harder to collect up front because sometimes insurances kick more back to the patient than expected. Brill educates that doctors need to prepare before a patient’s exam to know if their visit is subject to deductible or high coinsurance. Call the patient at least a day before their appointment and educate them about expected charges because they have an unmet deductible so they are prepared to pay in full at the time of their exam. Some practitioners will avoid scheduling Medicare patients in the first quarter so that by the time they have their eye exams, their deductibles are more likely to have been met.
3. Lower All Costs of Goods and Services
Dr. Ramsey is known as a negotiator for his practice, and he encourages all doctors to make sure they negotiate with vendors to get a fair price! Private practitioners are at a disadvantage compared to large corporate groups because they have less patients, but vendors who prioritize independent optometry should be willing to put their money where their mouth is to make sure they are giving private practitioners a fair deal. Brill shares that independent ODs can negotiate better by:
- Teaming up. Do you and a fellow OD want the same piece of equipment? Approach the vendor together and ask for a reduced rate to get the business for both of your practices. Any items $10,000 or above you can get major discounts using this group purchasing approach, Dr. Ramsey shares.
- Ask for the Doctor Alliance Rate. Brill shares that he’s been very successful in his practice by asking vendors, “What’s the Vision Source rate. I’ll take that!”
4. Frame Inventory Assessment and Plan
“Critically look at your frames,” Brill shares. “Every single frame on your frame board is a $100 bill. That’s a lot of money sitting up there.” If a frame is sitting on your board for 8 months, it needs to go. Dr. Ramsey encourages doctors to start small. You can always add more frames later, but having a small and tightly managed frame board helps you better evaluate what your office really needs. He tries not to overlap styles or types of frames from different manufacturers so a smaller inventory still has a large and diverse selection of frames for patients to choose from.
What about understock? Brill encourages practitioners to only understock frames that have a high turnover rate. When you do reorder frames, make sure it is in bulk so you don’t get hit with $10 shipping charges on single frame orders.
Private Label frames can be a great way to reduce cost of goods but maintain excellent quality. Brill is partnering with about 40 practitioners around the country to curate a frame selection of wearable best sellers and then bulk purchase these frames for their practices for the best cost of goods.
5. Develop Optical Executors, Not Opticians
The opticians or staff working in your optical need more than just the technical skills to perform their job. Managing the frame board and patient sales are key to the job. When it’s time to ask for a raise, your employer is going to want to see the profit you made in the office or the money you saved them in the optical. How should you reward your staff? Brill encourages practice owners to pay their opticians very well and give them good incentives (insurance, PTO, etc). Spiffs or smaller cash bonuses just don’t show up in a meaningful way on a paycheck after taxes and will go unappreciated.
6. Create Radical and Happy Transparency Culture
“I believe in tattle-telling in the workplace,” Brill shares. Talk about problems together; don’t let things fester. A transparent workplace is one where staff feels like their voices and opinions matter, and when everyone feels heard and respected.
7. Office Procedures Perfection
Don’t constantly nag your staff to get jobs done. Use task lists and digital resources to hold staff accountable and track progress. Asana.com and Monday.com are great tools for tracking office procedures.
8. Administrative Duties Delight
Bosses and owners are responsible for the office getting paid. Make sure you are outsourcing anything that is not a good use of your time. Pay someone else to manage IT issues.
9. High Tech Office Upgrade
Don’t underestimate the value of patient perception. Using higher technology optical tools to take precise digital measurements is an investment not just in your optical functionality, but in how your patients feel about their glasses buying experience. Can a patient tell the difference between a $300 progressive and a $600 progressive? The entire office experience needs to tell that story.
Office flow is another area for improved efficiency Brill shares that he recently went to the National Retail Federation Conference, and learned about inexpensive smart watches that doctors and staff can use to alert each other without typing.
10. Expert Real-World Advice from ODs in the Trenches
You don’t have to create everything – you can save thirty or forty years by copying the successful strategies of doctors that have been there, done that. Hiring consultants that are experienced optometrists or office managers can save you the mistakes and the time it takes to learn from them.