By Susan Resnick, OD, FAAO, FSLS
Sept. 9, 2020
Next year the country will hopefully begin to return to normalcy following the pandemic. It could be a time that holds great opportunity for small businesses, including optometric practices. Here are the plans I am putting into place with my practice partners to provide even better care and become even more profitable.
The greatest challenge we perceive right now is the uncertainty surrounding the economy, patients’ limited discretionary spending capacity and flagging consumer confidence. While we experienced similar issues back in 2008 during the recession, the difference now is that recovery is less predictable. Our “survival and thrive plan,” however, will be fairly similar to what we did in 2008 in that we will continue to focus on patient-centered needs, both from a medical and quality-of-life perspective.
This will include increasing our inter-professional relationships to generate new referral sources and to identify new channels for co-management, building our specialty optical services to incorporate new lens designs and materials and to screen and treat those patients who are affected cosmetically and visually by acquired blepharoptosis. We will, at the same time, continue to be sensitive to patients’ individual financial situations offering payment plans and discounting out-of-pocket services if and when appropriate and necessary.
Smaller Specific Goals in Time of Uncertainty
Given the uncertainty of the public health situation surrounding COVID-19, it is more difficult than ever to set “big goals.” We are, therefore, looking to improve and/or implement clinical and practice management procedures and protocols that will help to streamline patient care, improve per-patient revenue and contain or reduce non-fixed overhead costs.
Continued Improvements in Efficiency
The goal of streamlining patient care is to enable us to continue to meet the social distancing requirements should this be necessary heading into next year. The more efficient each patient encounter, the more patients we can see while adhering to safety protocols. Our methods will include eliminating all forms to be filled out in-office, following a scheduling template designed to optimize availability for revenue-generating appointments and utilizing telemedicine for all follow-up appointments that do not specifically require an in-office encounter.
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To improve per-patient revenue, we will be implementing an online optical store for frame “try-on” and ordering. Additionally, we will be deepening our dive into myopia management with the Brilliant Futures program by CooperVision. And we will be undertaking a more proactive and targeted approach to recall for our dry eye management services.
Improving patient care and generating increased revenues is always boosted by adopting new technology. It does not always have to involve “big ticket” items.
To reduce non-fixed overhead costs, we have altered our doctors’ schedules to eliminate the longer mid-day breaks. This allows more efficient staff scheduling, reducing overtime and permitting more flexibility for team members to use paid time off. And, finally, we will be reviewing our frame inventory and brand selection to optimize capture rate and turnover.
Likely Cost & ROI of Plans
The cost for implementing the optical web store software will be approximately $6,000. We are budgeting roughly an additional $10,000 for additional frame inventory for our two locations.
The anticipated direct annualized revenue from new virtual optical sales, additional dry eye treatment services and new contact lens fits and refits is roughly $42,000. This is based on a very conservative breakdown of $20,000 from remote optical sales, $10,000 from additional repeat meibomian gland thermal treatments and $12,000 from contact lens revenues utilizing new products.
Next Year Could Be Prime Time for Practice Growth
My practice goals are conservative because we are an older, well-equipped and well-established practice. I believe that 2021 will be an excellent time to make larger purchases and plan aggressively for growth for younger practices. Pricing will be very favorable and there is definitely a pent-up consumer demand, which will I predict will continue through next year.