By Scott Lewis, OD
April 14, 2021
Practice growth is possible, even in trying times, but you need doctors, staff and facilities that can change. It all starts with a leader who is vigilant about changes that need to be made–and is then able to get it done.
Here are a few of the most important ways my practice spurred growth, including the workaround we put in place to limit the pandemic from slowing our growth.
Expand Your Office Environment to Keep Pace with Your Growth
We have moved our physical location three times since starting the practice cold over 30 years ago. We started in 1988 with 900 sq. ft., then took over more space next door until we maxed out the production the 1,200 sq. ft. would allow. We moved to a better designed space of 3,200 sq. ft. in a building we built with additional room to rent to another medical provider.
The second office allowed two ODs to work at the same time (which makes a huge difference in covering fixed costs) with four exam rooms and larger pretesting areas. Many doctors do not realize the amount of change they need to plan for if they want to grow. A two-lane highway can only move so many cars. If you want to grow and increase capacity, you need to build more lanes.
Doctors need to change their way of practice if they expect to grow past $750,000 to $2.5 million in revenue, as ours did (as of the end of March, we will close out Q1 2021 with over $750,000 in revenues generated for the quarter). You can’t just work faster or harder. You will hit a ceiling and burn out. The physical facility will only allow so much capacity.
Add Specialized Services with a New Associate
We moved to our third location (about a half mile from our original location) and expanded into six lanes and added vision therapy, which was developed by an OD we added to our staff. We knew we needed to add doctor time and wanted to add doctors passionate about a different aspect of practice from the ones we already offered services in.
Many doctors want to add another part-time doctor who maybe works at a commercial location. I feel adding a commercially oriented doctor 1-2 days per week will bring a commercial mentality to your practice, and stymie growth in the type of patients you want–those who are more focused on the quality of the care and experience than the cost.
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A better idea is for two private practices to share a doctor who understands, or could be trained, in what is required to grow a private practice. Look for an associate who adds something different. Someone of a different age, background or with different skill sets (such as VT, specialty contact lens fitting, glaucoma or AMD). A doctor who wants to specialize in one of these areas may not be able to afford to build a practice from scratch, but working in an established practice and seeing primary patients, along with building their specialty patients, is a winning combination for them–and you.
Accommodate the Need for Care–Even During a Crisis
Five years ago we added 1,400 sq. ft. of space just down the hall from our 3,600 sq. ft. space and moved the entire VT portion of our practice into this new space. The VT and pediatric portion of the practice grew rapidly under the direction of Katie Elton, OD, who specializes in and coordinates the entire pediatric portion of our practice. It grew with contracts from all the local school districts sending kids for VT and visual help for learning difficulties.
Before COVID, we were seeing over 40 kids a week for hour-long sessions with two VT trainers under her supervision. When COVID hit and the schools shut down, the VT visits dropped to nearly zero. With social distancing requirements, most offices stopped seeing routine exams for a while and even after reopening were severely limited in the number of patients that could be seen.
To address this challenge we relocated two exam lanes into the VT suite down the hall and created another facility that allowed us to continue with two doctors at a time seeing patients six days per week, all while social distancing. Our patient volume came back quickly as patients looked for a facility to see them. During this time we also acquired another local office and moved some of that equipment into the VT area, and now employ that doctor two days per week.
We were able to continue providing important care to patients during this difficult past year–all the while continuing to spur our long-term growth.