By Ian G. Whipple, OD
Oct. 14, 2020
Next year is nearly here from a business-planning perspective. My staff and I have been thinking for a while about how to improve patient care and practice profitability in the New Year. Here are three investments we think will help our patients next year while increasing revenues.
Adding Two New Auto-Phoropters
We have five exam lanes in our office. Two of the rooms are currently equipped with Marco TRS-5100 phoropters, which communicate with the OPDIII scan, while the remaining three rooms have a manual phoropter with a digital eye chart.
Both my practice partner and I have a strong preference for using the rooms with the TRS system. Currently, our technicians perform work-ups in a manual phoropter room then move the patients into one of the rooms with the TRS. This creates a slowdown in the exam process and sometimes leads to jams in the patient flow.
The new TRS systems will allow doctors to perform the eye exam in the same room that the patient was worked up in.
Cost: The expected cost of purchasing, installing and training on two new TRS systems is estimated at $40,000
Projected ROI: We expect that this upgrade will allow us to see at least one more patient every two hours. This will allow us to add four more comprehensive exams per doctor per day. If these metrics are truly met we expect an increase of more than $200,000 per year in gross revenue. In addition, the Marco sales team cites decreases in glasses remakes due to transcription errors in offices that have implemented auto-phoropters. While I don’t have any specific numbers to share, I would say that anecdotally this seems to be true for our office.
Implementation strategy: With a potential ROI this high we need to move right away on this. We have been impressed with the current Marco systems in our office and we look forward to the upgrade.
Purchase of a Second iCare Tonometer
We currently have one iCare tonometer which our technicians share. This simple device can really speed up the flow of our patient work-ups. For most exams the doctors won’t need to instill drops for Goldmann Tonometry and our patients love that we don’t have an “air-puff.” When we obtained our first iCare tonometer several years ago we even ran an ad in our local business magazine bragging that we don’t use the dreaded air-puff machine. Our technicians have a decent system for sharing the current device, but having two will allow each tech to have their own.
Cost: Approximately $4,000
Projected ROI: We expect that the second tonometer will save 10-15 minutes each day. If doctors and technician staff members were to clock out even 10 minutes earlier per day, we expect a savings in staff salary of nearly $2,000/year. The non-tangible benefit of getting our staff home on time will certainly be much greater. If we want to stay aggressive in our growth goals, this extra 10 minutes per day might allow us to see one more medical check or contact lens follow-up per day.
Our techs suggested this improvement to our office. Their estimate of the amount of time that they spend locating and waiting for the single iCare device is much higher than the estimate I used to calculate the ROI. It’s almost embarrassing to realize how inefficient we have been with just one device.
Implementation Strategy: We’ll need to train staff on how to care for and keep track of the second iCare tonometer. The cost of implementation should be minimal.
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Hiring Another Technician
This move is very much in line with the other two plans in that it should help us become more efficient. If our doctors can see more patients in the same amount of time, without decreasing face-to-face time with each patient, we’ll become more efficient. These moves are all about working smarter, not harder.
Cost: Approximately $32,000 annually
Projected ROI: We hope to start with adding four additional patients per day to the schedule, which should easily add $200,000 per year in gross growth.
Implementation Strategy: An additional technician will require training and investment in time resources, but our technician position is traditionally the easiest to train in our office. The investment should make sense.
If we truly are more efficient, and can regularly see four additional patients per day, we may run into a new bottleneck in our patient experience. Perhaps the optical department will feel overwhelmed, which may lead to the need to hire and train a new optician. This plan may have trickle-down effects. However, I’d much rather be too busy than wait around all day for something to happen.
We will likely need to advertise and continue to actively grow our patient base in order for these growth goals and ROI to become a reality.