By Suzanne LaKamp, OD, FAAO
Oct. 11, 2017
A busy OD has limited time, so when deciding on industry groups to participate in, you have to choose wisely. I’ve learned over the years which are most useful to me, and how to take away lessons to benefit my patients and the shared OD-MD practice where I am an associate.
I currently see patients full-time, on average six days a week. It’s important for any practice to partner with industry groups for the advancement of eyecare. Meeting regularly with colleagues and vendor reps is important to stay current with the ever-evolving business of patient care. No matter how much doctors may want to solely focus on the patient, you cannot take great care of the patient in the office without the framework of a healthy business.
I participate in meetings on some nights and weekends, or those that coincide with continuing education events to minimize time away from the office. For instance, I attended meetings during Vision Expo West during the same week as continuing education classes to maximize my time.
Learn More About Your Practice’s Key Specialties
My current employer, Durrie Vision in Overland Park, Kan, is a recognized international expert in laser vision correction, and heavily involved in industry groups related to refractive surgery.
The doctors at my practice meet with groups such as the Johnson & Johnson Vision Optometric Council on Refractive Surgery. Such a group provides best practices in not just surgery, but co-management, to ensure good patient outcomes.
One of the gaps that my employer recognized at these meetings was the absence of younger ODs, including Millennials like myself. So, I stepped up my participation, joining the group’s Ad Board during Vision Expo West 2017. The Ad Board is a group of about 20 ODs and key opinion leaders in refractive surgery practices across the country. The ODs collaborate, sometimes with MDs, to think of ways to promote education and the overall growth of refractive surgery across the nation. The goal is to better educate fellow ODs, who in turn educate patients. It is my goal to contribute to the profession, and to help grow my current practice with newly acquired knowledge from groups like this.
Get Exposed to Different Modes of Practice
Durrie Vision is focused on medical eyecare with no optical, and most of my experience has been with similar practices. With most practices reaping significant profits from optical sales, it’s been helpful for me to hear from ODs who work in, and own, practices with successful opticals. It gives me background in a mode of practice I may find myself experiencing first-hand as an employer, or practice owner, in the future.
One of my previous employers closed the optical due to low capture rate, profit loss and ineffective frame board management. Patients were unhappy to have their previous one-stop-shopping eye doctor taken away. Many were annoyed at having to look for another place to get their glasses.
Listening to doctors with profitable opticals has taught me that the failure of that optical could have been avoided. Not all practices are suited to have an in-house optical, but I learned that patients often prefer to have all of their eye health and vision needs addressed at the same visit.
Ask About New Medical Eyecare Treatments & Products
Professional groups and associations between colleagues can provide great input on improving patient care.
A closed medical forum, such as ShoutMD, utilized by the doctors at my practice, is a good tool for posing questions to other doctors. For instance, doctors may ask quick questions such as “what do you think of Blink artificial tears for the practice?” They can also help with questions about unusual patient cases, or the impact of new technology on clinic flow. Forums are easy to use, and there are numerous available online for ODs and MDs.
Enhance Professional Development & Business Savvy
An event partly sponsored by Alcon, which I attended a few years ago, focused on leadership development, personal brand management and communication with support staff. I learned more about leadership in a few days than in all my previous years of school and work.
I discussed lessons learned from the course with the doctors at a former practice. One of the areas of concern for me was staff leadership, and how to reinvigorate employees. Employees who work under involved, positive leadership provide better service to patients, and contribute more to practice profitability.
The doctors, who are partners at my current practice, take time out of their schedules to take leadership courses. We have a strong executive leadership team, which results in a smoothly operating business, excellent camaraderie and job satisfaction for both doctors and support staff.
Learn from Others in the Same Stage of their Career
I am a member of the Young Professionals Club (YPC), which includes recently graduated optometrists, opticians and industry representatives. The free membership includes continuing education at major conferences such as Vision Expo, networking opportunities, various subscriptions, discounts for getting onto the doctor locator on Think About Your Eyes (TAYE) and resource lists for buying groups and consultants.
It is a fun, energetic group that has more advantages than any other group I’ve experienced. A new graduate can enjoy membership benefits for five years.
Allergan’s OPTOMETRY JUMPSTART is a program that current optometry students and recent graduates may join to start a relationship with industry sales representatives, learn about Allergan products and attend speaker programs.
Budget Out Industry Group Participation
Employers may stipulate coverage for the cost of dues and allowances for professional organizations in employment contracts. My current employer has considered getting a membership in the American Optometric Association for all of the doctors in the practice.
My practice awards a yearly personal budget, or stipend, to use on professional education and licensure. I use mine for American Academy of Optometry fellowship dues and continuing education costs. I do not pay for any of the other groups of which I take part.