By Gina Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
Delegate tasks to staff—then spend those freed-up hours serving patients and generating revenues for the practice. Here are top exam and administrative tasks to offload.
Maintaining practice profitability requires efficiency. As doctors, our role is to focus on the interpretation of data, not the gathering of data. That means having staff conduct as many tests as possible and even all or some of the refraction, in addition to administrative tasks. The goal is for the doctor to concentrate on prescribing to the patient based on data collected by staff.
TOP TASKS TO DELEGATE
Task Delegate to Time Savings
Pre-testing Technicians 10 minutes/exam
Practice marketing Front desk 20 hours/month
Patient recall Outside co. 5 minutes/patient
Financial management Clinic administrator 20hours/month
Data Gathering Staffers Free Up Profitable Time
An optometric practice makes an average of $306 gross revenue on each full patient examination, according to the Management & Business Academy (MBA), sponsored by Alcon and Essilor. By delegating more data gathering to staff members, we can increase the number of patients seen each day by two or more–and conducting exams is our main and most profitable role. Once that is achieved, the available doctor’s time can increase revenues to over $3,000 each week (assuming patients are being seen five days per week). The practice impact of delegating other tasks can be harder to estimate in terms of revenue, but they are valuable nonetheless. For instance, delegating patient recall to a specialized front desk administrator or outside company as their primary job can be huge in terms of filling the schedule and increasing the number of patients seen.
Choose Tasks to Delegate
I delegate to my technicians for pre-testing data gathering, marketing to my front desk administrator, I outsource my patient recall/AR calling to an outside company, and I delegate financial reconciliation/billing to my clinical administrator. The costs of this delegation are fairly small–it mostly just involves training each staff member in the office and continually maintaining touch points and re-training to ensure efficiency. The biggest cost is time to train, but the payoff far surpasses that time expense. I have weekly staff meetings for an hour each week to go over all things clinical and office related.
One Month to Realize Efficiencies
Efficiencies from delegating can begin to be realized from day one in something as simple as patient recall. However, I do think that most efficiencies are fully realized after a month when the training is well established and staff are feeling comfortable with the new processes.
Preserve Quality Patient Experience
It’s always important that the doctor is spending the time to interpret the results of testing with patients, explaining to them the findings and what they mean. The recommendations and interpretations is what patients are most interested in knowing, so that must continue to be done by the doctor. At this time, I spend 10 to 15 minutes in the exam room. I check ocular alignment, complete refraction, and perform the internal/external ocular health exam. As mentioned before, I also spend a fair amount of that time consulting with the patient. In the next year or so, I plan on delegating refraction, as well, to my technicians with an advanced refraction system.
Keys to Delegation
Look to delegate. Analyzeplaces where data gathering and administration by the doctor could be delegated to a staff member and keep analyzing. It’s a dynamic process.
Monitor and train. If you delegate, continually monitor and train staff to ensure adequate completion and efficiency.
Plan for growth. Plan the next step in delegation, even if you’re not quite there. It will help you have the processes in place to handle the increased patient load as your practice grows.
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Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO, is the owner of Complete Eye Care of Medina in Medina, Minn. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org