Part one of the Practice Launchpad series, curated by Erich H. Mattei, MBA, president of Akrinos. Each article will examine a different aspect of making a new practice a success.
By Eva M. Lamendola, OD
Jan. 19, 2022
When I decided to purchase the OD/MD practice where I had worked as an associate for 10 years, I knew I had to think strategically. Here are the key ways I made my newly purchased practice a success.
Recognizing–and Acting On–Potential
When I purchased the practice in 2017, I knew there was tremendous untapped potential. The MD I purchased the practice from was an extremely successful surgeon, who was highly focused on patient care. He treated patients with advanced ocular disease and performed procedures such as LASIK and cataract surgery. He would come into the office once a week to see patients. We had a great co-management relationship, allowing us to deliver the best care to patients. I greatly enjoyed patient care during my time working as an associate OD. However, I later discovered that I also have a passion for management and business growth.
Year One: I knew early on that there were so many ways the practice could quickly improve to become more efficient and profitable. When I took over the practice, we transitioned from paper charts to an electronic health records system. The new technology enabled us to keep better track of our patients’ needs, product purchasing history and preferences, and made tasks like coding easier. I also knew the importance of continuing to deliver quality patient care. So, another key technology investment during our first year was the purchase of an OCT.
Year Two: We had quickly outgrown the physical space. At the time, there was a three-week wait for an appointment in our clinic. I decided to renovate, doubling the size of our office. Our optical expanded from two desks to five, and our clinic expanded from four exam lanes to nine. Also in the second year, I added a wide-field retinal camera to improve our patients’ experience.
Year Three and Four: In 2020, we updated our visual field perimeter and purchased a topographer with dry eye software to expand our dry eye clinic.
Before each major practice investment, I consulted with my practice financial advisor to review the status of the practice’s cash flow and determine the most economical and profitable way to acquire new technology for the office. My advisor wrote out a projected growth plan that we could use to gauge when it would be affordable to bring in new equipment and when it would be beneficial to add new associates. The OCT and retinal camera were purchased with a lease while the topographer was purchased outright. Our practice now has two full-time ODs, two part-time ODs and 21 support staff members.
Making the Sale Seamless to Patients
My goal was to improve and grow the practice without disrupting patient care or failing to meet patient expectations. Because of my excellent working relationship with the previous owner, this was easy to achieve. The former owner (MD) wanted to continue practicing at the location after the sale. He leases space in our office one day per week. He continues to see his patients, along with the patients referred from the ODs at our practice, just as he did before.
Marketing the Practice to My Community
My longtime community involvement made it easier than it otherwise would have been to market the practice after I purchased it. I regularly attended local Chamber of Commerce events, along with volunteering with the Lions Club and Rotary Club. In addition, I volunteered my time to do vision screenings at schools in the area.
Alongside the in-person marketing, the practice posts regularly to social media letting current and prospective patients know about our expanded dry eye and myopia management services. Our patients also enjoy posts about our team and the fun activities we participate in year-round.
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Priming the Practice for Continued Growth
I make it a priority to invest not only in continuing education for our clinical team, but also leadership training for our management team. We have staff members attend both state and national conferences, and our entire team will attend SECO in March.
Once a year, we bring in an eyecare retail advisor and spend a day out of the practice improving our patient communication skills to deliver personalized care. We have weekly meetings with our entire team during which we review these skills, and other information pertinent to keeping the office running efficiently.
To keep the practice financially stable, I have key performance indicators that I review every week with my leadership team. We work with a practice management consultant to continue to develop our operating system. This includes our vision, mission and goals for the business, which we train our staff on continuously.
Our leadership team has quarterly meetings away from the office to create new goals for the practice. We meet weekly to keep ourselves accountable for continued growth.
In 2022, we plan to add a tenth exam lane and further expand our dry eye services. Our office recently completed a two-day, in-office dry eye training.
We are keeping the practice financially strong while maintaining, and building on, the highest level of care. We want a practice that both cares well for patients and continues to grow in profitability.