Practice Management

How We Balance Retiring ODs to New ODs in Our Practice

By Scott Huffer, OD

Oct. 23, 2019

Our five-OD practice is in a state of flux, with some of our more seasoned ODs retiring, while we work to recruit new ODs. Here is how we manage the balance of out-going and new doctors in our offices.

Planning for Retirements You Know Are Coming
So far we have done well calculating the ramp-up of new ODs. Our first retiring partner stopped seeing patients January 1, 2019. We anticipated a provider would need approximately six months to get their feet under them before being fully productive. He had ramped-down to two provider days, and we knew we would hire someone full-time to fill his shoes.

After a search, including through CovalentCareers, a local optometry school and local optometric association web sites, we were lucky enough to find a new graduate with a wonderful personality. We were anxious hiring someone fresh out of optometry school. However, after conversations with her references, and discussions about the evolution of the optometric curriculum, we decided this doctor could be a great fit. She started at our office July 2018, and has been working out wonderfully. Her clinical skills have significantly exceeded our expectations and her enthusiasm has invigorated the office.

Hiring Resource

Click HERE to explore Local Eye Site, a place to find optometrists and other eyecare staff for recruitment.

Our other partner stopped seeing patients June 26, 2019. He also had slowed to two days a week of patient care, and would be replaced by someone full-time. In December each year we work out our offices’ budget for the following year. Our thinking was to hire someone new after he retired, but upon reviewing the revenue numbers it became apparent we would need more revenue generated starting much earlier. It also seemed to be a good idea to have some overlap to facilitate the transition.

Dr. Huffer, far right in the photo, with the other doctors in his practice. He says the practice has taken a proactive approach in planning for doctor retirements.

So, we figured out we needed to come to terms with a new associate within a month or two. This is much faster than our first experience. Fortunately, a few of our providers are active in our  state optometric association, and through networking, learned of a colleague in need of a better employment situation.

This provider happened to be residency-trained and with considerable experience. While our initial offer was unsuitable in terms of hours, we were able to work out a schedule that worked for all parties. She started with our office the first week of February, and has also been working out beautifully.

At the halfway point of the year it would seem we will be flat-to-slightly up in a year when two providers retired after more than 40 years of providing care. Our ability to plan ahead and stay flexible has paid off.

Gauge Productivity You Will Need to Replace
The older doctors in our practice are extremely productive. As a provider, the patients who work well with you, find you and stick with you. This evolves over many years and turns into wonderful relationships.

Further, as you see a patient multiple times you learn the intricacies of providing their care effectively and efficiently. This builds powerful trust. A new provider has to earn trust with every visit and that takes time and effort. New providers can bring with them new services, and can expand the offerings of the office, but this also takes time and effort. Our more seasoned providers generally would have higher capture rates and be able to see a lot of patients.

Newer providers are more savvy with medical billing and newer technologies. There are vast generalities, but older providers generate a higher percentage of their revenue from goods while younger providers generate a higher percentage of revenue from service-related charges. More experienced providers are more productive, but are also more highly compensated.

Project & Sustain Strong Growth
Our projections for 2019 are for about 2 percent growth. I think this is an amazing feat in such a year of succession. In adding these two full-time providers for part-time retirees, we are five full-time equivalents instead of four.

This allows for significant growth. I believe 5 percent growth next year is a reasonable Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goal. There are many variables beyond that, but we have acquired adjacent condo space to expand. We have also had discussions with another provider we hope will join our group in July 2020. If everything goes well, we could have at least one year of double-digit growth in the next five years.

 

Scott Huffer, OD, is a partner with with Drs. Helfman, Lasky & Associates in Nashua, N.H. To contact: eyedocscott@gmail.com

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