By Dave Anderson, OD
August 12, 2020
Your patients can benefit from advanced instrumentation and new technology, and so can your practice. At a time when most of us are challenged with rebuilding revenues lost during the shutdown, new instrumentation and technology can be a great investment. Here are some of the exciting new additions to my practice.
What Is Likely to Enhance Care & Jump-Start Revenues?
When I think about practice investments, especially looking at jump-starting and rebuilding revenue, I look at a few specific things: Unmet need, overall investment cost and how I will recover the investment.
I start by answering the question of how the investment can be paid for with the products or services that will result from use of the new instrument. I give added points in my decision-making process to instrumentation that allows for testing or procedures that are not covered by insurance. That way, I only have to determine the market value for the product or service and the number of patients I can help.
Other Articles to Explore
I recently invested in the areas of dry eye care, specialty contact lens fitting and digital eye strain treatment, and am thinking about investing in sports vision therapy. For dry eye, an investment such as anterior segment photography would be a billable service, but some of the meibomian gland treatments would not be covered. Similarly, some of the sports therapy diagnositic visits may be covered, but the therapy sessions would not be covered. In addition, each of these investments provides for an unmet need in our practice.
The next step is for me to look at each possible investment, and project the number of patients that may benefit from the new product or service allowed by the instrumentation. I do that by data-mining within our EHR software for specific demographics being targeted by each investment. For example, for patients who have digital eye strain, a data-mining search would include dry eyes and headache as a diagnosis code, or a search could be for patients working at a local company known to have many employees who spend long hours on the computer.
I recently purchased neurolens due to a high amount of computer users in my area from LexisNexis and other larger companies that have headquarters near my community. I plan to market to these companies through their human resources department to offer treatments for digital fatigue and eye strain for their employees, while at the same time, marketing directly to those employees that are already my patients.
Projecting the Likely Cost of Instrumentation Being Considered
For the investment in dry eye, the cost could range from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the diagnostic equipment chosen, and for the treatments, the cost could range anywhere from $5,000 to 10 times that amount.
For digital eye strain, and neurolens, the cost is just over $20,000.
The cost for specialty contact lens fitting would be around $10,000 for the proper diagnostic equipment.
For sports vision, the investment could be as little as $1,000 and easily up to $10,000-$20,000.
For each of the above investments, the ROI is variable, depending on the unmet need in your practice and region, but for each investment, if the demographics support it, and as little as two patients per month are seen for the related treatments or products, the average revenue generated would be nearly $1,000 per patient, amounting to an annual revenue of $24,000 at minimum, but could easily be many multiples higher than that if the demographics and need is there.
How Much Time Will Need to Be Budgeted for Rolling Out New Investments?
For each of these investments, around a month is needed for implementation. That time is needed to receive delivery of the instrument, conduct training and create a plan for incorporating it into the patient flow. There is also time needed to work on marketing material to promote the new addition to our office–for postal mail, e-mail, web site and internal pieces to share with patients. Luckily, many instrumentation vendors have done a lot of this work for us, including ready-to-go patient handouts, digital marketing for social media and verbiage to use in patient education.
How Much Staff Training Will Be Needed?
Typically, a few days of staff training is needed when adding new instrumentation or technology in my practice. One day of training is for the office as a whole, so everyone can understand the language to use with patients when explaining the new testing, procedure or product related to our new investment, along with the process a patient would go through and the fees involved. This is important for everyone to understand, as anyone in the office could be asked a question by a patient at any time.
Further training is then needed for the key staff that are most involved with the treatments, selling of the products or using diagnostic equipment. Usually this aspect of the training requires just a few hours, and works best when actual patients can be brought in while staff is shadowed by a vendor rep, or other person knowledgeable about use of the instrument or technology.
How Will New Investments Impact Office Work Flow?
New systems and workflow often are needed when incorporating new instrumentation or technology, however, I have always organized our work flow in a very basic way, and this allows me to define where the new product, treatment or diagnostic procedure would go our patient flow.
I divide visits into four basic areas: 1. Comprehensive exams, 2. Diagnostic testing (glaucoma, AMD, dry eye, specialty contact-lens fit), 3. Short doctor-only visits (contact lens follow-up, medical emergencies), 4. Technician visits (the teaching of contact lens wear, dry eye treatment, actual therapy). This makes adding new testing and treatments fairly easy, and often the amount of time needed to add new processes varies only a small amount within each area of the patient visit.
Reinforce Your Practice Brand
My practice brand has a specific focus: “All your eyecare needs from infancy to elderly.” We invest in any product or service that enhances that focus by expanding the care and resources we can provide to patients.