By Jessica Vanek, OD
Dec. 29, 2021
When opening a cold-start practice, there are many concerns and anxieties–and tremendous opportunity. I launched my practice a little over a year before the pandemic hit. My young practice was especially vulnerable to the negative impact of the shutdown. Fortunately, I had help from PECAA’s Cold Start Program.
I saw 38 percent growth in patient volume my second year, despite COVID, and I saw an additional 32 percent growth in patient volume the following year. I saw a 31 percent increase in revenue my second year, once again despite COVID, and an additional 57 percent increase in revenue the following year.
I credit the strong support I received from the Cold Start Program with helping me achieve this uninterrupted growth.
The Excitement & Potential of a Cold Start
There were no offices in my area to buy when I decided to take the leap to become a practice owner. However, even if there had been, I believe I would have chosen to take the cold-start path in light of the specific business model I had in mind. The blank canvas of a cold-start practice enabled me to create the exact business I envisioned without having to worry about redoing and rebranding.
Easy-to-Access Help When You Most Need It
The Cold Start Program is complimentary until your practice opens, free during your first six months of operation, and offers a reduced fee during your second six months of operation. There is also a quarterly incentive rebate program with some vendors that more than covers membership costs.
Joining the Cold Start Program was as simple as signing up. Membership Manager & Cold Start Advisor Jenny Wiley was then promptly in touch, asking what she could do for me. The resources of this program are endless. What I valued the most was guidance on the timeline to opening my practice, and all the things I would need to get done prior to opening our doors.
Jenny educated me on what to expect in how long it should take for me to get paid from insurance companies.
In addition, we had numerous conversations about how my practice’s performance compared to expectations for cold-start practices. Having that information allowed me to set realistic, yet meaningful, growth goals. She also introduced me to other practice owners, who were a few years more established than myself, to discuss next steps for my growing practice.
When I was having difficulty with vendor reps not returning phone calls to set up accounts, she reached out to those reps to give them a friendly nudge to contact me.
Jenny also gave me guidance on how long it should take for me to become credentialed, and was a sounding board as I contemplated the decision to cut ties with the company I had hired to do my credentialing.
Help With Even Your Toughest Challenges
Insurance billing has proved my biggest challenge, both in getting credentialed and learning the best way to submit claims for reimbursement.
PECAA has a Billing and Coding Advisor on-staff who has been able to answer any billing question we have thrown at her. Having access to her expertise has allowed me to keep billing in-house, avoiding the cost of a third-party outsource provider.
For example, she showed me how to bill co-management for cataract surgery, so I would not miss payments for post-operative visits that I am entitled to. She also helped me troubleshoot medical claims that were denied, so I could fix the mistakes and make sure the same errors did not occur again.
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Maximizing Relationships with Vendors
The relationships, and deals, you make with vendors can make or break a young practice. The Cold Start Program made sure I was well positioned to bring the best products and services–and the best experience–to my patients.
For instance, when I was looking for frame vendors to buy from, I started on PECAA’s website and went down the list, researching the frame lines that might be a good fit for my practice. The frame vendors that I use that are aligned with PECAA offer me a discount on their products. PECAA already has an established relationship with these companies, which makes getting a response when communicating with the companies much easier.
During the pandemic, PECAA provided vendors to supply member practices with personal protective equipment, and offered guidance to practice owners to help us benefit from relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program.
An Invaluable Resource to Have in Your Corner
PECAA’s Cold Start Program is a program I truly believe in and highly recommend. When embarking on the adventure of opening cold it is just nice to have one more person in your corner offering encouragement, guidance and support. That alone is invaluable.
I encourage anyone opening cold to align with PECAA early in the process, so you can fully utilize everything the Cold Start Program has to offer.
Jessica Vanek, OD, is the owner of Eyes Inc. in Millsboro, Del. To contact her: email@example.com