By Brandi McGraw, OD,
and Matthew McGraw, OD
Oct. 21, 2020
A cold start practice is a challenging undertaking in which the odds are stacked against you. With so much competition from online eyewear retailers and corporate-owned chains, the owners of practices started from scratch need as much help as they can get. Fortunately, we found just the help we needed to successfully launch our cold start practice.
Immediate Access to Invaluable Resources
The PECAA Cold Start Program was a no-brainer for us. There is no immediate membership or financial obligation, and you gain immediate access to PECAA’s wealth of knowledge, guidance, education, network of members and vendor relationships.
The instant support from PECAA’s staff was amazing. We received vendor recommendations tailored to our needs during one of our first calls. Financial and coding advice were covered in other calls. In addition, checklists, timelines and check-ins helped keep us on task. It always felt, and continues to feel, like a respectful, professional support system without feeling like a sales pitch or obligation.
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. The guidance and discounts we received prior to opening has probably covered the first five years of PECAA membership fees. There is also a quarterly incentive rebate program with some vendors that more than covers membership costs.
The Resources You Need to Staff Up
We thought we understood the eyecare needs in our area, so a huge concern was becoming too busy too fast without time to properly equip and empower our staff. PECAA made our staffing decisions and training so simple.
As we are located in a rural area in New Mexico, the likelihood of hiring experienced eyecare people was slim, so we hired personalities and trained from novice skill levels. We were able to access employee handbook resources, salary surveys and other administrative resources through the Cold Start Program. PECAA’s new employee videos are well done and made the training less daunting. We love that in addition to job roles, the videos cover medical terminology and logistical considerations that are not always addressed with employees from day one.
PECAA’s vendor relationships also made staff training smoother. We had vetted vendors to train on phones, scheduling, security and other essentials. Using one of PECAA’s lens lab partners was great because we had access to optical training. This was a huge added value since none of our employees had optical experience.
A Boost Equipping Your Office
Given the amount of equipment needed to operate a clinic for two doctors, and that our build-out/renovation for our building was substantial, most of our equipment is used. However, PECAA’s industry partners were helpful when we decided to purchase an OCT. Having this equipment available in our office from the start has helped our image and branding within the community as a medical practice, not just another optical shop, and has allowed us to market ourselves to local primary care providers as a resource for annual monitoring of diabetics and other patients.
In the next several months we plan to draw on PECAA’s industry resources again as some of our used equipment is in need of replacing, and PECAA has partners that can provide fair pricing on the updated equipment we will require to continue to progress as a practice.
Learn More About Resources for ODs
Help Forging Relationships with Frame Vendors
Many of our frame vendor relationships are through PECAA. The organization’s web site is so well organized that it is easy to research vendors and how to set up accounts with those vendors. We love that there is such a wide range of vendor options. This variety came in handy in helping us serve our contact lens patients. Our first contact lens vendor choice was not a good fit for us, but PECAA has multiple contact lens vendor options, so we were able to easily research and find a better fit.
The Right Help Makes All the Difference
Despite this being such a strange first year, we celebrated our one-year anniversary in mid-September and saw over 3,000 patients in 2020. We’re seeing about 100 patients per week, still largely new comprehensive exams, and we are booked out 6-8 weeks. We only have a few weeks of comparative data, and it’s showing an over 300 percent increase in exams. We would expect that trend to continue based on increasing appointment requests. Since May, we are operating on a schedule best described as a 1.25 doctor schedule, so we also expect growth as remote learning and exam metering restrictions can safely be eased.
A large part of that success is thanks to the support we received from the Cold Start Program. Combined with our hard work, the resources provided by this program primed us for a strong first year.