Expert panel shares pearls on taking risks for practice growth
ATLANTA — Ted McElroy, OD, led a panel of optometric experts during a MedPRO360 special session at this year’s SECO meeting to discuss the changing face of eye care and the necessity of calculated risks for practice growth.
“These are the iconoclasts; these are the kind of people who started saying there are different things that are happening now, and if I’m going to be part of that change I’ve got to stop clutching to the past and start building the future,” McElroy, a private practitioner and member of the Vision Source advisory board, said during his introduction.
Healio/Primary Care Optometry News was the official media partner of the MedPRO360 practice management track.
The panel comprised Tami Franklin, CPOT, VSBA, director of staff development at Vision Source; Mick Kling, OD, founder and CEO of Vision Optometry in Calif.; and Susan Keene, OD, owner of Envision Eye Care and Dry Eye Clinic in Virginia.
Keene spoke about her earliest experience buying a clinic that had largely been a refractive practice and made an immediate decision to buy a lens casting system. Unfortunately, she had not calculated the exact cost and was still paying for the system 5 years later. Her takeaway message was this: Do not make emotional decisions.
“One of the things I’ve learned about the last two decades was to use numbers and use data,” Keene said. “It’s amazing how many people don’t use data. I know exactly how many patients I have with glaucoma, with dry eye, whatever it is they need to be seen for, and so when new technology is introduced I know if I have enough patients that it will pay off to invest in that technology.”
Keene also spoke about empowering the practice team to be part of the care given in the exam room.
“They’re not just data gatherers,” she said. “Getting your staff involved in the whole process empowers them and makes them feel more important, and that leads to a better practice.”
Franklin echoed the necessity of supporting and training the practice team. She said that, in her practice, they had always wanted to be medical-driven and always have leading technology.
“The biggest thing we look back at and would have done differently was in getting the team — the entire team, leaders, staff, receptionists — to get everyone to drive that medical model,” she said. “What we didn’t know or think about was a driven approach to that training; training the entire team to understand testing and equipment. That presents challenges, but looking back we should have taken that time and put into place some defined processes for the team”
Franklin explained that having staff in the same role and providing supportive education is not only going to drive the practice but is going to make the patient feel like they had an extra level of examination and patient care because of the team approach.
“Training has to be a culture; it has to be exciting. Be a leader in your practice to deliver the best patient experience,” she said.
Kling spoke about his financial experiences, particularly the risks he took in growing his business. He said that among the challenges his practice faced was the time he spent first in finding a new location and then the expenses he had not expected.
After “jumping into this situation of a beautiful new building and renovation,” he discovered the costs he expected began to double and then triple, especially as interest rates hiked over the following years. What presented an additional challenge to closing the one location and opening the next was an ongoing approval process.
When the architect was unable to finalize the approval, he took the initiative to settle it himself with the city.
“It’s about doing everything you can to empower yourself to get over your hurdles,” Kling said. “Everything we do haw some sort of risk associated with it. In fact, not doing something involves a risk as well. One of the things that I’ve learned over the last 25 years is that everyone can be a little self-limiting, but we need to allow ourselves to think bigger and be willing to step back and examine the full picture.
McElroy concluded the panel with his personal takeaway, telling the audience that, “The best time to start something was yesterday; the next best time is now.”
Reference: McElroy T, et al. MedPRO360: Distinction or extinction: The choice is yours. SECO; March 4-10, 2020; Atlanta, Ga.