How to find the best technology for your practice

This consultant provides advice on identifying wise purchases and efficiently implementing them.

Upgrading your practice with the latest and greatest clinical technology is exciting, but it is also hard work.

As a practice development consultant, I have worked with far too many practice owners who rush to onboard the “latest and greatest” equipment without taking measured steps to ensure a successful integration and long-term profitability. Often, I am called in to help a practice reassess and reprioritize its approach to technology after damage is done and bottom lines are negatively affected.

Not surprisingly, I prefer partnering with practices who are interested in acquiring technology and understand that due diligence today yields dividends tomorrow. Whether you are scouting technology, doing return on investment (ROI) and profitability calculations, or diverting practice resources to bringing the technology onboard, it is critical to consider the finer points beyond sticker price, fixed monthly costs and practice downtime when determining if a piece of equipment or software is right for your practice. Here are some things to keep in mind.

First, assess needs, constraints

Before you begin shopping around, take a step back and honestly assess your practice’s needs and constraints. Do you already have real demand for the product in your patient population, or are you acquiring the product before the need for it exists?

Bryan M. Rogoff

For instance, let us assume that your general practice wants to start running more glaucoma tests or OCT scans because they are relatively quick and profitable. Do you already see (and refer) enough patients with glaucoma or retinal disease to make your investment worthwhile, or are you acquiring a product in the hopes of building around it? The time, effort and practice downtime required to retool your practice flow is likely only worth it if your current demographics make sense; otherwise, you’ll need a considerable amount of cash to compensate via costly patient marketing pushes.

Another important up-front consideration is your practice size and staff. How much “real estate” will this technology demand in your practice? If a device is going to help build your practice and generate revenue, it needs to be right-sized; a large piece of equipment in a small practice can end up demanding more staff resources and yield lower ROI than the same equipment in a larger practice with more resources.

Next, crunch the numbers

Assuming your technology of interest makes sense from needs and constraints standpoints, it is time to crunch the numbers around ROI and ensure your software or device options will prove profitable.

First, assess each product’s hard and soft ROI. Hard ROI, such as revenue from billing and reduced patient wait times, is easy enough to scope and understand. Soft ROI is slightly more intangible and usually includes ROI associated with a better patient experience (and subsequently, retention) and practice-building. If you practice in an area where patients expect a top-of-the-line experience, keeping your technology up-to-date can inspire confidence, strengthen relationships and help you make conversions at your dispensary or optical shop.

Next, be sure to take a comprehensive approach when you are tallying up variable costs. Shipping, staff training and even increased utility bills are all worth considering when scoping out a product’s long-term financial impact. Staff training is especially important, as the practice downtime associated with getting a product up-and-running is money out of your pocket.

Features, attributes

Once you have determined product options that make sense financially, you are tasked with choosing the product that fits your practice best. This is never a one-size-fits-all situation, as each practice’s needs are different, and you should look for the following features and attributes.

Interoperability. Your technology of choice should integrate easily and effectively with complementary technologies and products. For example, if you are purchasing an automated phoropter system, you should ensure that it integrates with your electronic medical record software, resident lensmeter and autorefractor to avoid the re-work (and possible transcription errors) associated with manually entering information into a patient’s health record.

Ease of use and efficiency. Your technology of choice should save your practice time and make your staff’s jobs easier. Human resources are a large operational burden in most, if not all, practices; finding ways to make tasks easier or faster is an excellent way to realize a return on your investment. If your prospective technology is powerful but difficult to operate, look for a competitor offering a more user-friendly experience.

Footprint. Your technology of choice should pack the most “punch” in as little space as possible. Every square foot saved in your practice is a square foot you can reserve for additional revenue-generating activities.

Vendor reputation. Your technology of choice should be backed by firm, user-friendly terms of service offered by a company with a positive reputation. Ask your peers and colleagues which companies provided them with positive experiences and honored their word – both at the point of sale and beyond. At the end of the day, do business with people you trust.

Considering the above, two products I frequently recommend to optometrists seeking broad, impactful efficiencies include automated vision testing systems, such as the CV-5000S by Topcon, and visual field technology systems, such as the Humphrey HFA3 860, Zeiss. With a variety of good options available, it is important for clinicians to realize that recent technological innovation in automated refraction and visual field assessment cuts down on inefficiencies in the lane considerably, and contemporary solutions provide high ease-of-use and interoperability

Time to implement

Once you have done your research and have chosen a product, the real work begins: implementation and the practice downtime associated with getting your staff trained and ready to execute.

Frankly, there is never a good time to disrupt the flow of the office. I have worked with many practices who, frightened by lost revenue, try to cram training into an intense few days so they can get back to seeing patients as quickly as possible. It is imperative that you understand that trying to rush this process is robbing Peter to pay Paul. If your staff is not adequately trained on a product’s use, the accumulating mistakes, inefficiencies and slow-downs you will experience will hurt you far more than a week of reduced patient volume.

Also consider that people – specifically, your staff – are averse to change. When it comes time to implement and train, products with well-designed, intuitive, user-friendly user interfaces will reduce headaches and get you back to full speed much faster. Again, it is just as important to look at ease-of-use as raw power or bells and whistles.

Finding and implementing technology is a large, complex task with huge potential upsides – and undeniably, serious risks. Taking the requisite time to investigate all aspects of a product’s impact on your practice – including on your financials, operations, and patient and practice quality-of-life – is critically important. Although it might seem like a distraction from your immediate revenue-generating activities today, approaching the process with a patient, deliberate mindset is worth the time and effort for years to come.

Disclosure: Rogoff reports he has served as a speaker and consultant for Topcon Medical Systems, for which he has received consulting fees.

Upgrading your practice with the latest and greatest clinical technology is exciting, but it is also hard work.

As a practice development consultant, I have worked with far too many practice owners who rush to onboard the “latest and greatest” equipment without taking measured steps to ensure a successful integration and long-term profitability. Often, I am called in to help a practice reassess and reprioritize its approach to technology after damage is done and bottom lines are negatively affected.

Not surprisingly, I prefer partnering with practices who are interested in acquiring technology and understand that due diligence today yields dividends tomorrow. Whether you are scouting technology, doing return on investment (ROI) and profitability calculations, or diverting practice resources to bringing the technology onboard, it is critical to consider the finer points beyond sticker price, fixed monthly costs and practice downtime when determining if a piece of equipment or software is right for your practice. Here are some things to keep in mind.

First, assess needs, constraints

Before you begin shopping around, take a step back and honestly assess your practice’s needs and constraints. Do you already have real demand for the product in your patient population, or are you acquiring the product before the need for it exists?

Bryan M. Rogoff

For instance, let us assume that your general practice wants to start running more glaucoma tests or OCT scans because they are relatively quick and profitable. Do you already see (and refer) enough patients with glaucoma or retinal disease to make your investment worthwhile, or are you acquiring a product in the hopes of building around it? The time, effort and practice downtime required to retool your practice flow is likely only worth it if your current demographics make sense; otherwise, you’ll need a considerable amount of cash to compensate via costly patient marketing pushes.

Another important up-front consideration is your practice size and staff. How much “real estate” will this technology demand in your practice? If a device is going to help build your practice and generate revenue, it needs to be right-sized; a large piece of equipment in a small practice can end up demanding more staff resources and yield lower ROI than the same equipment in a larger practice with more resources.

Next, crunch the numbers

Assuming your technology of interest makes sense from needs and constraints standpoints, it is time to crunch the numbers around ROI and ensure your software or device options will prove profitable.

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First, assess each product’s hard and soft ROI. Hard ROI, such as revenue from billing and reduced patient wait times, is easy enough to scope and understand. Soft ROI is slightly more intangible and usually includes ROI associated with a better patient experience (and subsequently, retention) and practice-building. If you practice in an area where patients expect a top-of-the-line experience, keeping your technology up-to-date can inspire confidence, strengthen relationships and help you make conversions at your dispensary or optical shop.

Next, be sure to take a comprehensive approach when you are tallying up variable costs. Shipping, staff training and even increased utility bills are all worth considering when scoping out a product’s long-term financial impact. Staff training is especially important, as the practice downtime associated with getting a product up-and-running is money out of your pocket.

Features, attributes

Once you have determined product options that make sense financially, you are tasked with choosing the product that fits your practice best. This is never a one-size-fits-all situation, as each practice’s needs are different, and you should look for the following features and attributes.

Interoperability. Your technology of choice should integrate easily and effectively with complementary technologies and products. For example, if you are purchasing an automated phoropter system, you should ensure that it integrates with your electronic medical record software, resident lensmeter and autorefractor to avoid the re-work (and possible transcription errors) associated with manually entering information into a patient’s health record.

Ease of use and efficiency. Your technology of choice should save your practice time and make your staff’s jobs easier. Human resources are a large operational burden in most, if not all, practices; finding ways to make tasks easier or faster is an excellent way to realize a return on your investment. If your prospective technology is powerful but difficult to operate, look for a competitor offering a more user-friendly experience.

Footprint. Your technology of choice should pack the most “punch” in as little space as possible. Every square foot saved in your practice is a square foot you can reserve for additional revenue-generating activities.

Vendor reputation. Your technology of choice should be backed by firm, user-friendly terms of service offered by a company with a positive reputation. Ask your peers and colleagues which companies provided them with positive experiences and honored their word – both at the point of sale and beyond. At the end of the day, do business with people you trust.

Considering the above, two products I frequently recommend to optometrists seeking broad, impactful efficiencies include automated vision testing systems, such as the CV-5000S by Topcon, and visual field technology systems, such as the Humphrey HFA3 860, Zeiss. With a variety of good options available, it is important for clinicians to realize that recent technological innovation in automated refraction and visual field assessment cuts down on inefficiencies in the lane considerably, and contemporary solutions provide high ease-of-use and interoperability

PAGE BREAK

Time to implement

Once you have done your research and have chosen a product, the real work begins: implementation and the practice downtime associated with getting your staff trained and ready to execute.

Frankly, there is never a good time to disrupt the flow of the office. I have worked with many practices who, frightened by lost revenue, try to cram training into an intense few days so they can get back to seeing patients as quickly as possible. It is imperative that you understand that trying to rush this process is robbing Peter to pay Paul. If your staff is not adequately trained on a product’s use, the accumulating mistakes, inefficiencies and slow-downs you will experience will hurt you far more than a week of reduced patient volume.

Also consider that people – specifically, your staff – are averse to change. When it comes time to implement and train, products with well-designed, intuitive, user-friendly user interfaces will reduce headaches and get you back to full speed much faster. Again, it is just as important to look at ease-of-use as raw power or bells and whistles.

Finding and implementing technology is a large, complex task with huge potential upsides – and undeniably, serious risks. Taking the requisite time to investigate all aspects of a product’s impact on your practice – including on your financials, operations, and patient and practice quality-of-life – is critically important. Although it might seem like a distraction from your immediate revenue-generating activities today, approaching the process with a patient, deliberate mindset is worth the time and effort for years to come.

Disclosure: Rogoff reports he has served as a speaker and consultant for Topcon Medical Systems, for which he has received consulting fees.