By Linda Hardy, LDO-GA, CPOT, COA

2017 is over, now it is time for optical offices to start checking their numbers. Was there an increase in revenue? Are we purchasing the best frames for the office location? Is the lab you use overpriced? Is the office itself over or under priced on fees? All of these are valid questions and to be evaluated quickly. The same applies to the doctor’s office. We are all trying to build our practices. What can we do to make it easier?

First and foremost- Keep track of the patient count. Whether it is a week to week count, or a day to day count, know your numbers. Are you seeing more patients this year than last? If not, how can this increase?

  1. Recalls- You can make actual calls to patients to remind them it is time for their exam. Sending postcards is another efficient recall method. The quickest and least expensive way is through emails and text messages.

  2. Online Appointments- Having a program so patients can schedule their own appointments is convenient. Online appointment scheduling allows those 2nd and 3rd shift workers to make appointments that fit their schedules. Convenience means a lot to patients. It shows that your office understands that patients’ time is valuable.

  3. Health Fairs- This is a fun and easy way to make connections in the community and with companies. Having an eye catching and interactive table will attract prospective patients. Make sure the office employees are knowledgeable with insurances, testing performed at your office, and always take a laptop or tablet to schedule appointments on sight.

  4. Advertising- Be careful, advertising can be costly. Even a short television or radio Ad can be expensive. Be sure it is worth it. If not, consider advertising with local school athletics or small papers. The advertisement will still get many views, and locals love seeing an investment into the community.

  5. What makes your office special? Do you have special testing equipment such as Humphrey Visual Field, OCT/GDX or Optomap? Let patients know. People love innovative technology. You will get many return patients and several new patients just by informing them how much better an eye exam they will have at your location.

  6. Doctors should utilize the unique skills possessed by their staff members. For example, if you have a contact lens technician who is fantastic at fitting contacts, let them do it. Not only will it reduce the time the doctor spends on the exam, it fosters a close relationship between patient and staff.

Once you can keep an accurate count of patients, now it is time to look at fees. Is your doctor’s office competitive with other offices in the area? Make small adjustments to charges. You never want to overwhelm recurrent patients with a significant increase in fees, especially those who are self-paying. Should your office accept more insurance plans, or even perhaps fewer insurance plans if there are one or two that do not reimburse well? Remember, becoming a new insurance provider can take months. Although this will not give you a quick increase in patient count, in the end, it will provide you with multiple new patients.

2018 is the year to make your practice the best it has ever been. It will take organization and teamwork, but will lead to an increase in the number of patients seen and the amount of revenue coming into the office. And last, doctors should remember to reward their employees. A special lunch or even a bonus shows your staff that you appreciate their contributions. Your staff keeps the wheels turning in the office and can make or break it. Build and educate your team. It will keep them interested and give them job satisfaction.