Investing in Optometry Staff Increases Your Efficiency

Sep 23, 2021
6 min read
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“Invest in your staff and they’ll invest in you.”

This is a sentiment that is at the core of my office philosophy and business strategy. I realized quickly as a new optometry business owner that I cannot do it all and that I need the right staff, doing their job well, in order for me to do my job and for my office to be successful!

Let’s talk about how you can work on four key areas to invest in your staff that has the ultimate benefit of increasing efficiency and your bottom line.

1) Time & Education

When we have a new hire, we do not rush through the process of teaching them the ropes. We have a binder for each role in the office (front desk, vision therapist, pre-tester, medical biller, etc . . . ) of routine things that are expected of them and how to complete the task for the new hire to reference. This was initially time-consuming, but it has paid off immensely.

This binder starts with the most obvious things like “how to answer the phone,” to the more complex tasks like submitting insurance claims. We tried to leave no stone unturned so that there is no question on how things should be done. This allows for consistency within the practice no matter what tasks need to be completed or by who.

The process for our vision therapists is a bit more in-depth than say the pre-tester/front desk staff because they often do not have any background in the area of vision therapy. This means that not only are they learning about the office, they are also learning in-depth about eyes, vision, and visual function. We have trained three vision therapists since we have been open and this initial process takes anywhere between 6-16 weeks, depending on how quickly they learn, where both the doctors and the therapist feel confident in their skill level to see patients independently.

This is a huge setback, in terms of time and money for the office, initially, but eventually, this allows for more patients to be seen and more productivity within the office. It is important to note that this position requires constant education; we meet weekly with our vision therapists. Again, does this take the time that the doctors could be seeing patients or having admin time? Yes, BUT...

“The time spent with the therapists is worth it when it comes to the quality of care our office gives to patients.”

2) Reviews

A lot of small offices don’t take the time to do formal reviews, but it is such an important part of managing staff. As a new hire, you are on a 90-day probation period regardless of your position. This review is meant to figure out how things are going, if the job is a good fit, and how they are progressing with learning the systems of the office. Our current staff has reported back that this review was one that made them feel connected to the doctors because it was a time for them to voice how they were integrating into the office and was a time for them to be honest about how things were going.

We also do yearly reviews that give us the opportunity to sit down with each staff member to discuss things that are going well, areas that need improvement, have them set goals for themselves, and what is exactly expected of them for the coming year.

“We really try to make these reviews as in-depth as possible and challenge our staff to grow within the office and their roles.”

For example, my patient care coordinator deals a lot with record requests that often need to be notarized. This process is cumbersome getting someone in or for one of the doctors to leave to get this done. At her most recent review, she suggested that perhaps she could become a notary. This thought never crossed my mind, but how smart is this idea?! We are planning to pay for the course and test so she can handle this responsibility moving forward. Now, this ultimately will save us time and money, but my employee is also growing professionally and feels supported by us as well!

3) Benefits

There are so many job opportunities out there that there have to be perks present in order to keep employees engaged and happy. We do the little and big things: as an employer, we offer paid time off, raises based on performance, and also offer a 401K match program after they’ve been an employee for a year. We also love surprising them with random lunches, flowers, and try to do group activities outside of the office like yoga night or doing an escape room. Sometimes I think the little things pay off more than the big ones!

4) Personal Touch

We want our staff to feel like we care because we do. I want to hear about their struggles and successes, what is going on with their kids, and how their day is going. I make sure to start the day by greeting each of my staff members and make a few minutes of small talk. I always try to follow up on things we’ve talked about and really make sure they know that I care about the things that are important to them.

“We have cultivated a supportive work environment so the staff feels more like family than employees.”

Now how does this all pay off?

When an office is run chaotically or with a staff that doesn’t get along or help each other, the whole patient experience decreases and that will always negatively affect your success. By doing the exact opposite, you can ensure your optometry practice is safe, streamlined, and a setting patients will want to visit and revisit. When you spend the time to train your staff well, set clear expectations, and keep systems in place to improve efficiency, your bottom line increases and the patient experience improves!

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About Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD

Miki Lyn Zilnicki, O.D. graduated with honors from the SUNY College of Optometry in New York, receiving the VSP Excellence in Primary Care and Excellence in Vision Therapy awards. She then continued her education by completing a residency in vision …

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