Published in Non-Clinical

Why ODs Should Hire a Practice Management Consulting Group

This is editorially independent content
11 min read
Are you becoming overwhelmed by everything it takes to run a practice? Do you feel like OD school should have done more than glance over the ins-and-outs of business ownership? You're not alone. Practice management groups are here to help you reach success.
Why ODs Should Hire a Practice Management Consulting Group
The business of optometry is becoming more and more complex every day. From changing codes and fees to vertically integrated companies moving into the marketplace, it can be a difficult and overwhelming picture for a new graduate trying to enter the private practice landscape. Optometry practice management consultants exist to help navigate the complexity and confusion. They understand ways to optimize profitability and efficiency in multiple different modalities. They'll provide a more clear path to practice management success, bringing an immense amount of experience in the profession.

What are management consulting groups?

Practice management consultants can be a game changer for a practice if they use them wisely and heed their advice. Most people see huge growth when they genuinely listen to the consultants. The initial investment pays dividends for years to come. However, some people cringe when you mention the word “consultant.” Most often, this is because people don’t know how to effectively utilize one. Some doctors hire a consultant thinking they will do all of the work for them, but this really isn’t the case. The group will tell you the steps to take to maximize your business. But, it is your responsibility to follow through. However, some consultants will do the work for you, but as their involvement increases so does the cost.
Consulting groups take their collective experience and help you create a game plan for growth in your practice. Each of their techniques has a consistent history of success. These methods are carefully tailored to each individual owner and office setting.

So what can practice management consultants help you with?

Office efficiency

Increasing efficiency is a key way to promote advancement, sometimes without making significantly large investments. From the check in process to the sale of glasses, consulting groups are able to effectively review your processes. They also help to create plans to optimize what you are already doing. For instance, how warmly your patient is greeted, how methodically they flow through your office, and how seamless the contact lens buying process is all impact your bottom line.

Optical strategies

With clinical skills to learn and boards to pass, generating optical revenue does not top the priority list of things to learn in optometry school. Then comes the transition from studying whiteboards to frame boards. You’ll quickly learn just how important managing and maximizing an optical is to your business. This is another area where consultants can really shine. From merchandising to pricing, their years of expertise can add value to your frame inventory. More importantly, they add to your profits. Even more so, the optical market continues to heat up with each day, bringing more choices to consumers and more competition to owners. Let them help you by keeping your prescriptions from walking out the door and helping you to stand out.

Staff training & education

Close your eyes and imagine the dream office you will open one day (or just opened ☺). That shiny new Optomap you purchased? You won’t take many pictures without your front desk coordinator educating your patients on the importance when they check-in. Your newly integrated, automated exam room equipment? Your patients won’t notice the quality if there is evidence of the last patient left over on the slit lamp chin rest. A quality staff is imperative to practice success, and in this case quality means well-trained, educated, and committed.
Many of the practice management consulting groups recognize the pivotal role your employees will have in building the high-level practice of your dreams, so many incorporate this into their training protocols. They include modules for staff to complete to better engage the team member in the business. Additionally, educational plans help each individual employee hone the skills needed to reach their personal potential.

Billing & coding

This is a big topic a lot of us need assistance with. Even when we think we are doing it the best way, many times we are leaving money on the table. No matter when you graduated, billing and coding is an area we can all improve in. It is ever-changing in complexity and usually not taught in schools. Beyond the task itself, a consultant can evaluate who in your office should be doing the billing, identify the costly mistakes, and even help you navigate your options for outsourcing the task, should that be the most cost-effective option. Does just thinking about these choices overwhelm you? With their expertise, a business management consultant can advise you on what is the best route for your office and relieve some of this anxiety along the way.
These are just a few of the many daily things that an OD has to consider in his or her practice. That is why practice management consultants exist. They recognize how hard it is to handle all of this alone and they want to help you find a route to success. Sometimes you need help taking a step back from your practice (or the practice you want to have) looking from a bird’s eye view of everything. This can help you break things down to more efficiently plan and implement strategies in many areas at once. Working with a practice management consultant can help you to develop greater confidence and create more success in the future. Learn what needs to be done moving forward.
It is similar to when you were studying for the NBEO exam. You have the knowledge available from years of optometry school, but it can be tough to find the best way to make it through all the material and create a study plan that works. That is why study platforms like KMK help organize and establish a specific study plan that will lead to passing the exams. The same is true when you are in practice. It is great to have groups and individuals available to help organize all of the unique tasks that have to be managed on a daily basis in your practice.

What to look for in a practice management group?

First, you need to do a little self-analysis to truly understand if a practice management consulting group is right for you. Are you willing and able to admit that you need help and/or you may be able to do things better? Where do you feel less confident or feel that you could use some assistance? Remember, they will guide you to where you need to be but it will ultimately be up to you to take the steps. You need to be ready and willing to listen, even if this means letting go of the reins a bit.
Make sure to look for references from other docs who have used the service in the past so that you can get some real feedback on how the process worked. While building a relationship with your consultant is important, this will come with time and doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do proper vetting before letting them into your practice. You will be investing a significant amount of money for their advice and it is best to ensure that the group you choose has a track record of success.

Larger firms:

These firms provide extensive, full-service consulting services for their clients. Being the biggest, they can provide a more comprehensive experience because their wealth of knowledge across their consultants is extensive. Additionally, they offer different levels of involvement, from do-it-yourself instructions to taking on most of the heavy lifting for you.

Small groups and individuals:

Some of the smaller groups have really nice specialties that they have extensive expertise in. They can be really helpful when you want someone who is an expert in a specific topic you need help with. One great advantage of a smaller group or individual is the personalized attention and care that you receive.

Alliances with included consulting:

These practice alliances include some aspect of practice management consulting with their membership. They’re not all-encompassing, but can save you a lot of time and money if you just have quick questions you need help with and not something more comprehensive.

Now the real question, how much does a consultant cost?

There is a gamut of different options out there, all with different pricing strategies. Many times it will depend on the extent of involvement and the depth of your needs. Most of the time it works similarly to a CPA or attorney fees. One could agree to a specific amount of hours of advice at an agreed upon hourly rate. Or, you could agree to a larger all-encompassing consulting agreement that will provide you nearly unlimited help for an agreed upon time period. In most cases the investment with a practice management consulting group is worth it, as long as you follow their advice.

When is it time to call a practice management consulting group?

Review your practice and look at the areas where you could use some assistance. If you compare your practice to the key metric benchmarks and you aren’t where you want to be, it is time to reach out.
Not all optometry practice consulting groups are created equally, and not all groups work in the same way. Is it just your optical purchasing you seem to falling short with? Some groups will provide “a la carte services” or short-term help in a specific area that you request. Are you opening your business cold? There are also groups that provide “full service” where you can get advice all the way from the very beginning of market analysis, to opening and implementation and even through the first year or more of being in business.
No matter where you are in your practice journey, there is likely a management consulting group that can meet you where you are and help propel you to the next chapter. Whether you just need some help finding better strategies to prevent your prescriptions from walking out the door, or if you need a full on re-branding and/or cold start plan, a consulting group can help you meet your needs. Just don’t wait until you are so deep in the weeds that you can’t ask for help.
Erick Henderson, OD, FAAO
About Erick Henderson, OD, FAAO

Erick Henderson is a 2017 graduate of SCO and currently practices in Pittsburgh, PA. While at SCO, Erick served as the President of the AOSA and is currently very active with the Pennsylvania Optometric Association. His practice focus is specialty contact lenses and dry eye treatment. Outside of the office he is a lecturer/consultant for Alcon and part of the Educational Consultant team with Valley Contax. Dr. Henderson also serves on the board of the Lamu Center of Public Health, a non-profit operating a free preventative healthcare clinic in Lamu, Kenya.

Erick Henderson, OD, FAAO
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