By April Jasper, OD, FAAO, Co-professional Editor, Women In Optometry
Administrative and regulatory requirements are draining many ODs’ enthusiasm for the profession, according to a recent Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll. In the poll, 46 percent of respondents said that if they had it to do over again, they would not chose optometry as a career. That’s a stunning percentage, and it shows that there are some deep-seated frustrations.
Even a few decades ago, practitioners didn’t have to worry so much about insurance billing and other requirements. Patients paid in cash for services provided, and regulatory and security issues were minimal.
Those days aren’t coming back. Indeed, relatively few optometrists would want to go back to the limited scope of practice of those times, either. Today, optometrists have so many options to practice the kind of optometry that they want. There are ODs who have flourishing cash-only practices. There are ODs who work in primarily medical settings or specialize in something that stokes their excitement: vision therapy, pediatrics, neuro-optometry, specialty contact lenses or even in areas outside of traditional patient care, such as academia, research or industry.
For those of us who own or manage a practice and feel that the administrative tasks are killing you, begin to figure out what you don’t like and how to remove those tasks from your daily duties. Payroll and HR issues need to be addressed, of course, but they may not need to be your daily responsibility. In my practice, for example, it was trying to keep up with human resources regulations that I wanted to remove from my task list. The rules change quickly, and I was constantly worried that I was doing something wrong. I chose to outsource all my human resources tasks to Landrum HR, a professional employer organization. The company has taken over recruiting, risk management training and payroll, as well as guiding me whenever there’s a personnel decision to make. It felt glorious to get rid of one of my biggest headaches.
Other doctors may choose to unload insurance billing or appointment scheduling or something else. Still others may decide to bring in an associate – or partner – for some aspect of the practice. If the demographics in your community are changing and more young families are moving in, you may need to start seeing more pediatric patients. But if you don’t particularly love that group of patients, it will be a strain. An associate who will build up that segment with enthusiasm can be a terrific gain.
Or the solution may be simpler. Let’s say you’re not a morning person. You really, really don’t like mornings. But you open your office at 8 a.m. Why? Are you forcing yourself into a position you don’t like? How much more pleasant would it be to open the office at 9:30 or 10 a.m. instead several days each week?
I encourage my employees to come to me, too, with issues that make them miserable. I’d much rather hear a key staff member say, “Wednesdays are insane. I’m stressed all day because of these reasons.” What a blessing it would be to alleviate the concern for that employee by scheduling him or her for fewer or no hours on Wednesdays and have a happier employee every other day.
Dr. Jasper's Recommended Reading
Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingame
Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude by Jeffrey Gitomer