Ophthalmologists in the United States earned $366k on average in 2019, which was above the middle earners for all physician specialties, according to the Medscape Ophthalmologist Compensation Report. Owning your own ophthalmology practice comes with many attractive benefits, and the potential to earn such a high income is just one of them.
Despite the rewards, it can be extremely challenging for ophthalmology practice owners to balance the everyday challenges of practice management with providing top-quality medical services. Issues with things such as internal communication, hiring and supervising employees, providing fair compensation, and much more can act as roadblocks and inhibit the growth and success of your practice.
Although you have a medical degree under your belt, you probably don’t have all the training and resources you’ll need to run an ophthalmology practice smoothly on your own, especially if you’re just starting out or looking for ophthalmology practices for sale. This guide to ophthalmology practice management will help point you in the right direction, assemble the best possible team, choose the best practice management tools, and position you for success. Let’s get started!
A Look Into Ophthalmology Private Practice Management
Ophthalmology practice management requires a wide range of skills and knowledge beyond a medical degree. Some of the key skills you’ll need to run a successful practice include: business skills, clear communication, strong leadership and decision making skills, the ability to motivate your team, smart delegation of roles and responsibilities, and marketing skills to help your practice grow.
Of course, you don’t have to master all these skills and manage your practice all on your own; you can assemble a capable team, set clear roles, and delegate responsibilities to allow you to focus more on practicing ophthalmology. Alternatively, you can also outsource responsibilities if your team is not able to handle them in-house. Some of the key roles that contribute to ophthalmology practice management include:
- Owner/Physician: Though your primary responsibility as a physician is to provide top-quality care to your patients, if you own your own practice, you’ll also need to oversee the management and help “steer the ship” in the right direction.
- Office Manager/Administrator: Many physicians hire a skilled Office Manager or Administrator to handle the bulk of practice management responsibilities, including tasks such as: paying bills, preparing payroll, recruiting and supervising staff, obtaining staff benefits and insurance, negotiating contracts with vendors, staying up-to-date on government regulations, preparing productivity reports, acting as the compliance officer, and more.
- Front Desk/Receptionist: This person will act as the face of your practice, so they should have stellar customer service skills. Typical duties include things such as scheduling appointments, welcoming and checking in clients, prepping charts, maintaining accurate records, triaging patient concerns, and other similar tasks.
- Billing & Coding: Having someone on your team specifically trained in ophthalmic billing and coding is extremely important, as under-billing or incorrect coding can trigger serious ramifications for your optometry practice, from financial audits, to expensive fines, to charges of fraud and other criminal consequences. Because medical billing codes are frequently updated, this person must have access to regular training and support resources.
- Ophthalmic Technicians: Ophthalmic technicians play a supporting role to physicians, performing initial prep work and diagnostic tests on patients, assisting with in-office procedures, and ensuring supplies are stocked and instruments are sterilized.
- Ophthalmology Practice Consultants: Not all responsibilities must be kept in-house. Many practices choose to outsource some practice management duties or consult with ophthalmology practice advisors when internal skills or knowledge are missing.
Hiring the Right Ophthalmology Practice Manager
As you probably gleaned from the section above, hiring a capable office manager or administrator is one of the best ways to set your practice up for success. Ideally, you’ll find someone who can step in and fill any gaps in your own management skills.
Generally speaking, when recruiting an office manager, you’ll want to look for someone with the following skills and characteristics:
- Several years of relevant experience in an optometric or ophthalmic setting.
- Effective time management in order to handle all the moving parts of the position.
- Highly detail-oriented and organized.
- Good with people – able to communicate clearly, delegate effectively, and motivate others on the team.
- Self-motivated and passionate about helping your practice succeed and grow.
- Familiarity with any software your practice might rely on.
These are just a few generic skills and qualities to look for. The right person for your practice will also align with your specific values, culture, and goals.
Choosing the Best Ophthalmology Practice Management System
Practice management software is a valuable tool that can help your team, particularly your office manager/administrator, stay organized, and on top of things. Choosing a top-rated practice management system specifically designed for ophthalmologists is a smart investment that can enhance your overall practice management.
Some of the most popular software systems in the field of ophthalmology include the following:
- CureMD’s Practice Management Software: This software is a complete, web-based practice management solution that streamlines clinical, administrative, and financial operations. It can help your practice increase reimbursements, improve overall efficiency, stay ahead of compliance requirements, and much more.
- Modernizing Medicine’s Modmed BOOST: Modmed® BOOST is an all-in-one system that combines practice management technology and business operations services to help your entire practice run more smoothly. This software works seamlessly alongside Modern Medicine’s Electronic Medical Assistant® (EMA™) for ophthalmology.
- Medflow’s My Vision Express: This software combines Optical Point-of-Sale, Project Management (PM), Electronic Health Record (EHR), Patient Engagement, Vision & Medical Billing, and Reporting solutions into one comprehensive system. With PM features like demographic and insurance information, prescription history, health records, appointments, and order history, your team will be able to manage patient records as effectively and accurately as possible.
- EyeMD EMR Practice Management: EyeMD specializes in providing solutions for ophthalmologists. This software is a fully-integrated billing and real-time claims management system that automates accounts receivables management and produces extensive reports to help ophthalmologists better manage their practices.
- Nextech Ophthalmology: This PM software includes fast scheduling tools to maximize patient volume and physician productivity and an electronic billing system to improve practice profitability and efficiency.
In order to ensure you choose the best software to aid your practice management, it’s a good idea to talk to other ophthalmologists and seek their recommendations.
Tips for Ophthalmology Private Practice Success
Once you have a skilled team assembled and the right systems in place, you can get on to managing your practice and making it the best that it can be. Below are some general practice management tips that will help your practice grow and flourish:
- Conduct Regular Strategic Planning: You should set goals for your practice and make sure that everyone on your team is working together to achieve them. Make sure the goals you set are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). But keep in mind, just setting goals isn’t enough on its own; you need to create a strategic plan that will guide you towards achieving those goals and keep you on track.
- Establish Operational Guidelines: Putting guidelines in place can help improve your patient care and operations. First and foremost, be sure your team is aware of any relevant AOA Optometric Clinical Practice Guidelines. It’s also a good idea to develop additional guidelines and/or procedures related to your operations to give your team a more complete set of guidelines to follow.
- Create a Detailed Practice Budget: A budget is the foundational framework for your practice’s finances. Surprisingly, studies show that less than 20% of large optometric practices have a formal practice budget. Creating a detailed budget will help set you ahead of your competitors and maintain a sufficient profit margin, especially if you do so alongside an ophthalmology business advisor.
- Don’t Forget About the Power of Marketing: In the modern business world, your online presence and branding are two of the most important aspects to securing new patients. In fact, 92% of healthcare consumers aged 18-34 said they go online for research before a call or in-person visit. To get started, you should develop a clear and consistent brand and establish a 1-year and 5-year marketing plan. If you’re not sure how to go about this, seek out ophthalmology marketing support or outsource your marketing completely.
- Focus on Patient Engagement: You should do everything you can to engage and educate your patients before, during, and after the procedure produces results. Positive patient reviews and referrals are extremely valuable and can really help grow your practice.
- Invest in New Technology: In order to continue providing the best possible patient care, you need to make sure your team stays up-to-date with the latest technologies and techniques. Be sure to work regular training and equipment upgrades into your strategic plan and budget.
- Network With Other Physicians: The power of networking cannot be overstated. Networking with other eye care professionals will help you find mentors, know where to go for guidance, learn from others in the industry, and feel more supported in your journey as the owner of a private practice. You can also establish referral networks to help reach new patients.
- When in Doubt, Consult With Experts: Remember, you don’t have to go at it all alone! There are countless resources and support systems available to help your practice thrive. Ophthalmology consulting can help you conduct a practice assessment, review your performance indicators, complete a profit and loss analysis, audit and improve your billing and coding procedures, and much more. It’s an invaluable resource that will help you continually learn, grow, and improve.
Broaden Your Network With the Best Ophthalmology Practice Consultants
There is, of course, much more that goes into running your own practice, but we hope that these tips help you get started and know where to turn for support along the way.
If you’re feeling at all overwhelmed, consider joining PECAA, a growing community of independent eye care professionals committed to growing our practices together. As a member of PECAA, you’ll have access to an unrivaled toolbox of resources to help grow your business as well as exclusive and customized consulting from our team of experts to set you up for success. On top of all that, you can earn substantial discounts and rebates through our group buying power and vetted vendor partnerships.
Join today and you’ll be well on your way to seamless ophthalmology practice management!