Some days you just may feel overwhelmed. Maybe you have an appointment book that is packed day after day. Perhaps you feel unable to address some of the issues that need work within your practice because you can’t find the time. Have you reached the point in your career where you’d like to slow down or spend more time with family? Whatever the reason, there are many things to consider when it comes time to thinking about adding an associate doctor.
First, you may want to ask yourself if you actually need an associate. You really need to understand how well your practice runs and what improvements could be made before you make the decision to bring another doctor aboard. Consider that one alternative to adding an associate is to hire another technician or staff person that could simultaneously improve patient flow. By doing so, you may avoid paying a highly compensated employee such as an optometrist and in many cases simultaneously improve other aspects of customer service within your practice.
If you look at the day-to-day operations of your office and uncover ways to streamline things and delegate, you can often find ways to see more patients within the same or fewer hours. If you can take advantage of some newly discovered time because of some changes, you can spend some time working on your practice, not just in it.
Though there are many reasons for adding an associate doctor, two common ones are covering office hours to see patients and lining up a potential future partner or buyer. One concern owners often have when adding an associate is how busy and productive the new doctor will be.
In addition to methods that staff can use to steer patients toward filling the new doctor’s schedule, having a new doctor focus on certain areas to improve practice growth is valuable. A new associate could see most of the pediatric patients, or those patients that are being treated for glaucoma. Expanding into additional areas of optometric practice, such as vision therapy, can lead to practice growth and help to more quickly fill the additional doctor’s schedule.
It can take a decent amount of time working together to see if an owner and associate are compatible for future partnership. Finding an associate that has a vested interest in the success of the business when they are just an employee can pose a challenge. In a future issue, I’ll discuss how the communication between doctors and the similarities and differences in their personalities can help create a path to successful partnership.
ERIC L. BRAN, OD, PROFESSIONAL EDITOR