NEW BUSINESS MODELS FOR A BETTER PRACTICE

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Ann Hoscheit, OD, FAAO, FAARM, the founding consultant for EyeBridge Consulting Associates ODPA in Cramerton, NC, provides patient care in Cherryville, NC, and is among the 19,000 doctors listed on the Think About Your Eyes online locator. Think About Your Eyes is a nationwide public awareness initiative promoting the importance of an annual eye exam and overall vision health. First Vision Media Group (publisher of Optometric Office) supports Think About Your Eyes as a media partner and provides space for this monthly Guest Editorial.

Optometrists wear many hats. First and foremost, we monitor and protect our patients’ vision and overall health. This is what we train for and where our passion lies. However, many optometrists are also small business owners and must face the challenges that come with that responsibility. One such challenge is finding new revenue streams for a practice.

Each year, reimbursements decrease and expenses increase. Practice owners must identify and implement opportunities to increase incremental revenue or their margins will get slimmer and slimmer. Less revenue means less money for new technology, office updates, additional staff, and ultimately the patients’ care can suffer.

There are a multitude of options when it comes to developing new revenue streams, but it is important to figure out which one(s) are right for your practice. In my opinion, the most efficient improvement in revenue comes from increasing direct payment from patients (cash). How might this work? Our office completes a “payer matrix” each year to measure reimbursement from vision plans and medical insurance providers and then contacts the lowest payers to make an attempt to improve their reimbursements. This process doesn’t always yield positive outcomes.

As a result, we started a long-term plan to discontinue vision plans. Each year, we dropped a few of the lower reimbursing vision plans and began offering our patients an alternative. For a nominal enrollment fee, patients can receive their care and materials for special savings. This allows us to reduce expenses (for example, calling to verify benefits, file claims, work denials, balance bill patients, etc.) which translates into savings for patients. (A word of caution, programs such as this must comply with managed care rules and guidelines.)

Another new revenue stream option to consider relates to my current project, developing a business model for a concierge practice. This will feature two options””membership model and fee-for-service model. Patients may self-refer or be referred primarily for ocular surface/dry eye management. This practice will not accept insurance, but I believe it will be successful, particularly with ODs who have a very loyal following and excellent community reputation.

Ultimately, revenue opportunities exist throughout our practices, but the first step begins with an annual eye exam. While many practices’ schedules are full, there is always room for improvement, and it starts with getting the message out to patients that an eye exam needs to be a yearly event. There is profound value in Think About Your Eyes and its message of the importance of annual eye exams for the profession as a whole. Supporting this campaign as an optometrist is an important step in continued success for practices.

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