Optometry Practice Management Pearls – Vision Source

Dec 1, 2015
16 min read

Here are 20 optometry practice management pearls written by new graduate ODs.

CovalentCareers | Eyecare

This is a sponsored post by Vision Source, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎 

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The Top 20 Practice Pearls

E-mailing patients

Every single one of my patients who comes in for their comprehensive eye exam gets an e-mail from me at the end of the day. It takes me anywhere from 5min to 30 min but if you space it out throughout the day, the time burden is minimal. In the e-mail I write whatever comes to mind. Specifically I thank the patient for coming in, I chat about some life event going on in their life, and I bring it all together by telling them my practices Facebook page, blog URL and more. The goal here is to build a lasting connection. I can't tell you how many people have fell head over heels when they see that I e-mail them. I care about my patients greatly, and this is just one way I show that. -

Matthew Geller O.D.
SUNY 2014
Business Cards

At the end of each exam, I like to hand my patients a business card and say the following: "Thank you for choosing us for your eye care. Here's my card - if you have any questions or know anyone who needs eye care, please don't hesitate to let us know!" - I feel this is a very simple, personable way of keeping communication open while nicely asking for new referrals.

Ryan Corte O.D.
The Ohio State University 2012

We are all about our glasses at 4 Eyes. We make a big deal about our dispensing. We provided them with lens cleaner, cloth, a re-usable bag with our logo, and a special "treat, which varies. We tell them we want to hear about the compliments they receive on their new glasses. Randomly, we will also take a picture of them with their new glasses for our Facebook.

For our patients who refer non-family members, we will also send them a Starbucks card as a thank you. I write a personal note inside thanking them for trusting us enough to send their friends to us. I express that their referral means a lot to us. We send them usually a couple weeks after the referral so its a surprise to the patient!

Courtney Dryer OD
After Hours Care
I have personally met all the urgent care and Emergency service provides and physician assistants within a 5-10 mile radius and shared our expertise in managing ocular emergencies.
I also tell them that I'm available at all hours - when in town, of course - and never refuse referrals.
Patients who seek this care are very thankful that you could see them and invariably become long term clients.
A local urgent care facility has shared my number as 'the best eyecare provider' to all their branches in my city. So, now I have these offices about 20 miles from my practice call me over the weekend and patients travel this distance.
I understand this takes time away from family. But the investment you make in a new growing practice makes this effort 100% worthwhile.
Last weekend when I was away in the mountains hiking with my family, the ER doctor called to ask me what she should do for someone with an acid burn and had the patient see me on Monday.
Clearly this elevates the status of optometry and makes us an integral part of this medical eco system.
Keshav Bhat
NECO 2001
Sweeting the Delivery
My optician has a big bag of Ferrero Rocher® chocolates that is brought out when dispensing eyewear. We hand it to the client and also to accompanying family members. This really makes for a nice few minutes. Especially if the dispense is for a first time eyeglass dispense to a child! Parents love the fact that the kid can see and the chocolate sure brings on a big smile!
Keshav Bhat
NECO 2001
Staff Management

I am buying a practice and I have already learned some of the many benefits of having a good staff. I truly believe that if you take care of your staff they will take care of you. They spend more time with your patients than you as the Doctor ever will. They are also the face of your practice and often times the best advertisement tool you have. I believe it is impossible to have a truly successful practice with a bad staff. If you take the time to train your staff and involve them in your business, you will see growth in your practice.


Don't disregard the power of an actual letter. I got my current job by MAILING a coverletter and resume to practices in the area where I wanted to work. To my surprise, I was contacted by a couple different offices. Once employed I sent out introductory letters to other local practices introducing myself and telling them about low vision services that I can offer patients; I have since received numerous referrals. If you have a special service to offer, get the word out...even in the mail!

Alexandra Troy
ICO 2012
Think beyond OD/MD connections

Make an effort to connect with professionals other than eye doctors that provide vision services in your area. I established a good relationship with a local occupational therapy group that provides in-home therapy to my visually impaired patients. My patients have benefited from their services and I have too. The OT group connected me with their colleague who was struggling with vision care for her stroke patients. I informed her I could provide these services and after a couple consults, I am now in the process of being credentialed for hospital privileges. Take the opportunity to connect with other professionals in your community, you never know what doors they might open.

Alexandra Troy
July 3, 2014
Differentiate Yourself

With the changing scene of healthcare as well as competition from big box and online retailers, differentiating yourself can be a great way to increase your bottom line as well as providing unique services that patients cannot get elsewhere. Focus on services such as CRT lenses and other specialty contacts, vision therapy, low vision, etc. There are plenty of patients who could benefit from these specialty services; you just have to let them know that you can provide the solution for their needs.

Mandy Krug
The Ohio State University, 2012
Always Improve

You've passed all your board exams, are licensed, and credentialed on more panels you could ever imagine. School is but a fleeting memory now. For the most part, no one is watching over your back anymore because you've proven you are a perfectly capable optometrist. Don't let that be where you stop. Your patients don't want to see a perfectly capable optometrist, they want to see the best optometrist. When you start settling into whatever practice mode you find yourself in, don't become complacent. Push yourself to always improve, whether it's on the logistics of how your office runs, or brushing up on your pediatric examination skills even though you prefer geriatrics. If you find yourself just maintaining the status quo, you aren't exploring the possibilities of improvement no matter how big or small. Every attempt to improve isn't always successful, but everyday should be a day you make the effort to go above and beyond where you, your practice, your life is at that moment. Always aim to improve.

Eric AWoo
ICO 2012
First Impressions

Every patient that walks into your office is going to make a snap judgement about what they think about the practice. A huge part of this is the appearance of your reception area. The reception area can make a world of difference in the patient experience. Make the sure the furniture sets the tone for how you want your office to be perceived. A modern up to date office cannot have furniture like you used to see in the OD office you went to as a child. Art work on the walls also needs to play a role. Free posters from a rep do not have any value or place in the reception area. Having magazines to read is great but you need to make sure they are up to date and no more than 2 months old. Another nice touch is to make iPad/iPhone and mini USB chargers available to patients in case their devices are running low. A mini fridge with bottled water is always welcomed as well. A pleasant first impression and comfortable reception area can make little hiccups down the road a nonissue.

Zach Engle
SCO 2012
Age before Beauty

When entering an existing practice or when opening a new practice, it can be difficult to fill the schedule. Patients are usually not handed to you in these situations. It can take years to establish a patient base that fills the schedule. A great way to grow faster is to get involved with the elderly population. This age group is much more likely to refer others, and they are more likely to stay loyal. Many of these patients also need to be followed more frequently than annually due to the prevalence of ocular disease. Get out there and do educational presentations at your local nursing homes, assisted living, and senior centers. It's simple and benefits patients and your practice!

Alex ZemkeOD
ICO 2012
Network like it's your job, because it is...

Networking, schmoozing, connecting...whatever you want to call it, it's part of your job! Start as a student because you never know if your name will come up among our tight-knit optometry family. It can lead to referrals or job opportunities, interesting/free CE dinners, even future lecturing proposals! Optometry is innately a social profession, both to our patients as we go through and exam and also with our colleagues. As most of us new grads are "millennials" or "generation Y'ers" you automatically have social media proficiency and confidence in these online networks; upgrade to personal networking! My job search combined all of these and ironically I was interviewed and offered a position by my boss (OD's on Facebook and social networking guru Dr. Alan Glazier...his article here! http://www.newgradoptometry.com/how-to-take-risks-like-successful-optometrist/) on Skype after word of mouth and an online resume search.

Vicky Wong
Nova Southeastern University

I have been working part-time for a very successful O.D and he tracks EVERYTHING. One example is that we attach a small time card to the outside of each patients chart. On this card, we record the start and finish time for each segment of the exam as the patient is transferred from front desk, to technician, to doctor, to optician.
As a result, we have developed an incredible database of exam flow from which we are able to make wise decisions on how to best utilize new technology and personnel to optimize results in our office. Many times small tweaks in your overall office flow can lead to huge benefits; the only way to identify where to make improvements is to keep statistics.

Ohio State University 2014

We learn textbook definitions for everything in school but patients rarely follow the book, especially when it comes to eyeglass and contact lenses. It's imperative to actually listen to what your patient needs. A patient who is on the computer all day and one who drives all day will need two different things, despite both being 55 years old and having the same "textbook" ADD. Listening to the patients needs and responding to them will not only make them happy but they will sing your praises to others.

PCO 2009

Without a doubt, this newest generation of optometrists are graduating from school with the knowledge base and skill set to diagnose and manage a whole host of ocular conditions: from binocular vision conditions in kindergarteners to advanced glaucoma in the elderly, and everything in between.

That being said, if you expect to be an expert in EVERYTHING coming out of school, you're probably asking too much of yourself. One of the greatest aspects of our profession is our ability to specialize to meet the needs of our patient base. Specialization, by design, results in overall higher level patient care from the profession, as specialized doctors get the experience to become masters in their own niche.

The best ODs aren't the ones who think they can handle anything: they're the ones who are self-aware enough to know what they are and, more importantly, what they are NOT comfortable with. There will be times when it is necessary to make a referral, and you shouldn't be at all afraid to do so. If someone (an MD or a fellow OD) ever gives you attitude about a 'bad referral,' find a new doc to refer to, because there is no such thing as a bad referral. It's best to end that referral relationship and develop a new one, so that you continue to have the freedom to make clinical decisions in the best interest of your patients.

Erik Mothersbaugh OD
ICO Class of 2012
Education WOW!

One the most powerful tools I've discovered to impress your patients, get them to return, and to refer others is to "wow" them. I do this through taking the time and effort to educate them on their diagnoses from myopia and presbyopia to dry eye and glaucoma. I use a model eye to educate them on the anatomy, and often I will do a quick google search to show them pictures and videos of things like MGD. I constantly have patients telling me "no one has ever taken the time to explain that to me," and "this makes so much sense now," and "this is the most thorough exam I've ever had!" (but, not in a 2nd year optometry student 90min exam kinda way). A recent Yelp review I read on a colleague's Yelp page further emphasized the importance of patient education. They received a 1-star review in which the patient said "I came in complaining to the doctor that my eyes were tearing, he rushed through the exam, and at the end said I had dry eyes. He told me I should use artificial tears and practically shoved me out of the exam room. Dry eyes?! Wasn't he listening to me, I said my eyes were tearing, and now I'm supposed to put more tears in? This doctor is completely incompetent. I will not being going back." Of course us as optometrists all know why his dry eyes were causing tearing. A simple 30 second explanation could have turned this 1-star into a 5-star WOW!

SUNY 2013
Flattery will get you everywhere

A wise old professor in optometry school taught me two things I'll never forget. The first was a cautionary tale on interpreting statistical findings from research studies. He said "you can take a person, put one foot in a boiling pot of water, the other foot in ice cold water and use statistics to show that on average they are pretty comfortable." The other thing he taught me is "flattery will get you everywhere!" We all like being complemented and feeling good about ourselves and the decisions we make. This can start with your patients in the exam room. I often compliment people on their fashion choices, such as their shoes. It shows I'm paying attention to them. If you have a good sales optician this should also continue as the patient makes his or her way to the optical. Flattery and compliments to your patients is a great way to keep your patients happy and comfortable in your office. And, if that doesn't work, then you can invest in some pots of boiling and ice water.

SUNY 2013
The Right Opportunity

Eight months in to the acquisition of my practice from a retiring doctor, I'm still amazed at how everything just seemed to work out. My practice is just blocks down the street from my high school alma mater, in the same city I've grown up in since kindergarden. I am now responsible for the eye care of the people in a community that is truly my own.

I am not saying that the right practice has to be in your hometown. My advice, however, is that after all the calculations and market research, don't ignore your gut feelings when it comes to where and how you practice. I visited a number of potential offices and looked over the financials of many more before stumbling upon my own. I was frustrated and sometimes felt pressured by sellers. I came close to signing a Purchase Agreement and loan documents for a practice I wasn't 100% sure about. Luckily I listened to the (I like to think very reasonable) voice in my head and waited for the next opportunity. I now own a practice I am proud of and excited to come to work everyday.

As a new grad, you are at the beginning of your career. There is no need to jump into the wrong practice and try to make it work. Know how you want to practice and don't compromise because it will show in the quality of your work. The process of buying a practice will inevitably be nerve-wracking but I truly believe you will know what the right opportunity is when it pops up.

Trung Tran
SCCO 2011

About Matt Geller, OD

Dr. Matt Geller is an entrepreneur with a track record of developing successful online platforms to solve problems in the healthcare space. Matt is the co-founder and CEO of CovalentCareers and NewGradOptometry.