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5 Tips You Shouldn’t Overlook When Starting an Optometry Practice

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Starting an optometry practice from the ground up can be the challenge of your life. It essentially means rolling up your sleeves and meeting the plethora of professional, persona, and financial challenges that comes with the task.

Regardless of the challenges, learning how to start an optometry practice and bringing your unique vision to life can be priceless. While there may be countless guides on "How to Start an Optometry Practice," most of these tools focus on the obvious aspects.

However, the following information provides helpful insight on five things you shouldn't overlook when starting an optometry practice.

Choose the Right Location when Starting an Optometry Practice

Whether you are selling cookies or high end frames, it's imperative to find a solid location. In the best case, you should find a location in an area with an underserved population and limited access to other optometry practices. At the same time, you can choose a location to create your own demand, such as:

  • Offering ocular disease management in a retirement community
  • Providing primary care in a college town
  • Offering vision therapy in a large school district

In either case, you should always ask yourself if the market is saturated or if there is substantial potential for growth.

Ditch the Paper & Invest in Electronic Health Records

When starting an optometry practice, it's vital to think about the long term and consider ways you can reduce your costs. Simply put, paper is extremely expensive and storage will quickly become an issue with limited office space.

To make matters worse, missing patient files can cause countless headaches, and there are few things more frustrating than poorly documented, illegible exam forms. As your practice grows, your patient records will be one of your more valuable assets.

As a result, it makes dollars and sense to invest in an electronic health record (EHR) system. Besides, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services' EHR has made the transition to EHRs all but mandatory.

Create Intelligent Employee Policies

Your practice will only be as good as your people, so it's imperative to hire and train the best and the brightest. However, managing your staff is arguably the most difficult part of owning and starting an optometry practice.

One tip is to use written contracts with your employees that addresses:

  • Arbitration clauses
  • Class action waivers
  • Ownership of provisions and records
  • Confidentiality clauses

You should also create an employee handbook that clearly explains office policies, such as office hours, vacation rules, overtime, and payroll schedule. Everything in your employee handbook should be compliant with your respective state's labor laws.

Make sure to include a written policy on sexual harassment because it's good for business as well as required by the Supreme Court. Anytime a problem arises, it's best to address it immediately.

Any and every counseling session you have with an employee should be documented including any consequences if the misconduct continues. Developing a smart employee policy will protect you, your practice, and your employees.

Avoid Overspending on Frame Inventory

Even though it may be enticing to sell high-end exclusive frames, this isn't feasible for most people starting an optometry practice. Subsequently, you may want to limit the number of visits from frame representatives.

You should also factor your patient demographics and location into the frames you choose for your practice. If you spend too much on high-end inventory, it could overload your frame board and burn through your much-needed working capital.

This could prevent you from investing in other areas of your practice, which may render a better return. Additionally, most high-end frames purchases are not friendly to new practices and have terms, such as:

  • Mandate a minimum yearly or quarterly number of frame purchases to maintain the account
  • Require a certain minimum purchase amount
  • Have potentially costly and inflexible exchange and return policies

Local Marketing Is Everything!

As a local business owner, you should always shop locally and take your business cards with you everywhere you go. In addition to traditional marketing, make sure your website is optimized for local searches. A few of the key ways to ensure your practice website comes up for local optometry searches is to:

  • Create social media profiles (Google+ and Facebook) profiles with pictures, correct business address, phone number, and other contact information. You can also share relevant information about your practice, community, or general eye care tips to demonstrate thought leadership for the practice.
  • Make sure your practice name, address, and phone number (NAP) are accurately listed in online directories, such as:
    • Google (will pull information from your Google+ profile)
    • Bing
    • Yahoo
    • Yelp
    • Better Business Bureau
    • Angies List

Ensure the content on your website is designed exclusively for your local audience. One way to achieve this goal is to naturally use geo modifiers and targeted keywords throughout your website.

Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments

Since 1917, Keeler has been manufacturing ophthalmic instruments and helping physician entrepreneurs with Slit Lamps, Binocular Indirects, Tonometers, and much more. When you purchase a Keeler instrument, you are purchasing over a century of experience in optics.

Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments today.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.