Your early career in ophthalmology can be an overwhelming experience. I have often asked myself whether I was truly succeeding or at least setting myself up for success. I worked hard during residency and fellowship and felt like that should mean I would get this whole job thing “right.” WRONG!
In the last year, I have discovered that the real world of ophthalmology includes so much more than just the clinical aspects of ophthalmology. You have to have a sound foundation of ophthalmic knowledge and skill while mastering billing, coding, marketing, networking, contracting, etc.
So how do you prepare for success? The answer is five-fold:
- Acknowledge that all of this needs to be done.
- Design a plan on how to get it done.
- Find the right resources to help you.
- Get it done.
- Periodically reassess your plans and make adjustments to optimize your success.
I had already completed the first task, but to check the second and third ones off my list, I decided to attend the YO Program at the Annual Meeting.
Dr. Abbott addresses YOs.
About the YO Program
The Academy offers many resources to young ophthalmologists to set a foundation for an excellent career. One resource that I have found particularly helpful is the YO Program at the Annual Meeting, where I gained invaluable information, advice and resources. The YO Program is especially designed for residents, fellows and those in their first few years of practice. It focuses on the non-ophthalmic aspects of your career.
This year, the program focused on everything from billing and coding to ergonomics. Below are a few of my highlights from the YO Program in Orlando.
Andrew Doan, MD, PhD, chairman of the YO Committee, kicked off the program with an overview of the Academy’s endeavors that included a special focus on EyeWiki, the “ophthalmic wiki where ophthalmologists, other physicians, patients and the public can view an eye encyclopedia of content written by ophthalmologists covering the vast spectrum of eye disease, diagnosis and treatment.”
Launched in 2010, this is a great resource for ophthalmic information. You can even contribute your own article.
Billing and Coding
Since this is how you make money for your practice, it is very important to learn the art of billing and coding. Kim Ross, the Academy’s coding specialist, encouraged YOs to get started on this early. Even though many practices have a billing and coding expert or department to help physicians maximize their coding, the billing people can only bill based on what you, as the physician, document.
Ross said it is important for you to learn to optimize your documentation. During residency and fellowship, ask your attendings to help you code correctly. Talk to your business or finance department and ask if they can audit your records to learn what you are doing right or wrong and what you can do better. The rules for coding are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep up-to-date with the changes.
Marketing yourself and your practice is vital to your practice’s success in this social media-obsessed world. Marketing does not equal advertising. Marketing encompasses everything from advertising and blogging to online reviews. Randall Wong, MD, a retina specialist and co-founder of Medical Marketing Enterprises, encouraged setting up a website and blogging about ophthalmic topics to educate patients as a marketing tool. He also warned about providing any medical advice or recommendations in light of liability issues.
Dr. Wong urged linking your website and/or blog to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to expand your reach. To increase your Google ranking (the likelihood that your website will come toward the top of a Google search), he also recommended keeping your website relevant to ophthalmology-related searches by making regular updates.
Every contract is negotiable, according to lawyer Robert Wade, who spoke on contracts, negotiations and buy-ins. Understanding the general principles of negotiation is a key foundation for any YO starting the contract process.
Important contract features to consider include the term, compensation structure (base salary and bonus calculations), malpractice insurance coverage, contract termination policies (with and without cause), non-compete clauses and partnership potential. He said it is important to ask around to get a benchmark for each of these for the area in which you will be working.
This year, Dr. Doan (solo practice), Keith Carter, MD (academic practice), Aaron Miller, MD (group practice) and Diana Shiba, MD (Kaiser, integrated managed care) participated in a panel discussion moderated by the energetic William Lloyd, MD, on the advantages and disadvantages of each of the different practice models.
Dr. Lloyd speaks during the panel discussion.
This open-forum, panel discussion was an excellent medium for YOs to gauge which practice model may potentially work best for their individual personality and situation and to ask questions to those with several years of experience in each practice setting. The panel provided excellent insight into achieving success with each type of model.
Some of the most memorable words of wisdom from this year’s YO Program came from Academy President Richard L. Abbott, MD. He encouraged YOs to take time in setting goals, as it is a process that evolves over time. He also highlighted the importance of having mentors and seeking guidance from them while traveling on your career and life path.
As you can see, this year’s YO program was packed with vital information for all YOs and is a definite “must-attend” at next year’s Annual Meeting. I’m now on to step four of my task list for success: Get it done! And I’ll see you at the 2012 YO Program in Chicago.
Editor's note: If you missed the program, presentation slides and audio are now online.
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About the author: Purnima S. Patel, MD, is a medical retina and comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center and assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Emory Eye Center.