What’s the best practice management advice you’ve ever received? We asked members of the 2015 YO Committee and subcommittees to share the most memorable practice pearls they’ve learned. Next month, we’ll share more of their advice. Share your own in the comments!
“New patients calling in or walking in will judge your practice by the way they are greeted and how their questions are handled. So, put your friendliest and most hardworking staff at the front desk and on the phones. They will be the face and the front line of your practice.”
–Janice C. Law, MD, YO Committee
“Value your staff members not only for their skill sets or productivity, but also for their individuality. They may have a lot to contribute, given the diversity of their backgrounds. This diversity can often empower them to help with the goals of your practice, and as an added bonus, makes it easier and nicer to head into work each day.”
–Julie H. Tsai, MD, YO Committee
“A busy clinic is only as good as the happiness of its entire staff. From the front desk to the back clinic rooms to the billing office, different employees have very different daily experiences. Make time every day to visit each area, listen for potential issues and thank everyone for their efforts. Most importantly, teach a little during or after the clinic. There is no such thing as too much clinical knowledge for your staff! An ongoing ophthalmic education will enable them to work more confidently and efficiently. So, make them as invested in the mission of the practice as the physicians, and make them proud of where they work. Few things will have as big an impact on patient care and your long-term career satisfaction.”
–D. Wilkin Parke III, MD, YO Info Editorial Board
“While YOs are well trained in the clinical side of ophthalmology, they are usually not well equipped in the business side as they transition from being a trainee to a new associate or partner. One of the most important skills YOs need to develop is leadership. This requires one to quickly acquire a number of skills, including how to effectively manage a group of people with diverse personalities and work ethics. These skills are integral to improving productivity and resolving conflict, navigating the complexities of reimbursement/payment models and tackling the challenges of running a small business. I was encouraged early on to attend a leadership workshop, and I use the skills I acquired on a daily basis.”
–S. Grace Prakalapakorn, MD, MPH, YO International Subcommittee
“Be available. As you transition from a training environment to practice, it’s important to build relationships with your surrounding community of colleagues. Regardless of your training background, experience or accolades, be humble and show enthusiasm for being an available resource for other physicians. In the end, what you are doing is helping someone take care of a patient. Ophthalmology is rewarding and intellectually engaging, but also challenging and humbling. Your being available will be greatly appreciated. Sometimes it will mean more work, and occasionally it will happen at inopportune moments.”
–Brian T. Chan-Kai, MD, YO Info Editorial Board
“I would advise all trainees to learn as much as they can about the finances and billing of your specialty from your attendings during residency and fellowship. Medical school does not prepare you for this, and it isn't as transparent as one would hope. Seek out practitioners outside of academic medicine to understand the pressures and differences of private practice so you can better make your decisions. Facing these challenges alone and making mistakes later when it really matters will be very time consuming and costly.”
–Roma Patel, MD, MBA, YO Committee
“In these times of flat or declining reimbursements, you hear a lot about people advocating to maximize practice efficiency. But, before you can try to make changes to improve efficiency, you really need to make sure you have a good handle on the current financial status of your practice. You need to work with your practice administrator to understand your financial statements so that you are well aware of your collections and practice overhead and expenses. You can’t make informed decisions about business decisions like the return on investment of adding equipment or increasing staffing unless you know what your current state looks like.”
–David E. Vollman, MD, MBA, YO Info Editorial Board
The Three A’s
“Back when I was a resident, I noticed there was a retina specialist in the community who not only was a great clinician and surgeon, but also had a genuine, compassionate bedside manner that I hoped to emulate. He was consistently available to help residents late at night or other physicians after hours and was always reachable, friendly and clinically superb. Before I graduated, he passed on to me the importance of “The Three A’s.” Availability, Affability and Ability — in that order — are the keys to building a successful practice. Simple as it is, that may well have been the most important thing I learned that year.”
–Srinivas S. Iyengar, MD, YO International Subcommittee
“There is no Perfect Practice. I have spent my early years after residency unsuccessfully trying to find the perfect practice at tremendous cost to my family and personal finances. Now, at the beginning of the middle stage of my surgical career, I have finally learned to focus on things that are in my control. Rather than worrying daily about increasing efficiency or decreasing overhead, I just worry about one thing: Taking the best care of each and every patient I can with compassion. The rest sorts itself out.”
–Edward H. Hu, MD, PhD, YO Info Editorial Board
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About the authors:
Janice C. Law, MD, is an assistant professor at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville. She received her training at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, where she also served as chief resident. After a two-year medical and surgical retina fellowship at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Dr. Law joined the retina faculty as assistant professor in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery. She is also the associate program director for residency education in ophthalmology and plays a very active role in developing curricula and assessing teaching and learning within ophthalmic education. Dr. Law is a participant in the Academy’s Leadership Development Program, class of 2015.
Julie H. Tsai, MD, is a cornea and uveitis specialist located in Albany, N.Y. She completed her residency at the University of Rochester, where she served as chief resident, and her fellowships at Cincinnati Eye Institute and the University of Southern California. She maintains an active interest in resident education, having served as a residency program director in the past.
D. Wilkin Parke III, MD, is a vitreoretinal specialist with VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA, in Minneapolis. He completed his residency and surgical retina fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. During his last year of fellowship, he was chief resident.
S. Grace Prakalapakorn, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at Duke University. She is a former Fulbright Scholar and has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ORBIS International (on the Flying Eye Hospital). Dr. Prakalapakorn is a clinician-scientist interested in public health and international ophthalmology, and her research focuses on improving access to care and outcomes in underserved communities by adapting innovative strategies to address clinically relevant problems.
Brian T. Chan-Kai, MD, is a vitreoretinal specialist at EyeHealth Northwest in Portland, Ore. Dr. Chan-Kai completed his residency at the Cullen Eye Institute/Baylor College of Medicine, where he also served as chief resident. He then trained in vitreoretinal surgery and diseases at the Casey Eye Institute/Oregon Health and Science University. Upon completing fellowship, he has practiced in both academic and private settings. He is a member of the YO Info editorial board.
Roma Patel, MD, MBA, is currently a clinical glaucoma fellow at Duke University. After completing an MD/MBA dual-degree program at Baylor College of Medicine, she completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of California-Davis as on ophthalmology resident. She is interested in innovative surgical methods and researching cost-effective health care delivery.
David E. Vollman, MD, MBA, is an assistant professor in the Washington University School of Medicine department of ophthalmology and visual sciences. He is also the school’s assistant residency program director and chief of ophthalmology at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. After completing an MD/MBA dual-degree program at Ohio State University College of Medicine, he completed his ophthalmology residency at the Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital/St. Louis Children’s Hospital Consortium Program, where he served as chief resident. Dr. Vollman is a participant in the Academy’s Leadership Development Program, class of 2015, and member of the Surgical Scope Fund committee.
Srinivas S. Iyengar, MD, is an oculoplastic surgeon in private practice at North County Oculoplastics in San Diego. He is a member of the Academy’s YO International Ophthalmology subcommittee. Dr. Iyengar has been involved with various international eye care projects, including ORBIS International and the Surgical Friends Foundation.
Edward H. Hu, MD, PhD, is a refractive cataract surgeon with Illinois Eye Center in Peoria, Ill. This is his fourth private practice environment, which is as close to a perfect practice as there is. After a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from MIT, he got a PhD and MD from the New York School of Medicine. He completed residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.