After residency or fellowship, your first year in practice is a big jump. Gone are your second set of eyes in the operating room and your trusted clinical consults. Now you realize there are other parts of being a doctor that demand your attention.
One of those other parts is practice management. So what falls under this umbrella? Practice management encompasses all of the operations, processes and decisions outside of the doctor-patient relationship that impact the income and functioning of your department or practice.
Billing, coding, human resources, efficiency metrics, finance, accounting, marketing, contract law, compliance and strategic planning are all practice management categories. If it feels a little overwhelming, you have a trusted source for navigating your way through practice management decisions: The American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives® (AAOE®), the practice management arm of the Academy.
There is a body of knowledge vital to running your practice that AAOE can offer. I, for example, have an MBA in health care, but most of the knowledge I use in running my practice comes from AAOE, not my MBA.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate AAOE and gain confidence in your practice management skills. Remember, enjoy the journey!
1. Explore AAOE resources during the Academy’s annual meetings.
Ever since residency, I have attended AAOE courses at the Academy’s annual meetings. They are free to attend for everyone who has a course pass.
There is a lot to absorb, so just like the clinical education courses, target a few topics every year. Practice management is learned through experience and having good resources.
The AAOE is not only a great annual meeting resource, but also a reference to use whenever you have a problem. Access to practice management tips and articles is free to members in training and YOs in their first two years of practice.
2. Know your numbers.
I love having numbers and metrics that I can follow. They are the true snapshots of your practice, giving you the correct impression of the financial health of your practice.
If you make a change to your schedule, how does it change your revenue? Are there sneaky monthly charges that are eating away at your profits? There are many online resources to help you navigate your income state and balance sheet, such as videos on how to use benchmarking in your practice. AAOE has several courses that dig into important practice productivity metrics.
Past annual meetings have featured AAOE courses such as “Understanding and Negotiating Your First Employment Agreement” and “Private Equity Deals: What Happens to the Associate?” It’s another reason to attend AAO 2020.
3. Become a better negotiator.
It is sometimes hard to ask for more, but negotiation is an art and has to be practiced. Many businesses make money simply because they negotiated lower costs or higher payments. This relates to insurance contracts, real estate lease agreements, medical supplies, electronic health records contracts, employment contracts, etc. I highly recommend reading books on negotiation. I also suggest taking advantage of the many AAOE courses at the annual meeting about contracts and strategy.
4. Become your own marketing expert.
Perhaps the best marketing is your personal brand. Never forget that everything you do either grows your personal franchise or takes away from it. This includes how you treat your patients, how you treat your staff, how you treat other doctors and how available and affable you are.
However, beyond the basics, there are important digital trends in online scheduling, online reviews and social media that impact your practice. Fortunately, the AAOE emphasizes tutorials and content that help you navigate these topics.
5. Build your team of go-to experts.
You can’t know everything. I believe in cultivating a core group of professionals that you trust. By no means does this mean turning off your brain. You have to be involved but having a team you can consult for more technical expertise is important in both the daily operations of your practice and when you have emergencies.
Here are some professionals that I use in my professional team: bookkeeper, accountant, IT specialist, marketing specialist, contract lawyer, human resources lawyer, valuation specialist, commercial real estate broker and billing specialist.
I don’t consult them all the time, but I have identified my “go-to” people. Developing your team takes time. You may have to go through several people until you find the right fit for you. AAOE is a great resource since many professionals teach courses at the annual meeting or write for AAOE.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in everything when you start out in practice. But by knowing what AAOE offers, you know where to go when you need it.
Explore AAOE now.
About the author: Arvind Saini, MD, MBA, is a comprehensive ophthalmologist practicing in Escondido, Calif. and a member of the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee and the AAOE Board of Directors.