(1) Learn billing and coding | Understanding whether patients should be billed to medical or vision plans, in addition to ordering medical tests to maximize revenue potential will have an immediate impact on the business.
(2) Promote your specialty skill set | Develop a specialized skill set such as scleral contact lens or vision therapy which will help set yourself apart which will in turn differentiate your practice. Improve patient care and cushion your practice from online competition.
(3) Hone your refraction skills | Developing refraction skills to improve efficiency, patient understanding, image clarity, and visual comfort are crucial to overall practice success. Well-tuned refractions lead to higher glasses capture rates, happier patients, and business growth.
(4) Fill a void | Every practice has gaps in care. Every practice owner has a wish list. Uncover these voids through personal conversation and put yourself in a position to be the problem solver.
(5) Think like an owner | Every practice has gaps in care. Every practice owner has a wish list. Uncover these voids through personal conversation and put yourself in a position to be the problem solver.
A commonly noticed trend has been noticed over the last few years - new optometry programs continue to pop up throughout the country. This directly leads to an increase in the number of graduating optometrists. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the job market for associate optometrists is becoming more competitive. In a competitive environment, job applicants must seek ways to stand out from their peers as leading candidates. This article offers some guidance on how to make an impact on employers and set yourself apart from colleagues on your way to success.
(1) Learn billing and coding
Successful businesses bring in money. Optometry practices are no different. One of the biggest hurdles to building a successful eye care office is learning how to bill and code appropriately. Unfortunately, most optometry students do not receive adequate education on good billing and coding practices. Ironically, this disadvantage provides an even greater opportunity to stand out in the job search.
Think about it this way - if only a handful of your class of 90 students/colleagues has a modicum of billing and coding know-how, the possibility for you to impress employers is stellar. In other words, the bar is set so low that even a little bit of effort could put you ahead of the pack.
Now, place yourself in the shoes of an employer whose job is not only to hire you but to make sure every one of their staff members can put food on the table and pay their bills. Imagine the convincing impact that you can have on the employer if you demonstrate your billing and coding knowledge, which could have an immediate positive impact on the business. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- You understand how to decide whether patient encounters should be billed to medical or vision plans.
- You realize the importance of medical testing and how to order tests to maximize revenue potential.
- You save time from other staff members by correcting billing and coding errors.
In short, learn billing and coding practices to stand out!
Want to learn how to be an expert in medical billing? Check out ODClinicals Coding/Billing
(2) Promote your specialty skill set
We are living in the era of a technological boom. Moreover, disruptive technology is directly impacting eye care practices throughout the country. Optometry is being affected in all directions by the unscrupulous tactics of online contact lens retailers, online companies disingenuously passing off virtual refractions as “eye exams,” and other competitors. Whether we like it or not, these challenges are not going away any time soon. In fact, the technology will continue to improve and will be downright impressive within the next 5-10 years. With this in mind, it is more important now than ever for optometry offices to set themselves apart in this dog-eat-dog world.
One manner in which eye care practices can stand out while enhancing patient care and increasing profitability is expanding into “specialty” care. Optometry is fortunate to have many fields of emphasis in which ODs can specialize, such as specialty contact lenses (sclerals, prosthetic color contact, custom rigid gas permeable contacts, etc.), vision therapy, low vision/vision rehabilitation, and more. Optometry job seekers that possess these skill sets give themselves an advantage in the competitive job market. For example, if an employer has a patient base that would greatly benefit from advanced dry eye care, that employer would be much more likely to hire an OD applicant with impressive dry eye experience over someone who does not.
Develop a specialized skill set. Help set yourself apart which will in turn differentiate your practice. Improve patient care and cushion your practice from online competition.
"Optometry is fortunate to have many fields of emphasis in which ODs can specialize, such as specialty contact lenses (sclerals, prosthetic color contact, custom rigid gas permeable contacts, etc.), vision therapy, low vision/vision rehabilitation, and more. Optometry job seekers that possess these skill sets give themselves an advantage in the competitive job market."
(3) Hone your refraction skills
A significant amount of time during our optometry education is spent teaching ocular pathology, along with the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a wide variety of eye conditions. This is a great thing for our profession, of course, as this knowledge allows optometrists to provide full-scope eye care to patients. If there is a caveat to the ever-growing disease instruction, however, it’s the idea that perhaps an insufficient volume of time is dedicated towards developing the art of refraction.
There is truth in the optometric adage regarding the concept of refracting being both an art and science. Seasoned ODs understand better than optometry students the importance of refining spectacle (and contact lens) prescriptions to maximize a patient’s visual comfort and satisfaction - a skill only truly appreciated with experience.
Moreover, despite the emphasis on the medical aspect of eye care, optometrists should realize that most patients will seek assistance primarily to enhance their vision. This indicates that regardless of how well an OD can interpret OCT images (for example), if she/he has a 30% spectacle remake percentage then the overall odds of success are not entirely favorable.
As optometrists, we are the experts in vision correction and we should take pride in that. Developing refraction skills to improve efficiency, patient understanding, image clarity, and visual comfort are crucial to overall practice success. Well-tuned refractions lead to higher glasses capture rates, happier patients, and business growth. Even more, demonstrating refined refraction abilities can help you stand out in your search for the perfect optometric career opportunity.
"Well-tuned refractions lead to higher glasses capture rates, happier patients, and business growth. Even more, demonstrating refined refraction abilities can help you stand out in your search for the perfect optometric career opportunity."
(4) Fill a void
Employers in eye care offices tend to wear many hats. They run a business, strategize for growth, look for ways to improve patient care, and usually continue to see patients in clinic. I bet most employers would love to incorporate additional services or find time to do other things were it not for all the tasks that fill the majority of their days. A powerful way to stand out as a job candidate is to discover a void that the employer/practice experiences and address it.
For example, does the owner long to reduce patient care days from five to four? Are you willing to take on a higher patient load to allow that to happen? Does the owner want to focus on geriatric care and avoid pediatric patients? Are you great with kids and willing to become the designated “peds OD”?
Every practice has gaps in care. Every practice owner has a wish list. Uncover these voids through personal conversation and put yourself in a position to be the problem solver.
(5) Think like an owner
The neverending responsibilities of being an employer can have many consequences, including burnout and stress. Wouldn’t it be great if an Associate OD (or optometry job seeker) could find a method to alleviate these problems? There is a way - think like an owner.
Employers, irrespective of office setting, size, or financial success, tend to have a philosophy. Sometimes it’s doing everything possible to keep patients happy. Sometimes it’s growing the number of patient encounters. Regardless of the modus operandi, understanding the office philosophy can help you make better decisions as an Associate that would reflect what the employer would do.
For example, if we stick with the practice mission statement of making patients satisfied no matter the cost (to an extent, of course), and a patient needs a spectacle remake, should the patient’s glasses be remade at no charge? Of course they should! If a patient ran out of contacts, but her appointment isn’t set for one week out, should she be left with wearing an old pair of glasses?
Grab the patient some trial contacts that will bridge the gap until her eye examination. Being able to make decisions that the employer would agree with saves time, stress, and unnecessary inconvenience.
Demonstrate during the interview process how you intend to think and make decisions with an ownership mindset and watch your future employer be impressed.
Implement the few strategies outlined in this article to give yourself a leg up on the competition and solidify yourself as a premium candidate for any job that you apply for. Good luck!
If you have any questions about this topic or if you would like to discuss career-related matters, feel free to email CareerConsulting@ODsonFinance.com to chat.