We often talk about “practice management” in continuing education, consulting, practice ownership, and even now more often in optometry school (thankfully). What exactly does practice management mean? Management can be defined as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people,” “the conducting or supervising of something,” or “the process of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the efforts of the people involved in a business.” Is this the way we think about how we run our practices?
When I think of managing a practice, I think quite differently. Not found in these definitions are innovation, developing skills or employees, enhancing the patient experience, improving quality of care, ensuring practice stability and longevity, or increasing profitability. To me, the concept of practice management has a connotation of swimming upstream and managing daily battles as they come. I like to think of it instead as forward facing, and using a practice’s mission, vision, and values to create a path forward.
Optometry is a unique and sometimes challenging occupation and business because we wear multiple hats. We are expected to be a doctor and small business owner and often two separate businesses — our clinical practice and retail setting. If we are just looking at it from a management standpoint, it can be easy to stay in our comfort zone, putting out fires as they come but never really changing.
I encourage you to adopt a different mindset. Instead of using the term “practice management,” let’s instead talk about “practice optimization.” Optimization is defined as “an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.” While it is a small shift in meaning, it can also be very powerful.
Would you rather manage a practice and “deal with things,” or optimize a practice, and work towards building the practice you want? How can this change the way we look at adding technology, training staff, equipment, patient communication, and decisions on what products we choose to carry in our practices? Instead of managing our day-to-day work flow, can we look at ways to be more efficient, effective, and provide a better patient experience? Can this translate into better practice stability and profitability? I encourage you to start thinking less about managing your practice, and more about optimizing it, and see how that changes your daily processes.
Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD