Common challenges when running an optometrist practice

By Jamie Frew on Feb 29, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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Practicing optometry as a business

Working as an optometrist is one thing, but establishing an optometry business is something else entirely. Although some of the skills you have picked up on throughout your training and career are transferable, you will need to become familiar with the broader range of abilities required to operate a successful business. However, although this is likely daunting, running an optometrist practice is undoubtedly achievable, especially if you remain determined and realistic. The business side of this change requires constant decision-making and the ability to organize various administrative tasks, all whilst staying on top of your finances. Fortunately, the continuous development of sophisticated technology that is occurring in the current digital age has led to advancements in telehealth, and practice management software can help you organize your business and maximize productivity. The advantages of cloud-based software for optometrists are reflected in the growth rate of businesses that have implemented it, and it is predicted that 75% of optometry practices currently use EHR systems.

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5 common challenges you may face while running an optometry business (and how to overcome them)

Just like running any other business, operating an optometry practice comes with various challenges. Luckily, our research is here to support and help you overcome these barriers and achieve success!

Challenge 1: Adopting New Technology

With the recent growth in telehealth technology, an increased number of healthcare practices are implementing new software into their business. Although this has significant benefits for both patients and providers, it isn’t uncommon for some practitioners to be reluctant at these changes. When implementing new technology, you should take into consideration how simple it is to use, whether it integrates with pre-existing systems and whether your staff should be trained. Fortunately, most optical practice management software is exceptionally easy to use regardless of your level of technological skill.

Challenge 2: Staying Current With Regulations

Whilst necessary, regulations can become a burden for many optometrists. Often, new regulations are introduced, like the new MACRA reimbursement model, and staying on top of how these changes impact your business can be difficult. Following medical compliance is a critical element to managing your practice, as failing to do so can lead to accidentally compromising private data and complications with insurance companies. One of the best solutions to staying up to date with regulations involves implementing medical billing systems that verify relevant codes, ensuring that you are following regulations, and simplifying the billing process. 

Challenge 3: Growing Your Practice

As a business looking to stay afloat, it is always in your best interest to grow your practice. However, there are various factors that can limit your ability to expand, including your budget, competition, and geographical location. Nevertheless, with the right marketing techniques, insurance, and billing methods, and sales strategies, you will be able to grow your practice effectively and increase revenue. 

Challenge 4: Dealing with Staffing Issues

Unfortunately, high turnover rates are a common experience for some optometry practices. In order to deliver quality services and ensure your business is successful, it is in your best interest to hire a team of highly professional, qualified, and talented optometrists. The other factor you need to consider when managing your staffing is how well your team members work with each other. Clashes can negatively impact the culture of your workplace, which can influence the patient's perception of the business. To combat these challenges, ensure that your interview and selection process is effective, encourage transparency and good communication between staff members, and most importantly, lead by example. 

Challenge 5: Handling a huge volume of patients

Depending on where you operate your business, you may have to deal with a large volume of patients. Although this seems beneficial financially, the reality is often more complicated. Patients of hospitals are frequently on Medicaid, which means minimal reimbursement for you. Applying for a federal grant is one of the best ways to bridge this financial gap, but it often doesn’t cover everything. Although private practices also experience limited reimbursement, they tend to have self-pay patients and a smaller number of no-shows.  

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Optometrists in the US industry trends (2016-2021)

If you are wanting to, or are already in the midst of, operating an optometry practice, it is necessary to remain informed of the current trends related to the industry. The market size has been growing steadily in the US, as a greater number of people are requiring eye care. 65% of the US population has been reported to need some sort of vision correction, which increases the need for optometry services, including eye examinations, surgical consultations, and corrective eyewear. Although competition is still a factor, no optometrist business has a market share of more than 5%, so running a successful private practice is highly achievable.

The other big factor impacting the US optometry market relates to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some services, including renewing prescriptions and delivering corrective eyewear, were able to occur during the pandemic, a large number of people were unable to receive optometry care. It has been predicted that demand will massively increase once physical restrictions ease, so get ready for an influx of customers!

As optometry practices take on an increased number of patients, managing productivity and organization has never been more important. With optical practice management systems, you can cater to the growing need for optometrists whilst still guaranteeing your patients receive the highest quality of care available. 

Final thoughts

Managing an optometry practice requires a lot more than simply being a qualified optometrist. Just like any other business, you will want to ensure that the administrative side of things is being managed as effectively as possible, whilst still generating financial revenue. Technological advancements have led to many optometry businesses implementing optical practice management software to streamline administrative tasks and maximize productivity. Carepatron offers a management software perfect for optometry practices that includes appointment scheduling systems, medical coding, and billing features, cloud-based EHR, and a secure telehealth app. Implementing these tools into your business will allow you to overcome various challenges that often impact optometry practices, all whilst saving significant amounts of money and time!

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