I’ll start this article with a bold statement: Don’t implement a specialty service into your practice if you’re only going to dabble.
Dabblers have become my go-to word for ODs who launch a specialty service with a lot of initial excitement but fail to make it a meaningful part of their practice. Over time, excitement wanes for both the doctor and the staff as the new equipment or technology collects dust. The service never generates much revenue for the practice, and some ODs abandon the project altogether.
To avoid investing time and effort into a specialty service that’s not going to add significant clinical and financial value to your practice, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Do I have a passion for this specialty?
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know several eye care professionals who have achieved impressive success with a specialty service. Not only has the specialty added value to their practice, but many have also become recognized experts in their area of expertise, speaking at industry events, writing for industry publications, and becoming influencers on social media. What’s one thing these ODs have in common? A passion for their specialty!
You don’t have to start speaking at conferences or become an influencer on Instagram, but do ask yourself if your specialty is an area where you have a strong interest. Don’t start a specialty based solely on revenue potential or someone else’s suggestion. Your passion for helping others with this service will be the fuel that keeps you going (and not giving up) during times of adversity.
2. Is there a market for this specialty?
As with any service, consider the needs of your patient base and your local community. In the early stages of launching a specialty, many of these patients will come from your current patient base. Eventually marketing and word-of-mouth will expose you to a wider market. It’s important to be realistic with your market. You may have a strong interest in vision therapy, but if your patient base is heavily weighted toward a geriatric population, then your efforts may not lead to desired outcomes.
Another approach is to survey patients who would be candidates for this specialty on their level of interest. Let’s assume you were considering investing in a new dry eye technology. Discuss your intentions with your dry eye patients. Inquire about their interest and ask if they would like to be added to a list of patients to be contacted. With this approach, you are not only assessing the market, but also creating a market.
3. Can I overcome the challenges?
Ask yourself what the challenges could be to successfully implementing the specialty. Will the staff be on board? What if patient acceptance is low? Do I have time to give adequate attention to this?
Rather than addressing obstacles after investing time and money into the service, meet with your staff and other advisors you work with to talk through potential obstacles and develop contingency plans. This process will also give you added clarity on whether to hit the accelerator, hit pause, or go in a different direction altogether.
Consider the opportunity cost on your investment in time and money. When you dabble, both of these resources are tied up in something that’s not adding much value to the patients or the practice. If you can answer the above question affirmatively, there’s a greater chance you’ll go all in and make it a success.