How To Fail Building an OD Network

Stop Doing What Doesn't WorkVirtually every practice that has trouble building or expanding an OD referral network makes one or more of these mistakes. 

Gear your approach toward what you want, rather than what they need.

What you want are more LASIK patients. What the OD needs is a single-surgeon or single-practice resource that will handle not only their LASIK surgeries, but also cataract cases and pathology patients.

Ask for their support without committing your time.

ODs are very attuned to whether an MD supports optometry. They find it disingenuous that you want their patients, but won’t take time to make a phone call, meet with them personally, or discuss how you can best assist their practice.  The biggest misconception surgeons have is that an “OD Liaison” will grow a referral network.  Most practices, when direct patient acquisition becomes soft, decide that they need more OD referrals.   The common solution is to hire an individual; usually an outgoing, friendly woman from within the practice, to call on ODs, bring bagels and drop off brochures.  What most practices fail to realize is that EVERY LASIK surgeon is doing the same thing!  The OD office staff dreads this constant stream of women (almost always women) dropping by.  The OD Liaison is ineffective if the OD doesn’t personally know or respect you as a surgeon.  It is an undifferentiated strategy.  Is says you, personally, only value the relationship enough to send your employee to sell your skill.  Do you think the OD wants to share their surgical needs or problems with this person?  It harkens back to the very issue of whether your approach is directed toward what you want or what they need.

Question their professional expertise.

Do you refuse to accept dilated exam results when submitted by the OD? Do you repeat every test on their patients? Do you think the patient doesn’t resent a second dilation and complain to the OD upon return after surgery? Does your staff inadvertently say to their receptionist trying to fax exam notes, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  Dr. Doubter doesn’t trust any refraction unless it’s done by SuperTech Becky, so we’ll just redo it.” Aside from the issue that comanagement payment must be predicated upon work performed, this confirms a lack of confidence in their skill.  Might they be offended that you overrule their recommended target refraction for a surgical plan, when they’ve been fitting this patient with glasses and contacts for years and understand potential nuances that you simply can’t uncover in your brief pre-operative exam?

Don’t update them on patient progress.

Do you keep them posted at every stage of the patient’s progress? Do you fax or email notes after the consultation to advise them of the patient’s decision to move forward and communicate a scheduled surgery date? Do you fax an update after surgery to advise them on how it went and confirm who will see the patient for the One Day post-op? Do you fax a reminder two weeks and two months post-op so you’re sure they return refractions and acuities for outcomes tracking updates?

Steal their patients.

Do more than 10% of patients stay with you, and never make it back to the OD? Is it possible you or your staff plant seeds of doubt in the patient’s mind that they would fare better staying with you postoperatively?

Virtually every practice that has trouble building or expanding an OD referral network makes one or more of these mistakes.  However, there are ways to effectively build a comanagement network.  Read How To Succeed Building and OD Network to learn several techniques that will help you create vibrant, sustainable OD referrals.

By Kay Coulson, MBA, founder of Elective Medical Marketing, a Denver, CO-based consultancy focused on helping physicians grow their elective service lines.