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Invest in Instrumentation to Grow Your Practice

 

By Ann Rea Miller, OD

April 29, 2015

 

SYNOPSIS

Purchasing new instrumentation is a cornerstone of practice growth. Research well and evaluate usage before making a costly acquisition.

ACTION POINTS

PLAN & RESEARCH. Determine what new information the instrument will give you, and whether you need the most advanced model.

PURCHASE WITH GROWTH IN MIND. Buy instrumentation to serve growing patient populations, including those with diabetes and conditions like AMD and glaucoma.

BROWSE & MEET VENDORS AT SHOWS. Use trade shows, like VEE and VEW, to meet vendors and have instrument demonstrated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing and purchasing instrumentation for your patients is one of the most important decisions you make as a practice owner. Here is what I’ve learned is the best way to research, and then make the best purchases for patients and practice profitability.

Related ROB Articles

OCT: Your Medical Eyecare Practice-Builder
VEP: Instrumentation to Enhance Your Medical Eyecare Services

Display Screens: Educate Patients with a Wow Factor

Map Out Research & Selection Process

Once I decide on an instrument I would like to purchase, I research different brands that offer the instrument, including pricing, show special pricing and vendors who sell the instruments and may offer different service plans.

Decide Whether to Lease or Buy

I usually purchase new instrumentation outright. If I have enough money in savings, it makes sense to me to avoid taking a loan, which I will then have to pay interest on. Conversely, if money is tight, it may be more wise to keep your cash and get a loan to lower the amount you are paying on a monthly basis.

Purchase with Growth in Mind

I bought a new fundus camera three months after opening my practice because I knew I wanted the ability to document and follow eye diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma, and other conditions that many of my patients have. Plus, I knew I could get a return on the investment by billing medically necessary photos to medical insurance and wellness photos to patients.

Update Aging Instrumentation & Shop Expos

I had a very old Synemed visual field machine that I was using when I opened the practice. I questioned its reliability, so I purchased a used Humphrey visual field from another optometrist who had upgraded. I was able to use it for a few months, but the screen stopped working. I went to Vision Expo East this year to look for equipment and frames, and purchased the Oculus EasyField visual field machine. I chose the Oculus because it was the most cost-effective, and it was recommended to me by a colleague who thought it worked well. I also liked that it ran a threshold visual field in much quicker time than the Humphrey or Synemed I had been using.

Knowing that the majority of visual fields are run on the older population, I wanted something that would be reliable, yet fast, because many patients have told me in the past that the long duration of visual field testing wears them out.

At VEE, I also purchased the iCare tonometer. I had purchased a used NCT when I first opened my practice, and was using the NCT for screening IOPs. If high readings were measured on NCT, or if a patient had glaucoma or was a suspect, I used a Goldmann tonometer. I talked with other practitioners and saw studies that showed the iCare tonometer gave readings as accurately as Goldmann, so I thought it would be a good addition to my instrumentation. This allows a technician to perform the test versus me, thus allowing me to be more efficient with my time.

I am in the process of purchasing digital eye charts. Many patients say they have the projector chart memorized, so it sometimes becomes difficult to know if patients are seeing better, or if they are just remembering the letters. I also examine many kids, so I wanted digital charts that would allow for videos to play during retinoscopy and include symbols for children who don’t know their letters yet.

Plan Research at Trade Shows

Going to VEE this year was the first time I’ve experienced a large vision show. In the past, when I was an employee, the only meeting I attended was the East/West eye conference in Cleveland. My eyes were widely opened by the vast amount of vendors at VEE. I was unable to see all that the show had to offer, so I focused on finding the vendors that I wanted to see. Prior to the show, I knew I wanted to look for a visual field machine. I talked with other optometrists about what they were using and what recommendations they had about field instruments. I talked with one vendor ahead of time and had a demo webinar, so I was informed about the machine before the show. I did not set up meetings at the show. Instead, I visited vendor booths and asked them questions since I did not know ahead of time what my schedule for each day would be, having never been to the show before.

Balance Need with Bells & Whistles

At VEE, I was very intrigued about the idea of purchasing auto-phoropters.

A new program was available that I had not seen before in which you use an iPad that looks like a real phoropter to perform refractions. The phoropter and projector system was around $10,000. It looked amazing, and I was very tempted to buy, but when I thought about it, I could not justify paying $10,000 for an instrument that will bring me no more money on each exam I perform. Yes, there is potential to possibly decrease my refraction time, but I’d have to significantly save time to make a return on investment on this $10,000 system.

What Will the New Instrument Give You?

One of my first steps is asking myself whether the new instrument will give me more information than I currently have, or increase the level of care I am able to provide.

Secondly, I need to see if the instrument is cost-effective, meaning can I get reimbursed medically, or offer the test to patients at an additional cost outside of a comprehensive or medical exam?

Adding a fundus camera was a perfect example of an instrument that would increase the level of care I was able to provide by tracking different conditions, and also offer a fairly quick return on investment by billing medically and offering wellness photos.

Don’t Overlook Basics of Up-to-Date EHR & PMS

Not having a practice management software when I first opened my practice earlier this year was a big mistake. The practice owners I purchased from had been using paper ledgers. I opened the practice in a three-week time period from when I stopped employment at my previous job.

Because the timeline was so tight, I did not have time to implement computers and an EHR right away. It was very difficult to track inventory, details of options that patients chose for their glasses, how much money was being written off for different insurance companies, etc.

Seven months after opening, we tackled the challenge of adding computers and implementing RevolutionEHR. My staff did not have much experience using computers, so I was also challenged with teaching basic computer skills, in addition to learning a software program, with a staff that believed “everything was easier on paper.”

Lesson: When opening or purchasing a practice, make sure you have an EHR and practice management system ready to go right from the start. That should be the first instrumentation you line up.

Find Out Whether Training is Included

Purchasing from vendors that offer complimentary training is very important to me. I know that once my staff and I feel comfortable running an instrument, we are going to use it more frequently because we aren’t intimidated by it.

On the other hand, ongoing maintenance guarantees are nice, but I feel a new instrument should not have problems in the first one to two years that the guarantees typically cover.

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com

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By Ann Rea Miller, OD

March 25, 2015

SYNOPSIS

Help patients find your practice first when they search online. Hiring an SEO expert and following a good marketing plan can keep your exam chair filled.

ACTION POINTS

START AT THE TOP. As soon as you open your practice, enlist help to ensure your practice is at the top of search engine listings.

ADD TOOLS & FEATURES. Add “long-tail keywords,” like “eye doctor in Lima, Ohio,” to your web site.

TRACK WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS. Measure your site visits daily, then track how many new patients are added. Fine-tune your marketing based on response to messages.

Having written articles for Review of Optometric Business in the past, the
editor asked if I’d be willing to write an article on search engine
optimization (SEO). The publisher of the magazine had searched for me
online and was pleasantly pleased to find me and my practice at the top of
different search engines. He was interested in how a business as new as
mine was able to get high rankings over businesses that had been
established for years. I turned to Jessika Phillips with NOW Marketing
group, who created my website, for her expertise on SEO and we put
together the following article.

When my solo practice first opened last year, I wanted patients, and prospective patients, to easily find me online. I knew I didn’t have the web expertise to do this myself, so I enlisted the help of a marketing firm that offers specialized digital marketing services.

I paid $3,000 (discount for being connected through international business network BNI) for my web site and branding kit. I believe the money spent was a good investment. I have not kept exact track of the number of patients who came to my office because of finding me online, but I do ask each patient how they heard about my office, and I have had many patients say they found me online. The services of the firm I use also pays off in the time it saves me. Since the completion of the site, I have not had to do any major updates of information or content myself. I spend less than an hour per week on digital marketing duties, primarily to update my Facebook page.

ROB EDITOR’S NOTE. The median amount spent on marketing among 1,900 independent practices in the Management & Business Academy (MBA) database is 1.2 percent of gross revenue.

Get Help Right From Start

As soon as I planned to launch my business, I knew I needed a web site, social media and an online marketing strategy–and that I’d need outside help with this rather than attempting it all by myself. I met with a local inbound marketing firm, NOW Marketing Group, to assist me with building and establishing my brand identity, goals and online presence.

NOW Marketing walked me through identifying the areas of my business that were unique and identifying my target audience. From there they made an emphasis on engaging content that would help attract new web site visitors. I think an online presence is a must given how much time people are spending on their digital devices.

The homepage of Dr. Miller’s web site. Dr. Miller says the outsource marketing firm she works with recommends including photo- and video-rich content to improve rankings in search engine listings.

Add Tools & Features to Facilitate SEO

NOW Marketing added SEO YOAST, an $89 SEO plugin available for WordPress, the web platform that hosts my site. It offered everything I needed to optimize my site including content analysis functionality, which guides us to write better content for our web site, and helps optimize our site’s titles and descriptions for Google.

NOW Marketing also helped me target long-tail keywords, long descriptions or tags for your practice like “eye doctor in Lima, Ohio” or “eye exams in Lima, Ohio.” In addition, they added a Google checklist of SEO tools and measurements, including Google Webmasters, Google Analytics and Google Places.

Have Outsource Firm Implement Changes

I focused on providing unique page names with clean/short URLs, quality engaging content, meta page descriptions, and we made sure to submit my pages to Google.com/Addurl after they were created, which is an easy way to directly let Google know that your have a web page that should be added to its index.

Since content rich with pictures improves SEO, every page on our web site has at least one relevant image and/or video with ALT text in them. Alt text (alternative text) is a word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document to tell web site viewers the nature or contents of an image. The alt text appears in a blank box that would normally contain the image.

Get Trained to Do Simple Tasks Yourself

NOW Marketing offered a training session for me to be able to update my own web site. I can still call them for more complex updates, but haven’t needed to at this point.

I still have not personally made any changes to the web site. The little changes I needed updated were done by NOW Marketing. I would like to be taught how to make simple changes myself, but since I haven’t needed to do it so far, I haven’t been trained yet. NOW Marketing currently does everything needed to maintain my practice web site, and I currently spend less than an hour each week on my practice’s Facebook page .

Related ROB Articles

Rebrand Your Online Presence: Kick-Start Growth in a Static Practice

Cross-Linking Your Web Pages: How Two Practices Boost Their Online Presence

Get Found: Simple Steps to Put Your Practice at the Top of the Search Listings

Use Social Media to Drive Traffic To Practice Web Site

Facebook has allowed me to have an online conversation about my business and engage clients/potential clients on a more personal level. It allows me to drive traffic back to my site and also stay engaged with clients via sharing helpful articles, photos of new products or simply having a conversation with them on what’s happening at the office.

Map Out Future Needed SEO Boosters

NOW Marketing keeps telling me I need to blog more often and also start a Pinterest and Instagram page to highlight my new products, so I am considering beginning to do these things in the next year.

 

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com

 

 

NOW M.

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Acquiring a Practice: Management Lessons Learned

By Ann Rea Miller, OD

Six months ago, I acquired an existing practice. Here are three essential business management challenges I’ve faced in that short period of time–along with the lessons I’ve learned.

New practice owners confront business needs they never had before. I should know because I opened my first practice this year in February, and found there was a lot I needed to learn. Here are some of the key lessons I now have under my belt.

Keep Your Reimbursement Process Flowing

I thought getting onto insurance panels would be a simple process–you fill out a form, wait a couple of weeks, and you’re in. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Medicare, along with certain insurance providers I won’t name, requires such a long process that for the first few months my practice was open, I had to just see private pay patients.

Before you can even apply to insurance panels, you need an employer tax ID number. And you can’t get that tax ID number until you have a valid business name, which requires checking with your state’s secretary of state office to make sure no other business has the same name, and to register the name. Lucky for me, the name I chose was already used, but hadn’t been properly registered, so I was able to take it as my own.

Lesson: If you can, start the process of getting onto insurance panels at least a few months before you start seeing patients.

Insurance Submission Process: Slight Details Mean Rejected Claims

I started submitting claims in February to Medicare, and I just  received my first Medicare payment last week (six months after opening the office)! The claims were rejected for details we got wrong like forgetting to put in the patient’s zip code, never mind the more serious errors that can occur in the coding process. Submitting claims to Medicare still requires a paper claim process, which means errors are not spotted right away, as they would be online with a pop-up window letting you know you made a mistake.

Lesson: Use practice management software or buy a separate piece of software that will “scrub” the claims you submit, alerting you when there is an error. Another option is to invest in insurance clearing house services, which will clean up your claims before submitting them.

Introduce Yourself to Your Community

My practice had been owned by other doctors for more than 30 years. That meant the community needed to be re-introduced to the practice and to me.

Lesson: This one I got right. I contacted the community news department of my local newspaper and submitted a photo of myself and my staff (I was able to retain the same staff members who had worked in the practice under the original doctor), along with information about the services we would offer. I also paid $1,200 for three billboards, two in Lima, Ohio, where my practice is located, and another in my hometown of Kilida, Ohio. These billboards stayed up for one month. I also started a practice Facebook page.

Practice Careful Change Management with Staff

As noted, I decided to hire the same staff who had worked for 30 years with the original doctor and then briefly with another doctor who he sold the practice to (before that doctor sold the practice again to me). They understood the community, and I was hoping they would draw in many of the same patients. The challenge, however, was they had work processes that went back decades. They knew what worked and what didn’t for the practice, but they also needed to be transitioned into newer ways of doing business such as use of electronic health records.

Lesson: If a major change, such as the transition to EHR, is necessary, plan on doing it slowly and with training for the whole staff from the vendor. We are currently in the process of learning and implementing RevolutionEHR. Two out of my four employees have no experience working on computers at all and are just now familiarizing themselves with smartphones. The key to keeping everyone’s spirits up about learning this new technology is reminding them how much easier and faster work processes will go once the EHR is fully implemented. For instance, I point out that instead of physically laboring through old file folders for a patient’s record, EHR means simply typing the patient’s name into a search box, and the full record appearing on the screen in a few moments.

Learn How to Interpret Financials

Tracking money owed to the practice and money spent is a big challenge–especially as I wait to fully implement my EHR/practice management system. I have a financial day sheet my staff and I mark up of practice expenditures and needed billing, and there are so many errors I catch. For example, I recently got a retinal camera, so every time pictures are taken, I put the charge for the picture on the day sheet. If I forget to input one image taken with the retinal camera, money is lost and the day’s financial calculations are thrown off.

Lesson: At the end of every business day, review your financial day sheet and calculate to make sure it all adds up properly. It’s easy to type in the wrong number and then the whole financial record for the day gets thrown off. Once RevolutionEHR is fully implemented, I will input the daily financial numbers into the EHR/practice management system rather than doing it on paper as I am now. But the most important point is to remember to review these numbers on a daily basis both to track your finances and to makes sure nothing has been inputted wrong.

Research Before Setting Prices on Frames and Contact Lenses

To set your prices, you can blindly guess, go simply by what a frame manufacturer or contact lens distributor recommends, or you can see what others in your community are charging. My staff and I called about eight different offices in our community as though we were patients asking how much it would cost if we wanted a comprehensive exam, contact lenses or a middle-of-the-road pair of eyeglasses.

Lesson: We tried to be somewhere in the middle of the pricing we discovered–we didn’t want to be the least or the most expensive.

Related ROB Articles

Observations from a New Practice Owner: 4 Keys to Success

Independent vs. Corporate Optometry: Which is Right for You?

Practice Purchase or Expansion: Manage Expenses to Reach Profitability

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com

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Business Networking Organizations: Generate Referrals

By Ann Rea Miller, OD

As a small business owner who recently opened her own practice, the insights of other local small business people is valuable to me. Fortunately, I made important contacts through Business Networking International (BNI), an organization for business people with local chapters throughout the world.

Practicing in a city like Lima, Ohio, with a population of 38,771, where word-of-mouth referrals are critical, it’s great to have a large social network because it seems you can find a connection to everyone if you look hard enough. Having other well-known professionals in the community talk highly of you is a great way to get yourself known and generate positive referrals. You don’t even need to be a business owner to join. I joined while still an associate at my former practice

Choose Networking Organization

BNI is a networking organization where one member from each profession is asked to join. The sole purpose of the group is to give its members more business. The philosophy is “givers gain.” If I give business to another member, they often will, in turn, give business to me. This would be a Tier 1 referral. Tier 2 referrals would be when they refer a friend/family member/co-worker to me. In other words, a Tier 1 referral would be if another BNI member visited my practice as a patient. Tier 2 would be if a person whom a BNI member referred visited my practice as a patient, and Tier 3 would be if the patient referred by the BNI member then referred someone else.

I was asked to attend a BNI Visitor’s Day by a patient of mine who is a nurse practitioner. Each year BNI holds a Visitor’s Day to increase membership and create awareness of the benefits of joining the group. I decided to get involved because I was a fairly new optometrist and I was looking for quality referrals and to get known in the community.

Gauge Cost of Participation
Calculate ROI

You are only able to participate in BNI events if you are a member, or if a member has asked you to attend an event (with intentions that you may become a member). Dues are around $400 per year. There is a $150 one-time registration fee, so if membership results in just one new patient a year you’ve already recouped the cost of registration.

Know What’s Expected of You

the meetings are 1.5 hours per week, along with expectations that you will meet one-to-one with other members to increase your knowledge of what you can do to help others generate quality referrals and vice versa. There are also social events that BNI hosts for members to get to know each other in a more casual setting.

The BNI meetings are very structured and formal. Our meetings took place from 11:30 am-1 pm once a week. The first 15 minutes were for socialization and following up with other members about passed referrals, questions and other issues.

The meeting began by going over what BNI was all about. This was repetitive for all the members, but was very helpful in educating visitors. Each member is encouraged to bring visitors to every meeting to increase membership in hopes of gaining more referrals among the group. An educational coordinator gives a piece of networking education each week. There is a 60-second time slot for each member to talk about what they do, the services they provide, and what their profession is all about. During those 60 seconds you also ask for one specific referral in hopes that another member may know the person you are asking for, or may know of someone who would benefit from what you are offering/providing.

The more someone knows about you, your services and your products, the more comfortable they will be referring you. As people are doing their 60-second presentations, the other members are writing notes to make referrals to that person. There is also a 10-minute presentation each week from one member. This is an opportunity to detail your profession and the type of referrals that are best for you. A box is passed around the room and referral slips are inserted as members share the number of referrals they have given so far to other members, and elaborating on one as an example. After the meeting closes, members talk about the referrals they passed to each other.

The members also thank other members for the closed business that they have received and report the dollar amount of the closed business. Reports are generated periodically so you can keep track of how much money BNI has generated for your business through the referrals

Make Valuable Connections

I met a financial planner who gave me tips on financial management. I also worked with a sign and printing company owner I met through BNI for my business cards, office forms, and a printed canvas wallpaper that looks like an eye chart, but spells out the name of my practice, “VISUAL EYES ESTAB 01/2014,” which is now displayed in the front entrance wall of the inside of my office. I had other signs made that look like my business cards that I used to hang on a car as I went through a parade in my hometown. My building and liability insurance are provided through an insurance salesman I met in BNI. I also met the billboard salesman who set me up with local billboards through BNI, and I buy toner cartridges from Cartridge World, a local business I was connected with through BNI, that recycles cartridges.

Members of my BNI chapter included: a radio salesperson, debt counselor, nurse practitioner, temp agency rep, insurance rep, sign company salesperson, promotional products salesperson, roofing company owner, car salesperson, cartridge company employee, fitness club owner, financial planner and an interior designer, among other professionals.

Learn From Outside Optometry

I think many optometrists have similar mindsets. Talking with those in other fields shows you how professionals you are unfamiliar with are conducting business.

Related ROB Articles & Videos

The Value of Peer-to-Peer Business Groups

Acquiring a Practice: Management Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned: Avoid New Practice Miscalculations

 

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com

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One-Day, One-Month Replacement CLs: Key to CL Patient Satisfaction

 

ADVERTORIAL

 

                

By Ann Rea Miller, OD

 

Contact lenses are loved by the many patients who are freed from wearing glasses, and given superb acuity in their contacts. That love affair with contact lenses, however, will run dry (often literally) if the lenses are not comfortable, or worse yet, if the contacts do harm to the wearer’s eyes. For that reason, one-day and one-month replacement lenses, which are taken out, thrown away and replaced with a fresh lens once a day or month, is a key to success. I have found that when patients only have to remember to change their lenses once a day or once a month, it eases compliance. With greater compliance comes greater patient eye health and comfort.

Keep Patients in Lenses Longer; Greater Profitability

In addition to the most important feat of one-day and one-month lenses–keeping patients satisfied with healthier, more comfortable eyes–this modality is profitable for ODs. By reducing contact lens dropouts due to eye health issues or comfort, the doctor strengthens a revenue stream for his or her practice. The lifetime value of contact lens wearers tends to be higher than that of spectacle-only patients. Contact lens patients are tied into an annual comprehensive examination to renew their contact lens prescription, and most own at least one pair of prescription eyewear. So, in addition to the almost guaranteed annual visit and the purchase of contact lenses, these patients can be counted on to buy eyewear, as well.

In fact, according to “New Data on Contact Lens Dropouts: An International Perspective” by John Rumpakis, OD, MBA, a study published by the Review of Optometry in 2010, the loss of a single contact lens patient may cost your practice up to $24,000 over the patient’s lifetime.

Indeed, with my practice’s protocol of prescribing one-day or one-month replacement contact lenses whenever possible, our dropout rate is no higher than 10 percent.

Educate Patients: One-Day, One-Month CLs Superior

Practices like mine, that prefer to prescribe one-day or one-month lenses, still run into the challenge of transitioning two-week lens wearers into this much better modality. Most of my patients are happy to comply with my recommendation that one-day or one-month is better, but some are more hesitant. I find that taking an educational approach is best in these situations. I might say: “Joan, I understand how you can get used a certain routine, but I think you’ll really like these new lenses better. It’s great just being able to toss your lenses in the garbage at the end of the day and then have a fresh pair every morning. In addition to the much greater ease and convenience, having new contacts everyday is much healthier than wearing lenses for two weeks. Plus, think of all the money and hassle you’ll save not having to buy contact lens solution.”

Or,  in the case of a transition to one-month contacts: “Phil, I can understand that you’re hesitant to make a switch after wearing the same lenses for all these years, but I think you’ll find it much easier to remember to change your contacts once a month versus every two weeks. You mentioned that you sometimes forget and end up wearing your lenses for an extra week or two. Wouldn’t be better to just have a lens that is meant to be worn for a full month, and then simply removed and thrown away? Since I think it will be easier for you to remember to stick to the once-a-month regimen, it will be healthier for your eyes. As your doctor, I think this will be a positive switch for you to at least try.”

Your Job as Doctor to Offer Best Option

As doctors, our patients trust us to educate them on their best options. With that in mind, it is our duty to educate patients why contact lenses that are changed once a day or once a month are a better modality for them. With ease-of-remembering comes ease-of-compliance. We know that compliance is the key to healthy contact lens wearing, and healthy eyes are comfortable eyes.

I think of transitioning patients into a one-day or one-month modality as the best way I can ensure their eye health and comfort, and, ultimately, their trust in me as a doctor.

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is an associate with The Eye Site of Lima in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com

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Billboards: Promote Your Practice Identity to Your Community

By Ann Rea Miller, OD

 

SYNOPSIS

Billboard advertising can quickly turn your practice into a highly recognizable brand in your community.

ACTION POINTS

CHOOSE STRONG MESSAGE & GRAPHICS. Introduce yourself, your practice name, logo and special services.

PICK LOCATION. A town center or heavily trafficked business center can create chatter about your practice.

TRACK RESULTS. Ask new patients how they found your practice, and note how many cite your billboard.

 

 

 

When I graduated from optometry school six years ago, the practice I was joining as an associate put a billboard up in my hometown of Kalida, Ohio, to spread the word that I had graduated and was accepting new patients. My employer knew that many people from Kalida didn’t currently come to his practice, and by creating awareness that a local girl was seeing patients, he was hopeful that the practice would tap into a new population of patients. People from my hometown still comment about seeing my picture on the billboard back then.

So, this year, when I opened my own practice in nearby Lima, Ohio, I again invested in billboard advertising. Lima is a city OF 39,000, yet is like a small town, with businesses dependent on word-of-mouth referrals. It seems like everyone has a connection to someone else, so it seemed like billboards would create conversation and awareness about my new practice. The practice was owned for years by another doctor, so I wanted the community to know a new doctor had taken over, and that they were still able to visit the office for services.

 

One of three billboards advertising Dr. Miller’s new practice. Choose a location, such as on the same road as your practice, or in a heavily trafficked business center, that will get people’s attention.

 

Billboard ROI              

 I took advantage of a special $1,300 deal for three billboards to be displayed for one month, all at the same time. Another company I looked into offered $500 per billboard per month.

The return on investment was huge. People told us that they stopped in the office after just passing the billboard that was on the same road as my office. Because the office had been closed for five months prior to my opening, many patients who used to come to this office were unaware of what was going on. When they stopped in, they told us they were happy they saw the billboard and learned our office was open and ready to see patients.

Work with Billboard Salesman
I was a part of Business Networking International (BNI) where I got to know a salesman for a billboard company. Each week at the networking meetings, we gave a one-minute presentation of the benefits of our business or an education point. He always had great statistics about how billboards work in a city like Lima, so along with my prior success with the billboard six years ago when I graduated, I decided to try it again. I met with the salesman over coffee and we talked about what message I wanted to send. A few days later he sent me a few displays and we worked together to edit them into a billboard I thought created the messaging I wanted to convey.

Decide on Location of Billboard
There are only three billboards in my hometown of Kalida, and the billboard company I chose owned two of them. I chose the location based on the placement being near a factory in town, so I knew there would be a lot of traffic going past it each day. Many people in town work at the factory, so I knew it would create chatter about the practice (small-town gossip). In Lima, there were many choices. I chose the location for one of them to be on the same road as my office and the other was on the same road as The University of Northwestern Ohio because I again knew there would be a lot of traffic.

Decide on Billboard Design
It was similar in design to my business card. I wanted to keep the same image on my billboard and card, so when people saw it, they would associate one with the other.

Track Results on Billboard Display
If I invest in billboards again I think I would try to better track how many people reported the billboard as the way they knew about our office. We now have a space on my “Welcome” form about demographics, etc., and it asks how you found out about our office.

I would do it again. Right now I have been extremely busy (I’m booked out over one month), so I haven’t needed to do any advertising since the initial start-up. However, if I were to throw a trunk show or have a grand opening of a second office, I would consider using billboards again to get the word out.

Related ROB Articles
Multi-Platform Marketing: Engage Patients Online–But Make the In-Office Sale
Media Training: Communicate Effectively with Local TV, Radio, Print & Online Media
Integrated Campaigns = Smarter Marketing

Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: drmiller@wcoil.com