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Considerations for Hiring an Associate Optometrist for Your Private Practice    

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November 21, 2023

Deciding when to hire an associate optometrist can be a difficult task if you’re a solo practitioner in a private practice. While there are many things to consider when doing so, your goals are what really matter. So, your first step should be to determine the goals for the practice, your personal goals, and your financial goals. Then you’ll need to figure out how you want to achieve those goals. You might also want to take into consideration the stage you’re at in your career. Here are some suggestions to consider:

Review Your Business Plan 
From a financial perspective, many “experts” say that each doctor is capable of accounting for $500,000 to $1,000,000 or more of practice gross income. While this is very helpful information when deciding when to hire an associate optometrist, there is so much more that can be discerned from this statement. You need to think about many of the following questions:

  • What is the practice income per doctor hour?
  • Do you know what your income is per clinical hour? (Do you have an easy way to measure this?)
  • How long do you think it will take for your associate to generate the same income per hour as you do?
  • Is your practice a high end or discount practice?
  • Do you practice the medical model or the retail model, or a little bit of both?
  • How many patients are you capable of seeing in your practice in a given day?
  • Do you have one exam room or two or more?
  • Do you book every 15 minutes, 20 or 30 minutes, or every hour?
  • Is your practice large enough to support ancillary staff to whom you are willing to delegate responsibilities?
  • Are you, as the practice owner, satisfied with your net income?
  • Do you have a high or low overhead?
  • Do you practice in a rural or urban area?

W-2 Employees vs. Independent Contractors
When you hire an associate, you also need to consider whether they will be a W-2 employee or will work as an independent contractor (1099).

From a cost standpoint alone, it is less expensive for the practice if your doctors work on a 1099, but there are many considerations, defined by the government, to determine the status. Your accountant should be able to advise you. Here is some helpful information on W-2 vs 1099 employees status.

You might incur other costs as well because many practices market the new associate, provide them with their own business cards, and hire new staff to work with them.

Remember too that your associates need to be credentialed for medical and vision plans, as you must bill using their name and NPI number, even if the payments will come to your corporation or partnership tax ID. For more information about how to go about doing this, review this guide on optometry credentialing.

Other Factors to Consider 
Some factors in your decision-making process might be more personal. For example, are your current hours unsustainable? Do you need an associate to assist in seeing patients so you can focus on other aspects of your business that require your attention? Do your personal career growth goals focus on your work as a practitioner or do you envision yourself acting more as the CEO of your practice?

There are also practical matters to add to the equation. Do you have the support staff and infrastructure to manage the increase in patient flow that an associate would generate? Without adequate staff to handle an influx of patients, you may be left with team experiencing burnout and potential vacancies for hard-to-fill roles.

Expanding your practice is a big decision, but taking into account the ways you stand to benefit and the possibility of exposure to risks you may not be ready to handle, will help get you to the right decision. Good luck!

This article is sponsored by Eyes on Eyecare.

Photo credit: pond5


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