The position checked all the marks of what she wanted in a job after completing her ocular disease and primary care residency. The fast-paced schedule was demanding yet rewarding; she was seeing around 30 patients a day. “The doctor-patient relationship was a huge priority to me,” she recalls. “With a packed schedule, I was challenged to constantly improve clinical efficiencies without compromising the relationship with each patient in my exam chair. This environment was ideal for a few years but as my heart grew for other aspects of what it meant to practice optometry, like managing clinical flow and patient experience, the volume and time demands became a heavier burden than anticipated.”
AVOIDING A BURNOUT
The timing was just right now. A local breakfast hot spot, The Buttered Biscuit, was opening a second location in the same shopping center and wanted more space, so they were willing to take some of the square footage from the suite that Dr. Horne was considering. She was able to secure a smaller space at a lesser price that matched her budget.
The goal for 1,850 square feet space has three exam rooms and most of the rest of the space is open, bright and family friendly. Dr. Horne has two children and is expecting her third in September, so she knows what it’s like to have to manage a doctor’s visit with children. “They have a place to play while mom and dad shop.”
It’s also important to be mindful of her patients’ time, so she keeps her scheduling running efficiently. “From my previous associate position, I gained experience to schedule wisely to protect valuable patient time without hindering clinical productivity.” The goal is to minimize the traditional waiting room experience, bringing patients promptly back for their exam. When waiting is inevitable, there are just a few chairs in the space on purpose, so patients are encouraged to start shopping and interacting with the eyewear and staff.
Must-have instrumentation for her cold start included an OCT, optomap technology and visual field, as well as a corneal topographer with meibography for thorough dry eye evaluations. “I felt it was worth investing in advanced equipment from the beginning by incorporating technology to set ourselves apart.”
OPPORTUNITY TO REFOCUS
Dr. Horne was able to keep connecting with patients virtually through telehealth services during the COVID closure in order to supplement the occasional in office emergency eye exam, totaling around 10 patients per week. When she reopened in the middle of May, the schedule was quickly booked up again. Dr. Horne added another optician to the team shortly after that.
She says that she’s thankful to the patients who have shared their experience with family and friends. Her own family, friends and other small businesses have created a buzz about the practice, which is located nearby where Dr. Horne grew up. Raving Google reviews have also generated new business, and Dr. Horne is connecting with primary care physicians in the area to build referral relationships.
EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE
Dr. Horne hosted a virtual grand opening April 2020 due to the pandemic, and in May 2021, she celebrated with a family-friendly, ribbon-cutting event, as well as a limited-number, VIP-style evening event to get to know the individuals in her community.
She’s also adding an associate OD to the team sooner than expected to cover her maternity leave later this year. She’s carefully considering the right addition to the team; the practice feels almost like another child to her that she’s worked so hard to help flourish.
And while the thought of ownership once would have had her running the other way, she says, it’s been a fulfilling move that has given her the freedom and flexibility to build a unique and personalized eye care experience on a schedule that allows her to spend time with her growing family.