75% Of Optometry Students Graduate Feeling Unprepared In Practice Management

Michael McGovern, OD, FAAO give his insights on practice management prep for new graduates.

Cara Moore: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us here on Optometry TV. I’m Cara Moore, joined now by Dr. Michael McGovern who is the Chief Medical Officer at the SUNY College of Optometry. So thanks for being here. So we are talking about practice management, but more specifically how to teach that to students.

Dr. Michael McGovern: It’s a challenge. One of the beautiful things about our profession is that no two optometrists have the same career. There’s so many options as far as modes of practice that we can practice in, which is a wonderful thing. And that that’s something that draws a lot of applicants to our profession. And that makes for very fulfilling careers. The problem is when you have to teach those students how to manage their careers in school, preparing them for their careers ahead, being just so many career avenues, it gets very difficult to do that because you can’t cover everything. So about 75% of optometry students graduate saying that they don’t feel well prepared in practice management, only about 4% feel solid with it.

Cara Moore: So what do you do with that then? Like, what are you, what are you teaching students right now about practice management?

Dr. Michael McGovern: So you go back to your curriculum, you know, you have to change what you’re doing as times change. So we have 40 hours of our overall curriculum that are dedicated to practice management. First year they get about six hours. What’s optometry? Who are the players? Professional organizations, industry, healthcare trends, Medicare, things like that. Just give them a real taste. Second years, all coding and billing. One of the two things. And when optometry students graduate optometry school and we do surveys, and ask them what are the two areas that they feel most ill prepared in? Coding and billing becomes one of them because every patient encounter they have, they have to code and bill. And that affects both their financial health of their practices eventually. And also regulatory oversight bodies catch a lot of people doing incorrect coding and billing. And then there’s a lot of legal issues associated with that. And monetary issues. Second year, that’s the second year. Third year, the 24 hours of that 40 hours is covered. And that covers everything from writing a CV to how to interview, how to negotiate contracts, how to run a business. You know, we have financial people come in and teach them how, what’s a credit report? Some students don’t even know that, you know, these are very smart students who are very good in science and math, health things, ocular diseases. But when it comes to business, they’re not business people, and it turns out they figure out later on after they graduate, business is a big part of running your business and staying in business. So we do have professionals come in, we have people come in and teaching them how to negotiate contracts both with managed care plans and also with employers because they don’t know how to do that. And that’s a major issue for them.

Cara Moore: How important is it to teach them before they get out into the workforce?

Cara Moore: It’s important, but the timing’s off, so they’re worrying about their tests next week or their national board exam or how to even look for places to work. They’re not worrying about the nuances of negotiating contracts at that point. Unfortunately that’s the time we have to teach it. But that’s the time where a lot of it falls on deaf ears because they don’t appreciate how important that is going to be to their career. And it’s not uncommon at all for later on our alumni to call us two, three, four years out and says, any way I can take that course again or can I at least speak to the instructor again? I have my notes, but now I understand what they were trying to say and I have so many questions. And unfortunately we haven’t as a profession figured out a good way to give them this very, very necessary skill set because we only have them for the period of time where they really don’t need that skill set yet.

Cara Moore: Okay. So what your message? What’s the takeaway today?

Dr. Michael McGovern: As a profession, we have to figure out a better way to educate our students on practice management and career development. I don’t know if it’s something post-graduation that we figure out with our alumni and then have them back for seminars. That might be something we’ve talked about and floated the pros of and that seems to be interesting and something we may be pursuing. But it is a challenge.

Cara Moore: Yeah. And it’s a huge part of life as you graduate, right? You have to know how to do this stuff.

Dr. Michael McGovern: Right. And you know, and you could be the best Doctor, but if you end up in trouble because of poor business decisions, you didn’t know how to have secure financing for a loan to buy a practice, or you sign contracts that were not very beneficial to yourself. All those skills that you learned as far as caring for patients and healing disease don’t mean a lot if you’re not able to actually hang a shingle and practice and see patients. And that’s the real disconnect and that’s what we have to get better at.

Cara Moore: All right. Well thanks for taking time speaking with us.

Dr. Michael McGovern: Great. It was a pleasure.

Cara Moore: Yeah. Thank you. And thanks for watching Optometry TV.

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