How to be successful as an optometrist in private equity
August 22, 2022
3 min read
In recent years, more and more eye care practices are becoming part of private equity groups, and as a result, more optometrists are growing familiar with this business model.
Private equity groups present the opportunity to become an equity holder in the organization by participating in stock purchases, but this is balanced by giving up control of operations to the management group.
Over the past few years, I have worked as an optometrist in various eye care settings, including a LASIK group, an ophthalmology practice and a private equity office, all of which helped my professional development. In private equity, I was encouraged to grow my practice by adding more instruments and learning the skills to practice full scope optometry. I gained new skills — both inside and outside the exam lane — because I was a member of a network of peers in a doctor-led environment.
Simply being licensed does not equate to having the confidence or knowledge to practice. I started tackling medical cases as I gained more knowledge. Most clinicians tend to learn from literature and attend conferences for their continuing education. Personally, I realized professional growth was also gained through the comanagement of patients with specialists.
When I was uncertain how to treat patients, I opted to either refer them to another doctor within our network or refer out when appropriate. Over time, I learned that referring to doctors who sent me timely copies of their documentation and were interested in my education and development was most beneficial. Viewing relationships as symbiotic ensures better care for the patient.
I strongly believe that our health care system is evolving. In the process, doctors should be present to ensure our patients’ voices and our voices are being heard and taken into consideration. This means that as doctors, we must try to be active participants in state and national associations, but we need to go beyond that at times. We must advance ourselves and our colleagues to ensure there is proper diversity and equity in leadership and that management respects our expertise, allowing us adequate time and understanding to care for patients.
I have found this to be the case in my company, as my peer doctors are in management roles and are familiar with the day-to-day nuances of patient care. Our group is led by a diverse medical executive board comprising fellow doctors leading efforts in clinical quality, patient care and operations, recruiting, clinical trials, technology, research and advocacy.
One of the advantages of working within private equity is that doctors have the opportunity to purchase stock in the parent company. This allows them to become part owners, so to speak, and this increases the level of trust. I find this exciting, because as my practice grows and becomes more efficient, I know that my contributions directly affect the value of our company. I would assume this is similar to the feeling of owning a private practice.
The difference between private equity and other models has to do with the level of control over day-to-day operations. An owner in private practice has control over all aspects of the practice, in addition to the clinical practice of optometry. For me, practicing in a private equity group helps me stay focused on patient care at work, and when I leave work, my personal time does not revolve around the details of my practice. The management group takes care of staffing, inventory and maintenance and covers overhead on instrumentation, among other services. I provide input when it involves changing processes to streamline my practice.
By joining a private equity group, I have developed more professional confidence, which has allowed me to ask the right questions and listen better. As clinicians, we assume we need to have all the answers, but the more I practice, the more it becomes evident that it is not always possible or helpful. Sometimes the best thing we can do is learn to ask the right questions and listen.
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Baik has practiced at Clarkson Eyecare Kenwood in Cincinnati for the past 6 years. The views expressed in this article are Baik’s and do not represent his employer.