Practice Management Software: What Are The Basics For Optical Practice Today?

Eros Business Consulting for Health care retail

A Business Briefing by Bob Hutchinson,
Principal Eros Business Consulting

Originally IT systems were only conceived as an automatic method for sending recall letters. So it sits on the desk, you’ve paid for it, and you only use 15% of its working capability. Makes no sense does it?


Flexibility, ease of use, robustness and a range of modular tools that you can gradually engage; these are the buzzwords to look for. As is the ability to get all the information you have fed into the box out in a readable and useful way. Whatever it produces in reports, there is a great advantage in getting .csv files out and into Excel type spreadsheets to play around with yourself.

Some systems make it nigh on impossible to pull out information without a degree in computers and when advising clients on business improvements we like to see a system that can show your business positioning and trending and like a barometer will advise of storms ahead.

Practices have many varying agreements with Customs over VAT on dispensing and therefore they need a flexible till system and unobtrusive security to protect staff and the business from fraud.

Look for stock control that will provide answers to stocking problems and be interactive and historical in its ability to make stock mix selection simple. As regular quarterly stock takes are a must for any business to watch its product type gross profit metrics make sure it’s quick and simple to do the job.

3 pricing fields are preferred, cost price (the purchase cost after discounts you paid), long price (the undiscounted price) which you should mark up from and finally the retail price containing VAT.

Best practice in management allows us to experiment with “if and what games. So we like to be able to change information and prices and see what happens, forwards and backwards on past data without affecting the operation of your PMS system.

The beauty of a well set up system is that within days it reduces the time it takes to use old day books and petty cash sheets as well as the difficulties of tracking debtors and expediting jobs, whilst at the same time the system is busy gathering information you will one day find invaluable to your business.

There should be no extra feeding of information in; it collects all the facts it needs as you use the system properly in the practice .Using IT properly and fully in the practice does mean you save yourself time in which you can act on the results it gives you.

Whilst the decision making on choice is often made by the owner/optometrist this often means that the clinical ability of the machine overwhelms the other reasons for selection. But don’t sacrifice the business end of the machine as this will be your main helper in profit improvement in the future.

Be very careful of clinical note taking and the later reporting of findings, in our view we still have not seen a system which gives enough selection choice on clinical reporting. However many systems now offer large free writing areas within the notes which are often sadly ignored.

When faced with a litigation matter you might be alarmed at the limited read outs that you are left providing insurance companies. Perhaps the new spoken word capture facility that we have seen at Optinet will provide that additional back up in evidential knowledge. But remember patients have just as much right to hear your clinical views as they do to read your clinical reports!

Bob Hutchinson has been working in the centre of the optical sector since becoming an optometrist.

Recently retiring from clinical optometry, he continues to act for many SMEs as well as larger groups in strategy, PR & marketing and financial advice with a specialism in optical VAT.

His client base also includes large industrial companies in equipment and IT involved in the optical industry to name a few.

Still involved in optical decision making his aim has always been to encourage regulators and negotiators to allow the sector to flourish, and to assist others to own and manage financially robust businesses.

Eros Business Consulting