Imagine if optometry students were able to learn, overnight, whether they are ready to run a successful private practice. Consider the benefits of experiencing private practice ownership, yet avoiding the costly mistakes that come with making poor management choices.
That type of “test drive” is now reality at the Illinois College of Optometry.
Eric A. Baas, OD ’06, FAAO, ICO’s director of continuing education and Chief of the Rosenbloom Center on Vision and Aging, offers an elective course that uses practice management simulator software called “iPractice: Private Practice Simulator.” Adapted from SABRE SIM, Baas’ version enables students to make decisions about marketing, staffing, equipment and pricing strategies, and then quickly discover the impact of those choices.
“An algorithm is applied to simulate six months of operations overnight, delivering immediate feedback about those decisions and whether or not they were favorable,” Baas says. “They find out how much money the practice makes or loses during this simulated period. It’s valuable loss/gain insight without the risk.”
Marketing decisions include how much to spend on various channels, such as online, radio, TV, direct mail or billboards, to attract customers. Staffing considerations relate to the amount of full-time employees—optometrists, opticians and general staff. Students also make choices for diagnostic and specialty equipment, such as those addressing sports vision and low vision. They also determine pricing strategies for ophthalmic frames and sunglasses as well as which insurance plans to accept based upon fee schedules.
“From this simulation, students are able to discover whether and what type of exams increased or decreased in their practice—and by how much. Same with the sale of glasses and contacts,” Baas says.