Starting or running your own practice is no small undertaking. There are many risks and challenges you’ll have to face along the way, but with the right optometry practice support and resources at your fingertips, you can reap the rewards that can come with being your own boss.
Doctor alliance networks are a secret weapon of many solo practitioners, providing them with various forms of support they need to establish and grow successful practices. We put together this article to help you understand your alliance and buying group options, as well as the many benefits that you can expect from investing in a membership. Let’s get started!
Introduction to Doctor Alliance Networks
A doctor alliance is a group that brings together like-minded professionals and offers them a range of benefits, including but not limited to: networking events, peer-to-peer support, access to training, opportunities for continued education, administrative tools and resources, group buying discounts, access to professional business advisors and consulting, and more.
Many doctor alliance networks are specific to certain medical fields such as optometry, dentistry, physicians, etc. These will likely be more useful as they provide tools, advice, and opportunities more specifically tailored to your field.
What’s the Difference Between a Buying Group and Alliance for Optometry?
The terms “alliance” and “buying group” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have some key differences. A buying group, as the name implies, is typically more focused on group buying power and access to discounts. Alliance is a broader term that offers a wide range of benefits, not just discounts. Alliance benefits may include networking opportunities, access to consulting and practice management services, training opportunities, marketing support, and much more. Most alliances therefore have a membership fee, but the return on investment is well worth it for many practitioners, especially those just starting out and looking for more holistic support.
Benefits of Joining an Alliance
Outlined below are 10 standout benefits that come with joining an alliance group:
- Strength in Numbers: The most obvious benefit to joining a doctor alliance is the chance to connect, network and learn from other professionals in your field. Many alliances hold large in-person events where you can meet hundreds of like-minded peers, exchange ideas and lessons learned, and support each other with advice and referrals. Other doctor alliance networking opportunities may include annual member gatherings, online discussion forums, member directories, and smaller peer-to-peer events, discussion groups, and social events. Feeling connected and supported as you work through the challenges of running your own practice is truly priceless!
- Education & Training: Owning your own practice can be stressful, and one way to reduce the burden on you is to ensure you and your staff are as educated and trained as possible. An alliance will usually provide access to extensive online and in-person training opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest research and techniques, as well as opportunities to advance your education and gain additional certifications.
- Tools & Resources: Running your own practice requires a lot of skills you probably didn’t master in medical school, including human resources, billing and coding, and marketing, to name a few. In fact, an increasing number of doctors are taking salaried positions at hospitals in order to avoid these administrative headaches. However, as part of a professional alliance, you’ll usually have access to a large library of tools and resources to help you set up and run efficient operations in these administrative areas and more.
- Group Discounts & Rebates: Some doctor alliances provide access to group discounts and loyalty rebates to save you on the costs of a wide range of equipment and supplies. In the field of optometry, these may include contact lenses, frames, lab costs, equipment, supplies, furniture, scrubs, and even insurance and shipping. For example, PECAA’s group buying power connects members to 70+ high-quality, trusted vendors offering discounts up to 50%.
- Consulting Services: Many alliances offer members access to professional business advisors that can provide an important outside assessment of your practice. Advisors can help analyze your profits and losses, assess your key performance indicators, and review your vendor discounts to identify potential areas of improvement and help you develop action plans to achieve the results you’re after. Advisors can also help you through challenging periods such as key personnel changes or the difficult decision to sell your practice when the time comes.
- Marketing & Social Media Support: Did you know that 76% of patients will visit your website before ever calling or coming in to see you? This is just one of the reasons why digital marketing is essential to your success. Some alliances offer specialized marketing support, which may include website design and development, social media management, design and print services, patient engagement services, and more. In the modern world, where digital marketing is fast-paced and constantly evolving, this access to marketing support is an invaluable resource for practices looking to grow and thrive.
- Human Resources Support: Human resources probably isn’t something you mastered in medical school, but it’s a crucial component of running a successful practice. Many alliances provide access to helpful resources such as HR hotlines for questions, up-to-date forms, and document templates, salary surveys, and more.
- Billing & Coding Support: A Health Affairs survey found that doctors spend about three hours per week dealing with billing-related matters, and for each doctor, an additional 19 hours per week are spent by medical support staff. That’s why streamlining your billing and coding processes is so important. Some alliances offer specialized billing and coding support to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your billing processes, minimize denied claims, stay up-to-date on CMS rules and regulations to keep your billing practices compliant, manage your revenue cycle, and much more.
- Profitability: Studies show that joining an alliance group can improve the overall profitability of your practice. A survey of eye care professionals across the country found that 70% noticed an increase in profits since joining an alliance group, with the average increase in profitability being 13%. Additionally, 75% reported a positive return on their investment in membership and were happy they made the decision to join.
- Long-Term Sustainability: Establishing and running your own practice can take its toll on your mental wellbeing and overall quality of life. In fact, the American Medical Association reported that burnout can affect as many as 40% of U.S. physicians! A little extra support and peace of mind can go a long way and make a huge difference in your day-to-day. Joining an alliance can make running your practice more sustainable and prevent burnout.
Questions to Ask When Joining a Doctor Alliance Group
As you can probably see from the benefits outlined above, joining an alliance group is an important investment in the future of your practice. Of course, not all alliance groups offer the same benefits, so it’s important to do your research and make your decision carefully. Below are a few key questions to ask when joining a doctor alliance group:
- Is the alliance industry-specific? For example, an optometrist will probably benefit more from joining an alliance that is specific to the field of optometry rather than a broad doctor alliance group.
- What services and practice management tools do you most need/want access to?
- What is the track record of the management team, the in-house consultants, and the alliance overall? It’s a good idea to look at reviews and talk to members about their experience with the alliance.
- Does the alliance help you network with other successful ODs? Ask about the number of current members, their location, areas of specialty, and other details that are important to you.
- What discounts are offered and do they match up with your specific needs?
- What vendors are part of the alliance? Are they your preferred vendors?
- If a membership fee is required, will it offset the financial benefit you’ll receive from vendor discounts or accessing specific services? For example, on average, PECAA members save enough in discounts & rebates alone to triple their return on their membership investment.
- If applicable, does the membership fee charge extra fees for multiple practice locations?
- How long is the membership contract? Can you leave the alliance without penalty if you’re unhappy with it?
Optometry Alliance Groups
As mentioned above, if you’re going to invest in an alliance membership, you’ll probably want to join one that is specific to your area of practice. There are several alliance groups specific to the field of optometry that offer specialized support services, including PECAA.
One important thing to note is that some optometrists choose to join more than one buying group or alliance. In fact, a survey of eyecare professionals across the United States found that 25% of buying group members belong to more than one group, and 13% of alliance members belong to more than one alliance.
Optometry Doctor Alliance: Meet PECAA!
If you are looking for a doctor alliance specifically tailored to the field of optometry, consider joining the Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA). We are a well-established and respected network of over 3,700 eye care professionals, offering all of the benefits outlined above and more!