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On your mark, get set, go!

January 7, 2013

It is already a new year, and that means it’s time for me to make a new list of resolutions. Not because I completed my list from last year, but because I have been using the same list for many years and that list is now faded and worn out. So a new year and a new list!

Do you make your resolution list every year? I think some folks do and some folks know the drill and keep trying to stick to the ones they made years ago. I think either approach works – as long as we stop each year and think about how things are going and how we can make things better – as an optometrist, and as a person.

One of the things our practice does every year is look at our fees. Do they need adjusting? We also look at our staffing in our office and we look at our office décor. Do we need new paint? Chairs? This is the time I usually go through the office with some stain and clean up the scratches on the doors and furniture. Addition-ally we look at our equipment and think about what we would like to add this year to help better care for our patients.

After the year’s financials come from the accountant we take a close look at the vision plans and the insurance we accept. This is a tough one sometimes ,but absolutely necessary. Are there some plans we need to add or get rid of? Are we too dependent on one plan? Certainly I look at reimbursements – and denials – but also at the hassles and time necessary to deal with a particular company. I also look at the benefits patients are expecting to be covered and what their plan actually covers. In other words, is a plan making us the bad guys telling patients the bad news about the poor benefits their plan provides?

The AOA has a great tool for calculating your chair costs (www.aoa.org/x9619.xml). The start of the year, when you are closing the books, is a perfect time to see if your fees and plans pass financial muster. It really is a good tool and, even though it takes a little time to do, it is critical in these quickly changing times that we constantly monitor our chair costs and reimbursements.

My dad taught me many lessons. When I was still in optometry school, he started me on the habit of doing an annual personal financial review, taking a snapshot of where I am (and now where my family is) financially. My summary won’t pass an accountant’s protocol, but it has been very helpful for me to annually summarize my assets and liabilities. I have started adding big events for the year, such as a car purchase, or real estate purchase or college tuition payments to my annual summary, which has been helpful. By sticking to his advice, and documenting progress at the same time each year, I have a clear idea of what happened last year, and it helps me set goals and predict what the next year will be like.

I do have another resolution from my old list to carry forward. I really must use a seatbelt every time. Every time. (I did a lot better this past year!)

Like many people, I’d like to lose some weight and get more exercise. With the amount of travel I do as a member of the AOA Board, it’s a struggle. But I want to keep trying to eat better and exercise more. And what is exercise, really, other than movement. I can work that into my routine. For example, I get bored with the treadmill, but I can always take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator (especially between buffets on a cruise ship!).

I’m also going to try to prioritize exercise and prioritize fun. My approach is usually to wait for a gap in the schedule and then exercise or have some fun. The problem is that the gaps don’t happen often enough. I want to schedule the time this year.

I also want to read for fun. That won’t happen until after Optometry’s Meeting® in June. But I have started making my list of what I want to read.

What am I reading now? Reports, background, correspondence and publications. I want to educate myself better on all the issues that affect our profession. The typical AOA Board member spends 25 hours a week on volunteer time, and much of that time is reading and educating ourselves on many subjects.

This is a new resolution: Every year I see more patients with diabetes, so I need to do a better job of getting letters to their primary care doctors (especially with the Affordable Care Act and Accountable Care Organizations rules kicking in). Those other doctors need to be reminded that we’re an important part of the diabetes care team, and I want to be sure the rest of the team stays informed.

And that reminds me that we are now living in a new health care world and so I need to write my annual check to AOA-PAC and my state PAC now.

Finally, I know it is now one year until the Affordable Care Act kicks in. So I know this year, more than any other in the past, I need to be watching for the deadlines and steps I need to follow to take advantage of incentives and avoid penalties. (So I will be studying this issue of the AOA News, which has good information about some of that.) Any steps I can take now to make next January’s transition easier will make 2014 a lot happier!

Wow. There is always a lot to do and think about each January, but doing these things sure gets the year off on the right foot and that means I start off the year feeling better about myself and my practice!

So between now and the end of the year, I look forward to another fun year practicing, spending time with my family, and counting my blessings. Happy 2013 to us all!

Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH
AOA president

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