Let’s say you normally work five days a week and close your offices over the weekend. Even when your doors are closed, you are still paying for your rent/mortgage, your contact lens inventory and your equipment. So, why not stay open on Saturday and Sunday as well? The only extra charge would be staffing. After all, your fixed expenses are exactly that—fixed—regardless of whether you open your doors for patient care or not.
The simple answer to this question, most of us would agree, is: “I don’t want to work seven days a week. That’s why I won’t stay open!” That is a fair argument. However, the fact remains, the expense clock continues to relentlessly tick on— whether you are there or not.
I have had practitioners call, asking if I’d suggest renting out their space to other eye care professionals while they are not in office—or, in some cases, even when they are there but at times when their practice isn’t as busy. While this may seem like a good idea on paper, and in some cases it does work, the reality is that there are many pitfalls and problems to consider before making such a decision.
Whose Patient It Is?
Let’s say Dr. Weekend sees a patient and fits them with contact lenses. As the appointment comes to a close, he schedules a follow-up visit for the following Sunday. So far so good.
However, on Tuesday morning, the patient wakes up and has trouble seeing out of his right eye. He calls your office, or perhaps Dr. Weekend’s private line, but it is your staff that picks up the phone. What should they say? Should they suggest the patient wait until the follow-up appointment days later or schedule an appointment with you, even though you aren’t the primary doctor.
Either way, you will likely lose. If the patient opts to wait, they now equate this poor service experience not just with Dr. Weekend, but with Dr. Weekend’s “office”—which also happens to be your office. If the patient comes in, you will have to dance around the very delicate issue of payment. Remember, you want to get paid for your time even though the patient wasn’t fit by you. And what happens if you wait and the issue wasn’t the contact lens at all, but some other sort of new pathology or problem?
Whose Lenses They Are?
When Dr. Weekend goes into your trial lens room and removes a pair of lenses to fit the patient, who pays for those lenses? While they may be free, keep in mind that your account won’t get credit towards your trial allotment if Dr. Weekend is using the lenses. Theoretically, if Dr. Weekend had a very busy string of days and kept using your trials, you’d eventually be in a tough spot trying to get more lenses.
Whose Referral It Is?
Now consider a new scenario. What if the patient loves her contact lenses and had a great experience with Dr. Weekend, referring him via his office location. The patient might have said she visited Dr. Weekend on Sunday, but the new referral might want an appointment during the week. When the referral walks into your office for information or an appointment on say Tuesday, and tells you that she can’t be seen on Saturday or Sunday, what will you do?
Will Dr. Weekend compensate your staff for taking time to set up the appointment? What happens when patients cannot accommodate their schedule to his? And fi nally, will you be compensated for the 15 minutes it may take your staff to explain medical insurance and billing questions?
These are just a few of the issues to consider when renting out your offi ce space. Other concerns may include responsibility over misused or broken equipment, the disparity in pay between office staff or how to handle sensitive material—such as financial matters—that may spill over into your practice.
The truth is that this list can go on and on. While sharing space might appear to be a good idea, I would generally recommend against it. However, should you proceed anyway, do so with caution.