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Steve Vargo | 5/19/2022

As research for launching a new service called IDOC Specialty Services, I interviewed several industry experts of various specialties. At the end of each call, I asked everyone the same question: “What prevents more ODs from succeeding with a specialty?”

Their answers were insightful. I have compiled them below.


Operational Efficiency

This was probably the most common response I received, referring to the challenges of working specialty patients into the daily flow of a busy practice. Offices with good intentions of growing a specialty find they lack the time to successfully implement. Success requires a review of options to improve efficiencies and create more time. One example is to hire an associate to take on more of the routine care.



Change is difficult, and implementing any new service requires the buy-in of the staff. Something I frequently hear is that the staff either resists changes associated with a new service, or initial excitement over a new service eventually wanes and the changes fail to last. Change management requires leaders who keep employees focused on the goals and hold people accountable for outcomes.



Creating a strategy is the easy part. Implementation is where many practices struggle. Success with implementing a specialty requires an action plan, including:

  • Setting goals
  • Designating tasks and deadlines to employees
  • Meeting frequently to review progress


The key word is ACTION. Some research has found that the first 4 weeks can be the most difficult, as people may resort back to the “old way,” but if you can push through the first month, it’s more likely momentum will build and implementation will succeed.



If your focus is on saving the patient money versus improving their vision or quality of life, then it will be challenging to succeed with a specialty. I believe this is why many ODs merely “dabble” with a specialty. They would like more patients to invest in the service, but lack the ability to confidently prescribe a product or service that may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. As one doctor put it, “The OD needs to truly believe that this is the best option for the patient.”



You may offer a specialty service, but are your patients (and community) aware that you offer this service? Is it reflected on your website in a way that truly differentiates your practice? Do you market it on social media? If someone in your area does a Google search for your specialty or a problem related to your specialty, will your practice show up at the top of the listings?

Marketing your specialty effectively can be a great boost to driving patients into your office. If you’re not a marketing expert (most ODs aren’t), IDOC can help with that. Check out IDOC Marketing Services.


If you want to make a specialty a more meaningful part of your practice but are struggling in any of these areas, I encourage you to join our Facebook group, IDOC Optometric Specialty Community. There you can ask questions, brainstorm ideas, and get feedback from other ODs who have overcome many of these challenges.

Steve Vargo
Practice Management Consultant
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in a clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant and advises members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. Steve and his wife Melanie have two sons, Lucas and Ryan. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, sports and music. A native Chicagoan, he is an avid fan of the Cubs, live music and deep-dish pizza.
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