A study group provides a forum for members who have a common interest in sharing information on numerous topics, such as office management, ocular pathology, new equipment and technology, networking, and more. As our offices change with additions like electronic health records, optical coherence tomography (OCT), Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), it provides topics for group discussion on how to implement them into the office. This discussion is generally not available at local, state and national meetings where you listen to lectures and perhaps take notes.
I belong to a study group in the Dallas area that has been meeting monthly for more than 40 years. Topics such as those mentioned above along with hundreds more have been discussed at our meetings throughout the years. We have 16 active members and six reserve members who like to attend when a member has a conflict. While some members have retired, at least half of the members have been in the group more than 30 years.
Members make or break it
Having the right members is the most important factor in forming a group. Keep these points in mind when putting a group together.
• Ensure members are knowledgeable and willing to share information.
• Members should be compatible and enjoy the time spent with each other. Although we’ve had differing opinions in our 40 years, we have not had an argument between members.
• Recruit members who take the time to prep before they lead discussion on a topic at a meeting.
• Members should be dedicated to attending unless they have a conflict. If you have the right members and interesting meetings, then members will want to attend and regret it when they are not able to make the meeting. If members routinely miss meetings without a conflict, they should be replaced.
• Members need to be willing to share information about their office procedures that may be helpful to their peers even if they are located near one another.
• The size of the group can vary from five to 18 members. In a rural area or small town, potential members may be limited. However, more than 18 members may make discussion more difficult.
• The group can consist of both optometrists and ophthalmologists. (Our group has 13 optometrists and three ophthalmologists.)
Our group meets monthly, and meetings can occur as often as the group chooses. Some groups meet quarterly or even less if members are not located in the same area. In lieu of our December meeting we have a holiday party at a restaurant that includes members’ significant others.