Business process outsourcing (BPO) has become an increasingly popular option for optometry practices looking to reduce costs and improve efficiency. With BPO, an optometry clinic can outsource certain business functions like billing, scheduling, customer service, or data analytics to an external company specializing in those services. While BPO can provide significant benefits, it also comes with risks that must be carefully evaluated. Conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis is essential for determining if outsourcing makes strategic and financial sense for a given optometry practice.
This article will provide an overview of how to perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis of BPO in optometry. It will cover the key factors to consider, including quantifying current costs, estimating outsourcing costs, assessing qualitative benefits and risks, projecting future costs and benefits, and incorporating strategic considerations into the final decision. We also provide a template spreadsheet that clinics can use for a cost benefit analysis of an optometry BPO. A well-constructed cost-benefit analysis can guide optometrists in deciding if transitioning support functions to a BPO provider will likely maximize value and competitive advantage for their practice.
Identify Current Costs
The first component of a cost-benefit analysis is quantifying the clinic’s current costs for the business processes being considered for outsourcing. This involves calculating the direct and indirect costs of performing these functions in-house.
Direct costs include the labor, facilities, technology, and any other expenses required for the clinic to handle the tasks internally. Specific line items to factor in include:
- Salaries and benefits for employees involved in the business processes
- Office space, furniture, equipment, and supplies dedicated to these functions
- Software, hardware, licenses, and IT support costs
- Employee training and development costs
- Any fees paid for external services or contractors
In addition to direct costs, there are typically a variety of indirect costs incurred when managing operations in-house. These represent inefficiencies, wasted resources, and lost opportunities. Common indirect costs to consider include:
- Errors and rework requiring additional staff time to resolve
- Failure to collect on bills and claims, reducing potential revenue
- Missed appointments and unused capacity from suboptimal scheduling
- High employee turnover necessitating repeated recruiting and training
- Management time spent overseeing operations and processes
Thoroughly documenting direct and indirect costs clearly shows the total cost of performing essential business functions in-house. This baseline cost can then be compared to the expected costs of outsourcing.
Tips for Documenting Current Costs
When estimating current costs, it can be helpful to build out a spreadsheet model that quantifies savings opportunities in specific areas like:
- Transitioned Staff Cost Savings – Calculate potential savings from transitioning current staff roles to a BPO provider by comparing fully loaded in-house vs. outsourced staff costs.
- Turnover-Related Cost Savings – Estimate savings that could be realized from reduced turnover after outsourcing by tallying costs like manager time spent hiring and training.
- Cash Flow Cost Savings – Project savings from faster claims reimbursement turnaround by comparing days outstanding and the resulting working capital costs before and after outsourcing.
Estimate Outsourcing Costs
The next step is to analyze the projected costs of outsourcing the business processes to a BPO provider. This includes both one-time transition expenses and ongoing operational costs.
One-Time Transition Costs
Transitioning operations to an outsourcing provider involves several upfront costs including:
- Fees paid to the BPO provider for implementation and knowledge transfer
- Employee training on new systems, processes, and collaboration with the BPO provider
- Integration of the BPO provider’s systems and tools with the clinic’s existing IT infrastructure
- Potential upgrades to hardware or software to facilitate integration
- Resources involved in selecting, contracting with, and transitioning to the BPO provider
Ongoing Operational Costs
Once the transition is complete, the clinic will incur recurring expenses related to the outsourced functions:
- Monthly or annual fees paid to the BPO provider
- Additional costs for software, data storage, or other ongoing technology expenses
- Management time spent communicating with and overseeing the BPO provider
- Fees for any ancillary or special services not covered in the contract
- Potential need for in-house staff to handle exceptions or provide supplemental services
Developing estimates for both the one-time transition costs and ongoing operational expenses provides the total expected cost of outsourcing the business functions.
Assess Qualitative Benefits
In addition to direct cost savings, outsourcing can provide other significant qualitative and strategic benefits. Typical advantages of outsourcing business processes include:
Improved Operational Efficiency
BPO providers specialize in the business functions being outsourced. Their expertise, systems, and tools often deliver higher performance and productivity. This could enable faster billing, higher first-call resolution in customer service, fewer errors and rework, and higher employee productivity.
Outsourcing administrative or non-core functions allows the clinic’s staff to focus their time on more value-added activities like direct patient care. This can lead to increased revenue and higher patient satisfaction.
BPO providers can readily scale capacity up or down as the clinic’s needs change. This provides flexibility to support fluctuating demand or seasonal cycles.
Focus on Core Competencies
Outsourcing non-essential functions allows the optometry clinic to focus its resources on strengthening its core competencies in providing excellent eye care and enhancing the patient experience.
Assessing these qualitative benefits provides insights into some of the less tangible but still significant advantages BPO can offer.
Factor in Potential Risks
While outsourcing provides many possible benefits, it also carries potential risks that should be incorporated into the analysis. Key risks optometrists should evaluate include:
Data Security Vulnerabilities
Managing sensitive patient information externally creates potential data security and privacy risks. Optometry clinics must thoroughly assess the BPO provider’s data governance, cybersecurity safeguards, regulatory compliance, and liability coverage.
Quality Control Challenges
Delegating important functions like billing and customer service to an external provider may raise concerns about service quality consistency. Optometry practices should determine how the BPO provider will ensure adequate quality control.
Overdependence on an External Party
Relying too heavily on a third-party vendor creates risks if the outsourcing relationship ends. The clinic may lose control over key functions and institutional knowledge. There should be a plan to ensure continuity of essential operations if the contract terminates.
Carefully evaluating these potential risk factors provides a more balanced perspective on the actual costs and benefits of outsourcing for an optometry clinic.
Project Future Costs and Benefits
A cost-benefit analysis requires both current and future costs and benefits are incorporated into the evaluation. Forecasting projected expenses and advantages over a multi-year period captures the full impact of outsourcing.
Projections of future costs should factor in potential price increases by BPO providers, technology change costs, and expenses related to higher volumes from clinic growth.
Future benefits projections should reflect improvements in operational efficiency, staff productivity gains, and increased revenue opportunities over time. The ongoing cost savings and strategic benefits typically increase each year as processes mature. Here are some common benefits that we recommend:
- Enhanced Staff Performance – Model increased revenue from higher staff productivity and patient volumes after outsourcing administrative duties. For example, quantify additional income from higher patient recall rates and exam capacity.
- Increased Capacity – Calculate expected incremental revenue from providers being able to conduct more exams due to operational efficiencies gained after outsourcing certain functions.
Developing 5-year projected cost and benefit estimates provides a view into the longer-term impact of outsourcing. This allows the net present value of investing in outsourcing to be quantified.
Incorporate Strategic Considerations
The final step is incorporating strategic and qualitative factors into the cost-benefit analysis conclusions. Outsourcing certain business functions can significantly affect the clinic’s competitive positioning, patient experience, and staff morale.
While the financial case may favor outsourcing, the clinic leadership should consider alignment with the overall vision and mission. Maintaining control over specific processes directly tied to patient care may be worth a premium cost.
The decision should balance both the quantitative cost-benefit analysis results with these broader strategic considerations for the practice.
Conducting the Analysis
With all of the critical cost and benefit components quantified, the clinic can now conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to inform the outsourcing decision. Key steps include:
Document current costs for existing operations, incorporating both direct and indirect costs
Develop projections for the expected costs of outsourcing, including transition and ongoing expenses
Estimate the potential efficiency gains, increased revenue, and other benefits BPO may provide
Factor in risks around security, quality, over-dependence, and other potential downsides
Forecast longer-term costs and benefits over a 5-year period and calculate net present value
Align conclusions with strategic goals for patient experience, culture, and competitive positioning
This rigorous analysis provides data-driven insights into the likely return on investing in business process outsourcing. The final decision can balance both the financial case and strategic considerations unique to the clinic.
An accurate cost-benefit analysis is crucial for optometry practices considering business process outsourcing. While BPO offers many potential benefits, the decision carries risks and should align with the clinic’s broader objectives for delivering compassionate, quality vision care. Carefully analyzing costs and benefits provides an essential fact-base for determining if outsourcing is the right choice to enhance the performance and competitiveness of an optometry practice.
Cost-Benefit Analysis Template
We have created an easy-to-use Google Sheets template to assist optometrists with conducting their own thorough cost-benefit analysis. This customizable template allows users to input their own clinic’s estimates and projections to quantify the case for or against outsourcing.
The template contains separate worksheets to model different cost and benefit scenarios like:
- Current Staffing Costs
- Turnover Cost Savings
- Revenue Enhancement Opportunities
- Cash Flow Improvements
Formulas embedded in the template automatically calculate the total projected cost reductions and added revenue from outsourcing based on the user’s input assumptions.
This template provides an organized framework to follow the cost-benefit analysis steps outlined in this article. Optometrists can use the model to develop data-driven projections tailored to their unique practice situation and needs.
The Google Sheets template allows clinics to evaluate outsourcing in a quantified, scenario-based manner.
Outsourcing administrative functions through business process outsourcing represents a significant strategic decision for an optometry clinic. Thoroughly assessing the current operations costs, projecting outsourcing expenses, evaluating qualitative benefits and risks, and incorporating strategic alignment is crucial. This cost-benefit analysis provides data-driven insights to decide whether BPO can maximize value for the practice. While outsourcing comes with advantages and downsides, a rigorous analysis helps optometrists determine if it makes financial and competitive sense to move specific business processes outside the organization.