A study of business management skills of optometrists in KwaZulu-Natal.
The importance and benefits of business management skills have been documented by numerous authors and scholars across the world. Despite this coverage, the topic of business management has received little attention and appreciation within the profession of optometry. Furthermore this topic does not enjoy literature coverage within this profession. This deficiency in literature and interest questions the business skills optometrists have to manage their practices. The aim of this study was to determine whether Optometrists possessed the necessary business skills to efficiently and effectively manage their practices. This study was conducted on Optometrists in private practice in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Data was collected through a web based questionnaire developed by the researcher. A Cronbach’s alpha value of more than 0.7 was consistently obtained from this research instrument. A sample of 175 optometrists was randomly drawn from a sample frame with a total target population of 300 optometrists. Following a low response rate (2%) a non-probability sampling approach which involved electronic and manual distribution of the questionnaire to all 300 elements in the sampling frame was used to maximize the response rate. A total number of 102 responses were received which constituted a response rate of 34%. Majority (58.42%) of the respondents were females and 41.58% were males. Of those who responded, 37% were optometrists for 1-5 years and were in private practice for the same period. The results indicated that optometrists had average business management skills. The results further indicated that majority of the respondents (64) acquired their business management skills by learning on the job. The results also showed that the common challenges optometrists faced were: managing accounts receivables (34.62%), generating sales (33.33%) and practice location (22.22%). Respondents were also asked to rate the Quality of Undergraduate Optometry Practice Management course the results of which were overwhelmingly negative. The findings of this study were that optometrists do not have the necessary business management skills to manage, grow and sustain their practices. This study can benefit all stakeholders in optometry by identifying the management gaps and challenges that need to be addressed. This study recommends that these gaps and challenges can be addressed through a review of the continuous professional development system, an introduction of short courses in practice management, stakeholder meetings focusing on the review of undergraduate practice management modules, and the development of postgraduate courses in practice management.