Optometric Management Tip # 133   -   Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Proactive Office Hygiene

Patients tend to take it for granted that their doctorís office will be clean and antiseptic Ė but if they see clues that imply otherwise, it can spoil an otherwise good experience. And good experiences are what keep patients returning and recommending your practice to others. Patients are not likely to tell the doctor or staff that their office is unclean; itís too confrontational and socially rude. Conversely, patients who actually view proactive hygienic efforts first-hand develop a feeling that everything in the practice is high quality.

Even if your office is clean, and even if any instrument that contacts the patient is disinfected via proper protocol, itís a good idea to review office hygiene from the patientís point of view. Do they perceive the cleanliness? Do they see evidence of it, or does all cleaning effort occur out of view?

Phoroptor Wipe

A good example of proactive hygiene is having a technician routinely wipe the faceplate of the phoroptor with an alcohol swab in front of the patient, before it is used on that patient. Do you currently do this? Is it really necessary before every patient? I think so, even if the main point is to alleviate any concern that patients may have about putting their face up to it. Many people have such concerns Ė and legitimately so. Your office serves the general public and the phoroptor touches each personís face. People today are concerned about germs in public places. I know Iíd like to see it swabbed first.

Optometrists often donít even see the patientís side of the phoroptor Ė but Iíll bet weíve all seen a residue of face make-up from a prior female patient at some time. Patientís will see it too as it comes close to them, especially those 3.00 diopter myopes!

Many offices have an assistant get the exam room ready after each patient, and steps are taken then to clean instruments, and that can work OK, but consider letting the next patient see her do it, instead. Use of tissues on chin rests is also highly recommended, along with wiping the forehead rests in front of patients.

Other Instruments

Itís a good idea to check out the view from the patientís side of instruments frequently. This includes the table supporting the pre-test instruments, the slit lamp, and the chair and stand. There can easily be an accumulation of dust, bits of tissue and general grunge that the doctor canít see. It does not present a good example. Remember that computers are dust magnets because the internal cooling fan pulls air. Exam room computers need attention, but so do the ones in the business office, as patients look over the counter and see the side the staff misses.

Who should do it?

Of course, all technicians should be trained to perform the little cleaning details that can be done in front of patients, and itís important to review this at staff meetings to be sure the procedures have not suffered from employee drift (the gradual change in technique that occurs when no one is actually supervising it).

In my practice, we assign a side job to every employee so they each have an extra duty to manage when they are not doing their primary job. One technician on our staff has the job of equipment hygiene. This hygiene officer is trained in the proper cleaning technique for instruments, including lenses and mirrors, and she checks them on a daily basis and cleans as needed. Our contracted general housekeeping staff is not trained to care for our medical instruments, and they are instructed to never touch them. They clean the general office (which also must be kept meticulously clean), not the equipment.

It takes time to concentrate on the ďlittle thingsĒ in a practice Ė and time is one thing we can all be short of. But those things actually arenít so little; itís an accumulation of them that builds success.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management