Optometric Management Tip # 2   -   Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Pagers as In-office Signal System

There are several systems available to assist with in-office communication of doctors and staff, from colored lights and audible tones to colored flags mounted outside exam room doors. These can work, but the simple, standard beeper offers some great benefits when used inside the office to notify the doctor that the next patient is ready to be seen. We have used this for many years in our multi-doctor office - but it would work equally well in any practice where technicians perform pre-testing and the doctor works between two or more exam rooms.

The doctor uses a standard numeric paging device, which works with a local phone number. The cost is nominal - about $10 per month. The pager can be used for typical business and personal use. They work great for after-hours doctor on-call duties, and if our office needs to speak to a doctor when he or she is out of the office. But these are side benefits.

The main use of pagers in our practice is to signal a doctor that his next patient is ready. It reaches the doctor in any location in the office, and it does so silently when placed on vibrator mode. The optometric technician who has just completed the pre-test data collection initiates the page. All office phones are programmed on speed-dial with the pager number of each doctor, so placing the call is a snap. When the tech hears the message tone, she enters the exam room number where the patient is waiting and hangs up. The doctor receives the page in about two minutes.

We hate to make patients wait in our office, so just knowing the next patient is waiting is very helpful. Quite often, the page is received when I am in the other exam room, seeing another patient. I simply hit the pager button to stop the silent signal. I don't even need to look at the display - I know what it means. I can now make on the spot decisions to improve patient flow. I may decide I am at a good point to instill mydriatic drops and finish this patient later, or I may ask my tech to apply diagnostic contact lenses, or I may be nearly done and I will just finish up. On the other hand, if I'm working with a patient and haven't been paged, I know I have plenty of time.

Try it - you will find your office is more efficient and your patient satisfaction ratings will improve.
Best wishes for continued success,

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