Optometric Management Tip # 253   -   Wednesday, November 22, 2006
TVs in the Waiting Area

The idea for this tip comes from a reader who has a unique perspective; she is a sales rep for an optical laboratory who calls on eye care practitioners on a regular basis. Her point is worth considering.

A good idea gone bad

In general, I think television monitors, especially attractive flat screen displays, can be a good thing for your reception room. TV is a popular way to pass the time and people enjoy it. Catering to patients and making their wait more pleasant is right on target with the type of experience I recommend we provide. But the programming that is shown can present a negative image for the practice if you arenít diligent. Since staff members often select the shows that are tuned in, they may select what they like to watch (or listen to). If that is the Jerry Springer Show, it could cast the office in a poor light. In fact, itís hard to select a show everyone will like, given the broad spectrum of the public that we see. The Weather Channel or CNN or ESPN may be more appropriate for neutral entertainment.

No matter what the content, staff members should not be watching or listening to television. Yet, with the TV in plain sight of the front desk, itís pretty hard not to watch at times. Itís a waste of office resources and it will surely distract the employee from giving his or her best performance on the job. Beyond the loss of productivity, patients do not like to see staff stealing company time.

How long is the wait?

Of course, if television is used to pass the time because patients usually have a long wait, that is a problem that should be addressed first. It is not that hard to start an eye exam within five or ten minutes of the appointment if the office is efficient, has enough staff and does not make the check-in process too complex. Pupil dilation, however, is a legitimate reason that makes patients wait.

Educational video

A trend in more progressive practices today is to display prerecorded material about eye care services and products. There are a variety of video materials and computer software programs available and designed for patient education. Some programs may be purchased and some are available from industry suppliers at no charge.

Generally, I think these programs are a good thing, but I would give the content close scrutiny before showing it, and I would want it to pass my ďconsumer interest testĒ. That test simply reminds us that patients are smarter than we think and they certainly know a commercial when they see one. If the video content in your waiting area is an obvious commercial, it may make your office look like it is strongly interested in making sales.

Good video content will be interesting to most patients and will be a welcome aid to people who are about to purchase eye care services and products and want to know more.

Best wishes for continued success,

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