Article Submission Guidelines for Practice Management, EHR, Glaucoma, and Managed Care

Exclusive Date: June 27, 2012

An Easy Way to Add Patients to Your Schedule

 Sponsor: AIR OPTIX® AQUA Multifocal

Knowing that most practices greatly need more patient demand, I think you're going to like this Tip article. We have been trying a new concept in my practice that is adding about two patients per day to our schedule for comprehensive eye exams.

Create clinical work from optical
Like most practices, we see a lot of patients in the optical dispensary. These people are served without an appointment on a drop-in basis; some need and adjustment or repair on their glasses, some are picking up new glasses and some want to select and order new glasses or sunglasses. In the past, we did not usually review the medical record on these patients and we do not charge for basic adjustments and repairs that do not need a new frame part.

One of our staff members gets the credit for coming up with the idea of asking these patients to provide their name as they check in. This gives us the opportunity to review if the person is a patient at our office and when they had their last exam. We find that about 25% of the patients who drop in for optical service are past due for their eye exam! Since we are talking with these patients face to face, it is a huge opportunity to notify them that they are in need of an exam. The optician working with the patient mentions the date of the last exam and if it is past due, recommends setting up an appointment right now.

Our system
To make this process of looking up patient records efficient and to help us keep better notes in our electronic medical records, we made up paper forms in pads of 100. Each form is 8.5 by 5.5 inches so it fits into an optical job tray. We ask each patient who drops in at our optical to print their name on the top of the form and to check a box for why they are here. Our optical staff tears off each sheet with a name, looks up and writes the last exam date and then uses the form to help serve people in the correct order.

Depending on the reason for the visit, the optician or technician who works with the patient will see the last exam data and mention it to the patient. If the date is more than a year ago or if the patient has not received eye care from us in the past, the optician recommends that we set up an appointment for a new exam. We are finding that about one third of the people who are past due for exams proceed with setting up an appointment immediately. The others generally say they will check their schedule and call back.

Gathering data
I see a side benefit in collecting the patient's name and last exam date at all optical visits because it allows us to track how many adjustments and repairs are done for patients who did not buy their glasses from us. Whether the glasses were purchased online or from another local provider, we may decide that an adjustment fee is needed in the future. The data is necessary to make a good decision on that point.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week