Article Date: 6/1/2007

Is Your Practice out of ‘Focus’?
o.d. to o.d.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

Is Your Practice out of ‘Focus’?

We all focus on our patients, but after closer inspection, the patient's perception of his experience may differ from ours.

Focusing our attention on patients is something that we all believe we do every day. This is certainly true when we provide clinical care. But, in many cases after closer inspection, we recognize that the patient's perception of his overall visit experience may differ from ours.

In several instances, the patient experiences what I refer to as the "doctor centric" experience. In this experience, the practice as an organization, the staff individually and as a group and the patients individually all revolve around the doctor. The office hours are decided upon, the schedule is managed for and the office policies are mandated in an effort to meet the wants or needs of the doctor. In fact, one of the things that many find attractive about optometry is the ability for O.D.s, to a large degree, to be more in control of what they do with their time and ultimately their life.

What really drives the practice?

In the practice-centric experience, the practice as a business entity becomes the hub around which the patients, staff and doctor all revolve based on what's best for the "business." Often, this practice-centric experience is driven by profitability and more focused on the volume of patients "pushed through," the productivity per patient and/or by the doctor than in recognizing the need to attend to the patient.

The practice-centric experience can include the staff either with or without the doctor's knowledge running the practice based on what their needs are as individuals or as a group.

One example of this would be the staff that doesn't offer appointments later in the day to patients who need them so that they as staff members can leave the office on time or early. Or, take the individual staff member who ignores duties so that someone else's workload is increased. Or, there's the staff member who continually arrives late, and everyone else, including the doctor, has to pick up the slack.

Create an experience that impresses
your patients so dramatically that you
can provide an examination or office
visit without them realizing it.

It's all about the patient

Then there's the patient-centric experience in which everything from office hours to the office-visit cycle time, the lead time to make an appointment, the wait time in the office, the number of staff available, the attentiveness of the doctor and every other variable is managed with a focus on what's going to provide the best possible experience for the patient. If this sounds as though everything you manage in your practice should be all about the patient, it's only because it should.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say that when you provide the ultimate experience for each patient, the experience is customized for the individual patient, rather than making each individual patient fit into what you and your staff perceive as the "ultimate experience."

When you are able create an experience for your patient that impresses them so dramatically that you can provide an examination or office visit without them realizing it, you have truly delivered because in this situation, the patient's attention is on who you and your staff are and not merely what you did.

Make the effort

We could all make more of an effort to create the patient-centric experience in our practices and in so doing recognize that everything revolving around the patient is the best possible way to put yourself and your practice in the spotlight. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2007