Article Date: 12/1/2008

Welcome to The Tw-Eye-Light Zone
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Welcome to The Tw-Eye-Light Zone

Your practice can become more efficient if you arrange work in zones.

GARY GERBER, O.D.

Have you ever noticed that certain types of patients or conditions come in waves? For instance, you might only see five or six glaucoma cases per month in your practice, but often, you'll see three on the same day. And when that happens, you might also notice an increase in how efficiently you work with these patients.

Take the case of a refraction — something most of us have done thousands of times. It's become so routine and mechanical, that we often associate the words or questions we ask patients with some physical act. For instance, as you're pulling down the near point card, you're probably already asking the patient, "Can your read the second line from the bottom!?"

My point is that you ask that question because at that point in time, after having done eight refractions in a row, you're now in the "refraction zone." And, being in that zone allows you the luxury of working significantly fast and efficiently.

How then can you increase your other "work zones," such as your pediatric exam, dry eye or glaucoma evaluation?

Plan for success

The answer: Arrange your schedule so that you eliminate serendipity and plan for success. Do this by classifying specific days (or hours during a day) to only deal with certain ocular conditions. Of course, some patient schedules might not gel with the template you're contemplating, so some flexibility might be necessary. However, blocking out certain segments of time has many benefits, even when you use those segments exclusively.


ILLUSTRATION BY MICHELE MELCHER

You'll first notice that scheduling becomes easier with less overlapping of appointments, which means a great proclivity to stay on schedule. You'll know that most glaucoma work-ups take 45 minutes. And, while your staff is performing a visual field test and scanning laser polarimetry, you can take care of the previous patient's optic nerve examination, intraocular pressure check and medicine compliance review.

Also, equipment set up becomes significantly fast when it becomes routine. For instance, moving a patient from the fundus camera to the optical coherence tomographer becomes a streamlined process when you've done it three times in the last 45 minutes vs. only three times per month.

Booking like appointments together in the same "zone" usually results in more meaningful, succinct and quick patient case presentations. That's because just like answering "what exactly is astigmatism?" 14 times per day allows for a quick answer, so does, "How exactly do I use those drops, and what are the side effects, if any?"

Billing and coding advantages

Finally, billing and coding become more efficient when you arrange work in zones. When you perform punctal occlusion six times in one day vs. a few times per month, remembering which codes to use (or where to find them) becomes a far easier process. Of course, a risk also exists that you could submit six consecutive claims with recurring errors. However, my experience is that when you gear up the office for work zones, you'll take the necessary steps to avoid such mistakes.

Set up and get into your zones. Once you get the mechanics of the concept firmed up with your staff, you'll see marked improvements in how your practice performs. OM


DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM, OR, CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2008