Article Date: 10/1/2009

Solutions To The Biggest Problem
tech time

Solutions To The Biggest Problem

If technology makes our lives easier, why is it so tough to implement?


The next two “Tech Time” installments will explore the single biggest problem with technology integration in the optometric practice: implementation.

Technology makes your life easier only if you actually use it. Diagnostic technology providers and vendors who provide electronic health record systems sell hardware and software, respectively. Contrary to what vendors' slick marketing campaigns may suggest, all vendors still have a long way to go in providing integrated solutions. An integrated solution is one in which equipment and information technology connect seamlessly. Instead of making a platform where all these great technologies already work together, you, the user are left to “figure it out” on your own.

It's in the plan

From technology implementation through to use, both industry and optometric practices alike do not profit to nearly the level they should. The reason: Most organizations don't understand what they do, what they want to do and what they should do. In other words, they don't create a plan or follow through with the plan. But enough about the problem — let's work on the solution.

Step 1: Understand what you do. Set aside three to four hours to determine the workflow of both your practice and your patient encounter. For example, the steps to the patient encounter typically begin when a patient schedules an appointment. When the patient arrives at your office, a staff member greets the patient and asks her to fill out a patient history form, or perhaps your workflow is different, as the patient completed the form online prior to the visit. Not only identify the step, but the staff member(s) responsible for that step.

Though this seems like an inconsequential assignment, understanding your workflow is the most important step in implementing … well, anything. Most practices would see a significant increase in both efficiency and profitability just by identifying what they think happens and what actually happens. In my experience in helping many practices with technology implementation, failure of this first step is the root cause of all subsequent problems. Walk through every step of the patient encounter. What is done? What is said? Who does this? What staff members are responsible for each of these steps? While you observe the process, ask yourself: Is this what I want done and said at each step? Is there repetition? View a sample of the process at workflow/workflow.html.

Step 2: What do you want to do with your technology? Think of this as your needs and wants listing. It is also a reality check. Ask what the technology can do at each step to streamline the process. What are the marketing opportunities at each step? What are the potential pitfalls, delays and financial implications (positive and negative)? Knowing these answers will help you enhance the technology in your practice.

These two steps take most practices about three to four weeks to complete. Get started, and next month we'll discuss step 3: how to transition new technology into your practice from the aspects of patients, staff and profitability.

Stay tuned to this column, as I'll be covering EHR implementation in the coming months. By being educated of the technological changes in medicine, you'll thrive in your own practice. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2009