Article Date: 9/1/2010

Making a List …
If I Had to Do It Over

Making a List …

Checking it Twice?

By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO

When I first started my practice, it was a true whirlwind: tasks to be completed, office policies and procedures to be implemented, and general organization and planning to be done. I realized that some aspects of our business — such as patient flow — would take more time to perfect, and as we became busier, this area of development had to transform along with the practice.

Now, two and a half years later, I appreciate that patient flow is constantly in flux and will need to be modified every time I update my EMR or add new equipment or staff members. I recently added a simple component to my exam flow that has made the all-important "handoff" of patient to staff much smoother with nothing lost in translation — for the patient or my staff. Seeing how this has improved sales, communication and ease with which we transition our patients through the process, I wish I'd executed this from the very beginning.

Recommendations, please!

I strive to educate my patients about their eyes, health and visual options. But I try not to overwhelm them with so much information that they take on what I refer to as the "7-mile stare." From reading trade publications and talking to other optometrists, this is an area that challenges all of us to find the right balance. Provide too little information and patients may leave feeling unsatisfied, or worse, unclear about the their eye health and visual needs. Provide too much information and patients may feel overloaded and oversold.

In my mind, there are three areas in which we educate our patients. First, there's ocular health. This serves as the springboard for further exam room discussion involving protection and preventive care, which is my second area of focus. This can include modification of daily habits, eyewear options, screening tests and nutritional supplements. Third, eyewear recommendations are presented and tailored specifically to patients' lifestyle needs and prescription status.

I was easily covering these three areas, and patients had a good idea of what they wanted or needed. The problem came when it was time to communicate this information to my staff. Eyewear options, contact lens supplies and trials, nutritional information and ordering, retinal pictures, re-check appointments, referrals out, pre-appointing — all of this and more could be applied to any one patient. As information was lost in translation, some patients and staff members felt dazed and confused.

Checklist, stat!

To solve this problem, I asked one of my staff members to create a simple checklist of my most common recommendations to patients. After formatting the list, she reviewed it with me before having it custom-printed. For a relatively low cost, I have a checklist to complete at the end of each exam. I list all of my recommendations for products, services and future appointments. I can verbally repeat all, none or some of these directions to staff members, depending on time constraints and specific needs.

Now, my advice is being clearly and correctly communicated. My staff can refer to the list to ensure nothing is forgotten, and they say patients take my recommendations more seriously because they're written down, which has resulted in improved product sales. It's a simple solution with highly effective outcomes. I only wish I would have implemented it sooner! nOD

Dr. Wesley received her BA from the College of Saint Benedict in 2002 and is a 2006 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Optometry, where she earned her Clinical Doctorate and Masters in Vision Science. Dr. Wesley owns Complete Eye Care in Medina, Minn. She's an active member of the Minnesota Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, and Women of Vision.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010