Article Date: 4/1/2013

Practice Technology
operational apps

Making Your Life Easier

The five must-have technologies that reduce administrative burden and instill patient loyalty and referrals.

BEN L. LARSON, O.D., SANFORD, FLA.

Ask.com recently revealed the most popular questions of 2012: “How many medals did the U.S. gymnastics team win?” “Who will win the presidential race?” and “Will Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (of the Twilight Saga films) get back together?” While the following question didn’t make the list, it’s likely number one for all optometrists: “How can I meet managed care requirements/reimbursements and my patients’ need for adequate face time?”

One answer: human resources technology.

Here, I discuss the five technologies that have enabled me to meet both challenges.

1. Digital appointment scheduling

Digital appointment scheduling software is linked with my practice website to reduce the administrative burden of appointment taking. Now, my cross-trained staff can focus more on patient care. The software has strengthened patient loyalty, as patients can make appointments 24/7 and without calling. Such convenience leads to word-of-mouth referrals.

Patients click the “Your Visit” link on the practice’s home page, select “Schedule an Appointment,” from the drop-down menu, the “Appointment Scheduling” page appears and voila.

The software delivers the appointment to our EHR to alert us and to linked automated patient messaging software.

2. Intake form website

We provide online patient intake forms to decrease the administrative hassle of patient handouts at the appointment. The front desk receptionist and our automated patient messaging software (described next) inform the patient of this option. This, as with digital appointment scheduling, enables my cross-trained staff to increase their focus on patient care. Meanwhile, in providing these forms pre-appointment, we afford patient convenience, which creates practice loyalty and patient referrals.

Creating an App

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App Press: www.app-press.com
EyeDocApp: www.eyedocapp.com
iBuildApp: www.ibuildapp.com
iGenapps: www.igenapps.com/website
Magmito: www.magmito.com
Mobile, by Conduit: http://mobile.conduit.com
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Social Jitney: www.socialjitney.com
Softweb Solutions: www.mobile.softwebsolutions.com
The App Builder: www.theappbuilder.com
Ubuntu: http://developer.ubuntu.com/get-started
Yapp: www.yapp.us

Once the patient clicks “Patient Forms” under the “Your Visit” drop-down menu on the practice’s website, the online intake form website appears. The patient chooses a form, clicks “submit,” and it is delivered to our own local and highly secure server. (This makes the form website HIPAA-compliant. We obtained this website using a domain name registrar.) Next, we receive an e-mail regarding the submission, access the server and download the form. When the patient presents, we almost instantaneously take him/her to the exam room, where both the staff and I immediately address his/her chief complaint.

3. Automated patient messaging

To reduce the administrative stress of patient appointment reminders/confirmation phone calls, we use automated patient messaging software. Also, we employ the software to send “Happy birthday” messages, personalized marketing communications, customizable practice surveys and newsletters. (A template with graphics is available.) Further, the software encourages all Gmail address patients to post a Google review of the practice.

The appointment reminder/confirmation function has helped increase revenue by decreasing “no-shows.” The “Happy birthday” messages have given our patients that coveted personal touch, instilling patient loyalty and referrals. The surveys have allowed us to maintain a pulse on our patients’ needs while also showing we genuinely care about patient input — another personal touch. The personalized marketing communications and newsletter have resulted in an increase in product sales. Finally, posting a Google review can grow our local search standing and our “webutation.”

The software automatically delivers recall texts and e-mails to the patient at specific pre-designated times. Via e-mail, it then informs us of each patient’s confirmation, cancellation or failure to respond. (The latter requires a personal phone call, but occurs just 10% in the practice.)

4. Digital tablets

Our use of tablets:

Charting. My physician assistants (PA) use tablets, which are integrated with my EHR software, to scribe. The scribing increases exam efficiency, as I no longer have to manually type the information or have a PA double check my charting to manually enter it into the patient’s EHR chart. Patients appreciate the resulting uninterrupted face time.

Pulling trial contact lenses. The PA enters the trial contact lens powers into the tablet and takes the tablet with him/her to our contact lens inventory room. Patients appreciate this, as it has resulted in fast lens delivery and less errors.

Educational videos. Our tablets contain videos on contact lens removal and insertion, various eye conditions, such as glaucoma, step-by-step treatment instructions and optical products, such as AR. These videos enable us to multi-task, whether this means briefly leaving the exam room to see another patient or to obtain medication samples. The outcome: an increase in practice efficiency, product sales and patient understanding and compliance with our instructions.

Frame photos. Because each tablet contains a digital camera, we can immediately show patients their appearance in various frames. We simply “click,” then the patient puts on their old glasses, and he/she can clearly see the photos. Having this feature has streamlined the frame choice process and differentiated us from the competition. Also, it has prevented “walk-outs.” Specifically, some patients say, “Because I’ve been dilated, I can’t see myself well. So, I’m going to come back.” Now, we reply, “Hold on a second… ”

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5. Practice app.

In realizing some patients exclusively use their smart phone, we created a practice app. (See “Creating an App,” page 48.) It enables the scheduling of appointments, a link to the practice’s Facebook/web pages and e-mail address, patient education videos, doctor and staff photos, a map to the practice, a fun optical illusion, patient reviews and an events section. The app essentially functions as a mini practice website. The ultimate goal of the app: patient notifications similar to Facebook to increase marketing and practice revenue. Patients say they appreciate the convenience of the app’s features.

Humanizing technology

The human resource technology discussed here, by virtue of its practice- and patient-friendly features, is a great answer to the aforementioned number one question posed by O.D.s. Also, its availability to patients has strengthened my reputation as a tech-savvy O.D. OM

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Dr. Larson practices at Advanced Eye Care with his wife, Christy. They opened a paperless practice in 1998. E-mail him at drbenlarson@gmail.com, or send comments to optometricmanagement.com.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: April 2013, page(s): 48 49