Article Date: 10/1/2013

Transform Patient Education With Technology
innovation
TECHNOLOGY

Transform Patient Education With Technology

Consider these three methods to promote eye health and make an impression.

PAUL SALSBERG, M.B.A., TORONTO, BRITISH COLUMBIA

It is often believed that an educated patient is the best patient. Patients who know the importance of their eye health and sight not only appreciate the significance of yearly eye health exams, but also how to use this education to make informed purchasing decisions. Such decisions result in increased practice revenue.

In addition, patient education is an effective means of reinforcing the doctor-patient connection and marketing your practice: Showing that you are aware of your patients’ needs and that you care establishes a positive life-long rapport. This rapport increases patient loyalty and his/her inclination to refer family, friends and colleagues to you.

Patient communication technology is designed to facilitate patient education, while providing a “wow” factor that positively differentiates you from other optometrists.

Here, I discuss three forms of patient communication technology.

Software

Patient education software is currently available for both the pre- and post-visit. Pre-visit software enables patients to learn about the services/products in your office and even read about their specific eyecare interests, such as new contact lenses, sunglasses and/or eyewear. Also, this pre-visit communication informs the practitioner, in advance, about the individual’s eyecare interests. Unlike a website, this software, which often connects easily with your practice management system, e-mails patients prior to their appointment. Think of it as proactive education vs. passive education — the latter requires the patient to take the initiative to visit the practice website before his/her appointment.

Some patient education software works behind the scenes, so staff doesn’t need to do anything for it to automatically communicate to your patients. Also, software is available to ensure the content on your website, Facebook page and Twitter feed is fresh and top quality.

Post-visit software packages are accessible that enable you to e-mail or print information on almost any ocular condition, as well as material on the eyecare products and services you provide. This is important, as the majority of the patient education provided in the exam chair may be forgotten by the time he/she leaves your practice, prompting the patient to search for this information online. Such a search enables access to non-credible sites as well as your competition.

In addition, some software packages enable you to e-mail up-to-date eyecare content (inherent to each manufacturer) to select patients as soon as it’s published via data-mining patients who have a specific diagnosis and then correlating it to an eyecare article. Specifically, the individual practice can control what is mined. Essentially, everything can be mined from the practice management system, including the diagnostic codes (ICD9). This, in turn, is linked to an article associated with the diagnostic code. Such software allows you to deliver and personalize eyecare content (e.g. images and text, although video links can be employed) to your patient even if he/she hasn’t been to your practice in years. This is a powerful means of educating your patients, because it is timely, meaningful and it is coming directly from you, an obviously astute eyecare practitioner. Once the content is delivered to patients, some software notifies you in real time. In addition, software is available that generates a report every day with a list of the online tasks conducted, including message delivery and confirmation of appointments.

In the exam lanes, animated patient education videos work very well as an adjunct to practitioner-patient education.

Other than helping you to better educate patients, some software packages include a patient survey feature that can automatically e-mail a patient at specific times to prompt his/her response with respect to treatment. Each survey can ask the same or different questions depending on the patient’s specific treatment schedule.

A caveat: You must ask the patient’s permission to send the aforementioned information to his/her e-mail address, as you don’t want to appear “intrusive” or “pushy.” If your patient has these impressions of you, you could lose him/her to another eyecare practitioner. Receptionists requesting a patient’s e-mail often say:

“To help us serve you better and make the most of your visit, our office is now making greater use of e-mail to communicate with you, our patient. We will send you information that is only relevant to your appointment and to improve your eye health. All information is kept strictly confidential, and your address will never be shared.”

When this script, which illustrates relevant and confidential information, is delivered, patients are more willing to provide their e-mail address.

Video

Video is an effective tool for promotion, education and motivation in both your waiting room and exam lanes. In the waiting room, this technology can move your patient from engagement to action, especially when the video includes your brand. Branding is really about establishing an identity in the eyes of patients. Practices that brand really improve their legitimacy, overall impression of the practice and differentiation from the competition. The main goal of branding is that when patients think about eyecare services or products, it’s their eyecare provider who pops into their mind first. Hence, a video that promotes your brand prompts greater action because you are indirectly promoting the products and services you have to offer. Video development companies exist that specialize in eyecare content and can create branded videos that generate revenue opportunities. These companies focus on relevancy, consistency and patient impression.

In the exam lanes, animated patient education videos work very well as an adjunct to practitioner-patient education. (Interacting and commenting along with the video makes patients feel important, while also reinforcing your treatment plan.) This software not only delivers a consistent message, but it also does so in a vibrant and, therefore, engaging style. Companies are available that provide the latest information about various ocular conditions and procedures, in addition to a robust library and a web-based content management system that allows you to update videos on a regular basis and produce playlists online.

Digital tablets

These devices help educate patients about the latest ophthalmic and contact lens choices, while also enabling them to see how they look in frames. Almost all the major ophthalmic lens and contact lens companies offer presentation tools or videos to enhance your patients’ understanding of the latest choices. To acquire these tools and videos, call your local sales representative. You’ll be enabling your technicians and opticians to help patients make the best eyewear decisions.

Positive outcomes

Patient communication technology enriches patient education, while positively differentiating your practice. The result: Happier and, therefore, more satisfied patients, which leads to practice growth. OM

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Mr. Salsberg is president of Eye-StarTV and EyeconX, two patient communication technologies. E-mail him at psalsberg@3conx.com, or send comments to optometricman agement@gmail.com.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: October 2013, page(s): 50 51