Article Date: 11/1/2005


Dangerous Assumptions
Always remember to never assume anyone — even you and your staff — has been educated enough.
By Troy A. Flax, O.D.

RECENTLY, I SAW a new patient who reminded me that we should avoid making assumptions about people. What might have been a routine encounter turned into a learning experience for me.

My new patient was a 55-year-old man, referred by a friend. He had never had his eyes examined and was so nervous he literally shook. He told me our instruments looked more intimidating that his dentist's equipment.I explained what each instrument does and how we use them. While I was talking, I noticed he was becoming more relaxed. Educating him about the eye exam was the key to comforting him. This situation reminded me of the three things critical to the success of any practice — education, education and education. 

As you go into practice for yourselves or to work for someone else, never assume that you, your staff or your patients are fully educated. I learned that education can come from many sources and can be imparted to many people. They'll be grateful and you'll be better prepared to meet their expectations.

Show and Tell

Some of our colleagues are so busy concentrating on their BIO technique that they don't talk while examining the fundus. As I work my way through an examination, I tell the patient what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Educating patients increases the perceived value of your exam and sets you apart from other eye doctors. But don't be the only one talking. Remember to listen as well. Your
patients' responses, comments and questions will guide the education process.

Teach Your Staff

You are the most expensive employee in your office. Don't waste valuable time checking acuities or performing a test that a technician can do (within state limitations). Every member of my staff is certified in some way. The more they know, the more I can delegate. Your time is better spent seeing patients, marketing your practice and reviewing your fees.

Educate Yourself

If you educate your patients and your staff, you'll educate yourself. Stay current with optometric education and technology, but educate your business mind also.

Recently, I took our entire staff to a seminar offered by a well-known optometry consultant group. I've become a big believer in this type of education. Practice management groups have done all the research for you. All you have to do is let them help grow your practice.

Paying Dividends

What does all this education do for your practice? Remember I said this new patient was a referral? That's exactly what education does. I learned that an educated patient often takes the time to refer a friend because of how I made him feel. Now, if I take the time to listen and educate a patient, I may have the chance to listen and educate all his friends who need my services. It costs nothing, but the upside is tremendous.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2005