Article Date: 2/1/2006

What Does Your Staff Say?
How your employees discusses new technology could be a benefit or a bust.

With the many recent advancements in contact lenses, diagnostic equipment and therapies — just to name a few areas — how do you keep up with the solutions that will provide your patients with the highest level of care? An equally
insightful question might be: How does your staff communicate these advances to patients?

Include the staff

Is the link between patient and staff that important? Yes. When patients call, staff answers the phone. Your staff answers question in the reception area. If you've delegated refraction and other tasks, then patients spend more time — and generally communicate more — with your staff. While your recommendation is paramount, your staff plays a critical role in the education of your patients.

In these cases, your employees project one of two images:

the knowledgeable professional: "Today's contact lenses provide a level of comfort that was unheard of just a few years ago. We recommend XYZ lenses, which are comfortable even after all-day wear. I'll let the doctor know that you're interested."

the roadblock: "Yeah, I saw that commercial about dry eye too. I'm not really sure what they were talking about. There's just so many of those dry eye products out there."

There are a few steps you can take to develop the professional approach. The first is to emphasize to your staff the positive results of patient education. It enhances the employee's professional development, as well as patient health and retention. It contributes to the success of the practice and also to staff satisfaction. It feels good to help people.

Next, provide the materials necessary for education. If your staff cannot answer questions about new products and therapies (especially those you recommend), the diseases that you treat and manage, or an area of practice specialization, then they need information. Make available educational resources including posters brochures, vendor-supplied materials, etc. Finally, make education a regular, continuous job responsibility.

Complete the cycle

Having knowledge is only half the solution, your staff must communicate effectively to patients. Provide guidance on how employees should approach and educate patients. Consider using scripts where appropriate. Review success and failures.

New and innovative products should generate excitement among patients. In many instances, your staff will be the main generator. So power them up.

Optometric Management, Issue: February 2006