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MANAGE BURNOUT, NEGATIVE REVIEWS

Q: How do I prevent burnout, and how should I manage negative online patient reviews?

A: Doc: Which is better one or two?

Patient: Can I see three again?

What sane person wouldn’t burn out asking that same question years on end?

Every profession, hobby or sport has repetition built into it and, in addition to manual phoropters eventually causing shoulder problems, O.D.s are as susceptible to burnout as pro athletes or classical pianists who practice for hours each day.

BURNOUT

For optometrists who have burned out, or feel it coming, short of retiring or changing careers, here are a few things to avoid or to deal with burn out.

  1. Take frequent vacations, and recharge your batteries. “Gary, easy for you to say! I’m too busy/slow to close the office.” What’s even easier for me to say is, “Your practice will be there when you get back.” If the O.D. can’t afford a lavish extended break, she should take a few planned days off, and do something totally different.
  2. Shake things up in the practice. The optometrist should consider adding a specialty, or cutting out something he really doesn’t like doing. If eliminating something isn’t an option, the O.D. should delegate it to someone else. If he dreads examining children, for example, he should hire someone to develop that part of his practice, and let her see the children.
  3. Take a close look at office hours as a function of productivity. It’s usually a good idea to cut back hours when a practice is customarily slow and add some when the practice is typically busy. Boredom doesn’t help burnout.
  4. Have fun in the office. The optometrist should consider having something unusual to look forward to. This can be something as simple as a fun staff outing or taking an extended lunch with staff to play board games or charades.

BAD REVIEWS

Different people have different experiences in the same restaurant, watching the same movie, listening to the same music and going to the same O.D., which makes bad reviews inevitable. In this highly socially connected blogosphere world, what optometrists do about bad reviews is crucial to their online presence.

There are three choices: Do nothing, respond and apologize or respond and defend. All are reasonable, depending on the review and circumstances. That said, the three choices should always come about from the perspective of preserving the O.D.’s brand and adhering to his core practice values.

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  1. Do nothing. This approach can be effective if the optometrist already has a lot of glowing, five-star reviews and gets a very lengthy bad review. It’s even advised if the O.D. historically doesn’t respond to reviews. Responding to only a negative outlier in the face of voluminous great reviews can detract from those positive reviews. I think it’s better to let the “crazy person who doesn’t agree with all the others” (as this person is often perceived by readers) vent and let prospective patients draw their own obvious conclusions.
  2. Apologize. Mistakes happen. Optometrists should acknowledge them, offer to make things right and move on. O.D.s should write their responses in the context of their brands, and ask for the chance to fix the issue.
  3. Defend. When someone is flat-out wrong, lying, or the review is patently bogus, it’s advisable for O.D.s to defend vigorously. They should be polite and professional, but unafraid to be firm. OM