One of the most important items to recognize when purchasing new technology is that it’s not enough for optometrists to believe in what an instrument can do for their patients. Their staffs must believe it too and share in the O.D.’s genuine enthusiasm. (See infographic, p.34.)
Here are four ways to get the optometrist’s team on board, while more effectively managing the integration of new technology in a busy eye care practice.
1 DELEGATE AND EMPOWER
When O.D.s bring new devices in to their practices, we, individually, recommend they name a leader, or director, to delegate oversight. This is critical to creating staff buy-in, and it does not need to be the same person for every piece of technology in the practice. By giving a specific staff member an opportunity to step-up, optometrists help ensure the technology is utilized, and they empower the employee, which creates a better work environment.
For example, prior to bringing a dark adaptometer into Medina Vision Centre (Dr. Earley’s practice), the practice created a Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence and assigned a technician to be the director. The director’s role: to act as a liaison between the optometrists, AMD patients and the vendors with whom the practice works. The director schedules all diagnostic testing, performs the diagnostic tests and reviews treatment protocols. Additionally, she schedules follow-up appointments, manages the patient testing database and ocular nutritional supplement inventory and is responsible for making sure patients are provided the educational information they require to make informed decisions regarding their care.
Although several technicians perform AMD diagnostic testing at Lakeline Vision Source (Dr. Sorrenson’s practice), the practice takes a similar approach with one person serving as the “go-to” expert in the event that any other staff members have questions or need additional training.
2 SEEK MEANINGFUL TRAINING
Training the entire staff is important, but O.D.s shouldn’t have to lock the front door to do it. When considering new technology, we, individually, suggest optometrists get specific information on vendor training: How long will they stay, and will they work individually with every technician who will be operating the device? Live, hands-on training is very helpful, and corporate trainers are generally best suited to deliver it, since they should know the technology inside and out. Also, when O.D.s carve out time in the day for the company to meet with staff, it further demonstrates the importance of the new device within the practice.
Additionally, think about how the device company can prepare staff prior to installation. At Lakeline Vision Source, for example, a corneal topographer was on its way out, so the practice arranged for a vendor to meet with two technicians to demo a possible replacement. The staff then asked the doctors to purchase the device, completely eliminating any struggles the doctors might have otherwise had with staff acceptance of the device. This also made the training process much more exciting, as it wasn’t only the doctor who made the purchase decision.
3 RETHINK WORKFLOW
If optometrists are adding a new test, we both recommend they put an in-office system in place. Furthermore, we both suggest that the testing system is clearly defined and scalable, as the demand for additional testing grows. Some companies leave this up to the O.D., while others send a practice management expert in to the practice to assist in setting up a system that works with the optometrist’s office work flow. For example, when considering how to build the Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence, one device vendor assisted Medina Vision Centre in developing protocols specifically for functional testing, so that everyone in the practice would be on the same page. The practice found that working with an expert who worked with the staff directly was priceless.
At Lakeline Vision Source, the team struggled with scheduling for a long time, but today they have instituted a second parallel schedule, and it has made a huge difference. One schedule is for the doctors, and the other is for all the diagnostic testing that occurs in the practice, including dry eye disease testing, VFs and dark adaptation. Now, when patients walk through the door, staff is ready for them, and they get all the testing they need without clogging up the schedule or putting the practice behind.
Whether O.D.s use parallel scheduling or another method, we have both found that it’s important staff perceive the new device as helpful, rather than burdensome. Too often, technicians can view added tests as added work. It doesn’t have to be that way and, in many cases, the opposite can occur. If optometrists are unsure of how to adjust workflow to accommodate a new test, we both recommend seeking strategies from the manufacturer. If that’s not helpful, we suggest O.D.s consider companies that offer more support.
4 INSPIRE AND LEAD
Is everyone asking the right questions to ensure that at-risk and symptomatic patients are receiving the testing they deserve? We both have found that this can mean the difference between an instrument that grows practices and one that gathers dust. Based on practice demographics, how many new tests should the practice perform per week? We both recommend setting goals, communicating them clearly to staff and tracking them regularly.
At Lakeline Vision Source, the practice selects one topic that the doctors repeat training on every day until the whole team knows it. Recently, the topic was custom progressives. By making it a topic of discussion daily, the practice built awareness, provided useful education and helped patients and the practice itself.
Employees’ Take On Tech is Different from Their Leaders’
COMMUNICATION WITH STAFF
Finally, it’s important to recognize that medical testing is doctor-driven. Indeed, the technicians must understand protocols and recognize appropriate touch-points, but O.D.s need to lead the charge, maintain open lines of communication and be open to the need for flexibility. OM