Remote-Access Practice

Manage your office from anywhere with these tools.

By Caitlin J. Morrison, O.D., F.A.A.O., F.S.L.S.

When setting up my cold-start specialty contact lens practice this year, I was working multiple fill-in jobs. As such, I tried to find every way I could to be as efficient and remote as possible. I found a lot of these tools to be helpful today, as business owners manage offices from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Transitioning to more remote systems can help optometrists provide high levels of patient care while spending less time being physically present in the office. In addition, the systems can also help free up valuable time. 

Listed below are tools to help transition to remote operations in five areas of practice.

Web-Based Electronic Health Record and Practice Management System

I knew a web-based EHR system was necessary to access my schedule and patient charts from anywhere: phone, home computer, front desk computer and exam computer. Because I can access the EHR online, my office is able to function wirelessly, which initially saved me money and installation time. 

Many newer EHR systems also allow for two-way messaging in which the doctor may text patients and send prescriptions directly from the portal. The systems can also automatically confirm patient appointments via text and email, which is a huge time saver for you and your staff.

Remote Phone Service with Enabled Texting and Faxing

Being able to answer my office phone from anywhere was crucial so I didn’t have to stay in the office all day. A remote phone service forwards all business calls to your cellphone via an app. If you have staff, they can also download the app so they can answer remotely for you. Newer practices like mine can also forego the desk phone in the beginning to save money and still have full phone services. Certain app-based phone systems also allow patients to text your office number, which they love, and fax documents through a (HIPAA compliant) web portal. 

Online Store for Contact Lenses and Eye Products

As eye care professionals, we all have specific products we frequently recommend: dry eye masks, ocular nutritional supplements, artificial tears and contact lens solutions. Having an online store allows patients to purchase your preferred products directly from you. Third party vendors can help to integrate it in your website. 

My favorite feature? The ability to input soft contact lens prescriptions and product recommendations into a unique portal for each patient so they can log in, see what you’ve recommended, and order with ease. 

Online Credit Card Processing Services (Virtual Terminal)

A credit card processing system that has a virtual terminal allows you to log onto a website and enter credit card information; this allows the practice to be able to take payments made from anywhere that has access to a computer and Internet connection. This is especially relevant now, if you are taking payments for telemedicine visits conducted remotely.

Web-Based Security System

A web-based security system provides alerts via a cellphone notification any time the camera detects movement. I can then access the live camera view to see who it is and decide whether to ring the alarm, call the police or just leave it be. Web-based security systems are flexible, specifically in that I purchased alarms and cameras and set them up within an hour; they also may offer professional monitoring services.

Hopefully, this discussion of some of the tools that helped me will also help you run your practice more remotely and free up some of your time spent in the office. OM

This article is run online ahead of publication in the June edition. Find more coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here