Telephone interactions are an instant snapshot of an Eye Care Professional’s (ECP’s) practice. That’s why VISTAKON®, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. created “Wizard of Flaws” as part of the ACUVUE® Eye Health Advisor (AEHA) Program. “Wizard of Flaws” helps ECPs coach their staff members on the importance of good telephone relations, and how a professional phone manner helps satisfy and retain patients. The tool’s multimedia materials include an educational video, facilitator’s guide, and workbook. The AEHA Program helps ECPs build stronger practices through comprehensive educational materials for patients and office teams.
How you act with each individual patient can have a powerful impact on your practice growth. Yet, many excellent doctors never even think about how they act or what they say in the exam room. They have a job to do and they go about getting it done.
Interpersonal skills come easily to some, and are difficult for others, but if practice growth is one of your goals, it is smart to pay attention to it. See if you consistently perform each item on this checklist when you examine patients. If not, commit the list to memory and be sure to touch every point.
Smile – don’t be so serious
Optometrists do have major responsibilities during an exam, but patients aren’t impressed by serious and somewhat scary doctors. Serious behavior is usually interpreted as rude or arrogant. Keep in mind that patients may be a little nervous or worried about the exam. A smile is contagious and it makes you friendly and caring. Over time, it builds good reputations.
It doesn’t matter anymore if the patient is male, female or even a youngster – extend your hand in a friendly manner. It builds relationships. Not too firm, by the way, you can actually hurt some people.
Talk non-optometry first
Don’t jump right into the case history. Talk about the weather, sports, the patient’s job, or a hobby that you made a note of at the last visit.
Say the patient’s name
You can’t build a relationship without using a person’s name. Ask how to pronounce it if your not sure, then write it phonetically in the record. Use Mr. or Mrs. for folks older than you, until they advise you otherwise. Say the patient’s name occasionally in conversation – but don’t overdo it so it sounds phony.
Wash your hands in front of the patient
If your exam room does not have a sink, call a plumber right away. This speaks volumes about everything in your practice.
Explain tests as you do them
Do this in extremely simple terms and keep it very short. This can cross over to boring very quickly.
Summarize the exam results
Stop writing and look the patient in the eye at the end and review all the major parts of the exam. Include the pre-test data. Present normal findings as good news.
Give treatment options; then recommend the best
As you discuss your treatment plan, list the patient’s choices, even if you think they might not be interested. Then be sure to recommend what you think is the best option and state why. Always include the recall date and reason in your exam summary.
Ask: “Do you have any questions?”
This is a great way to close your visit and it gives the impression that you have all the time in the world, while implying that you are getting ready to end the exam.
Say thank you as you leave the patient.
A thank you is very polite and considerate. It is humble and anti-arrogant. You are thanking the patient for choosing your practice for eye care.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.