Optometrists occasionally ask me what to do about staff members who make errors. In some cases, it seems like a great many errors. The OD sometimes seems rather surprised and wonders how these mistakes can happen. I have to remind these colleagues that when we hire an optician, receptionist or office manager, we can’t expect perfection. They don’t know everything. It is the practice owner’s responsibility to provide training for staff members and that should continue for more than the first two weeks of employment. We will never completely eliminate mistakes because we are all human, but an ongoing training program can greatly reduce them.
In this article I will describe a new program I implemented in my practice and you may want to do something similar.
Staff meetings vs training programs
We have always had weekly staff meetings (in addition to our daily morning huddles with key staff) and I strongly recommend that doctors plan these frequent and regular meetings. My intention is always to use some of that staff meeting time for training, and we discuss many topics that we need to improve upon, but we often don’t have time to do a real educational presentation.
I decided to continue with my weekly staff meetings, but add a new monthly training meeting called Lunch and Learn.
Lunch and Learn logistics
The Lunch and Learn educational series is different from staff meetings because it offers a couple of small perks to the attendees: 1) it occurs over the lunch break and the practice will pay employees their normal wages (my staff are usually not paid for lunch breaks) and 2) the practice brings in a nice lunch for the group. Staff members have a good feeling about this meeting.
A benefit to the practice of having the meeting over lunch is that we do not have to block any of the patient schedule. You will have to plan how this will work for your practice. In my office, we need some staff to manage walk-ins and phone calls, so we limit the number of employees who can attend a Lunch and Learn. We will repeat the same topic again on a different day for other staff members if needed. We currently schedule one Lunch and Learn per month, but we may increase that in the future.
We have a variety of people present the educational program. Most often, it will be one of our senior employees, but it could be a doctor or a representative from an industry supplier. I would not force an employee to speak to the group if they are not comfortable, although a small group of co-workers is not difficult for most people to talk with. I do expect the presenter to put in some preparation time in advance.
I think you will find no shortage of topic ideas once you get started with your Lunch and Learn series, but here are a few to consider. Some topics are targeted for opticians, some for clinical staff and some are for front desk assistants.
Proper frame fitting
Digital lenses: why are they better?
Vision plan review: how to price products
The medical model: how to bill medical insurance when the patient has a vision plan
Lens materials: when to use what
Visual fields: what are we really testing?
Asking for additional appointments
Digital dispensing measurements with our device
These glasses have prism (I think)
Online optical: what to say when asked for a PD
Presenting the option for routine retinal photos
What to say when you dispense new glasses
HIPAA review: what you can and can’t do
Suggesting second and third pairs of glasses
Ocular nutrition and preventing AMD
I encourage the presenter to use PowerPoint slides to help them to be organized and to let the audience have a visual aid. One of your staff can help those who are not familiar with PowerPoint; if you can type you can create a presentation in minutes. You may want to install a large flat screen TV on a wall in the room where this meeting will be held. You can just plug a laptop or tablet into the TV or many devices offer mirroring technology.
In many cases, the presentation could include a demonstration with an actual instrument or with real frames or lenses. This works great with the small groups we will have. The staff may be able to practice on each other in some cases.
I would always require a handout. It may be only one page, but the attendees should leave with something to remind them of the key points and keep all the handouts in a notebook.
Always encourage and leave time for questions and answers.
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.