Most optometric practices I see have networked computer terminals in the exam rooms. In fact, in some cases, due to a laptop for a scribe, a main PC for the doctor, and a computer for the digital acuity chart, we have to wrestle with too many computers in one small room! But there is no doubt that having a computer monitor on the counter or desk near the patient chair has a very positive effect on the patient experience.
Read on for tips on how to maximize the wow factor of this valuable tool.
Imaging is a big part of optometric care today and it is the main way we achieve the wow factor with the exam room workstation. Typically, the testing that produces the image is performed by a technician in a pretesting or special testing room. The image is saved on the office network and the image is retrieved by the technician in the exam room. The doctor reviews the image with the patient and describes what they see and what it means.
A very large flat screen monitor greatly enhances the viewer experience of seeing images of his own eye. I find that 22 to 25 inch monitors work extremely well. These monitors are now fairly inexpensive for the practice building power they deliver. They can be desk or wall mounted as long as the patient gets a good view.
Images such as retinal photos, Optomaps, corneal topography, OCT, specular microscopy, slit lamp photos of the anterior segment and others are very impressive when viewed on a large scale. Many instruments and cameras today produce high resolution images that look great when blown up or zoomed in.
Computer-generated videos or still diagrams for patient education, such as Eyemaginations, Ocutouch or others look even better on a large screen. Use these to explain eye conditions to patients, but remember that a little goes a long way.
Connect to the internet
A high speed internet connection is very valuable for many purposes. We have our own practice website running in the background on all monitors. We often bring up our website or Facebook page to show patients some interactive aspect or to use our own image library for education.
We also bring up other websites of interest such as educational demonstrations about eyeglass or contact lens products from the manufacturer. Many of these videos are high budget productions; why not show them? Just save them to the desktop for easy connection. My staff has even brought up the website of a popular online contact lens vendor to show patients that our prices are quite competitive!
Electronic health records
Patient records are now a very impressive part of the patient experience. You should be able to control how much of the record the patient sees by swiveling the screen or switching the input to the scribe's laptop. All patients have access to their own records though, so really it should be an open book.
Since patients often sit in the exam chair and look toward this large screen monitor, we have prepared our own automatic slide show that displays various promotions we have available in our office or events that are coming up.
Demonstrate computer use
It is handy to use your chairside workstation to demonstrate computer vision issues and how lenses work with computer screens. I often ask the patient to sit on my stool and use the PC while I test and refine his optimum computer Rx with hand-held trial lenses. Nothing beats the real thing! Computers are also excellent low vision aids for patients who need extra help. A large monitor is very helpful as you show patients how to change settings for maximum magnification.
One warning as you enhance your exam room computer systems: with the new stricter HIPAA regulations, be sure to password protect your computers and protect patient names and personal health information from being seen by others. An automatic screen saver with a short activation time works well.