Questions are the lifeblood of your practice. Without asking information of your patients, you won’t know what they want or what they’re looking for. Nor will you know much about your staff’s needs: What gives them job satisfaction, what would make them more efficient, how could office policies be improved on? So my question to you is: Are you asking the right ones?
There’s a difference between asking “the usual” queries and digging a little deeper. With low vision for example, are you asking patients about their quality of life? A simple “How are you?” might not be enough. Instead, the question might be: “What are some things you used to do that you are no longer able to because of your eyesight?” This could lead into a conversation about support groups or devices that might improve their day-to-day living.
Similarly, with a contact lens patient, the question might be “If there was one thing I could improve with your lenses, what would that be?” An open ended question such as this gives them permission to speak about blurry vision or lens dryness. Simply asking “Is your vision clear?” or “Are your contact lenses dry?” can set the patient up to answer yes or no based on what they think you want to hear.
Don’t forget sports enquiries like “Tell me what sports and hobbies you do in your free time.” This allows a patient to talk about what she finds to be important and what she likes to spend her time doing. This can also set up a conversation for her to tell you that the multifocal contact lenses she loves for their daily wear isn’t cutting it for tennis, or how her progressive lenses are causing eyestrain when she is crocheting.
It sounds simple””and it is””but like anything in life, you don’t know until you ask. And by asking, your conversations may lead to deeper discussions that can help you prescribe a patient something else. It also leads to better relationships. The chattiness factor (provided you’re not too verbose) is a way to show patients you care not just about their eyesight but about their overall well-being.
Showing the same courtesy to your staff is another way to let the folks that work for you know you’re in tune with their needs. Taking time out for an early morning coffee klatch””baked goods provided by you””or a catered lunch once a month is a great way to get feedback, as is the occasional offsite team meeting. Finding out what makes your staff happy will keep your office well run and positive and lead to greater personal and financial rewards in your practice.
JEANNE MUCHNICK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF