Incorporating one or more of these ideas will help your office run smoother, increase patient referrals, and make optometric care a more positive experience.
We optometrists often find ourselves in a quandary: How do we provide the optimal patient experience yet keep our offices efficient and profitable? As people are busier than ever, and generally hate to wait (especially in a doctor’s office), it is imperative that we are aware of office flow, bottlenecks, and streamlining the patient visit in our office.
|Patient communication software, such as Websystem3 from CooperVision, helps streamline front desk procedures.|
|EXAM-5000 Refraction System from Topcon has a customizable refraction sequence and on-screen technician scripts.|
How? There are many new advances in technology that allow us to reach our patients differently, change the way our exams are performed, and make it easier to use technicians and scribes.
First, it is important for a practice to analyze its flow and see how the office works from a patient perspective. One powerful way that our practice has found to do this is to time the patient encounter in our office from start to finish. This is a very simple but powerful way to objectively measure how efficient your practice is. We start the clock the moment the patient walks in the door and time how long the patient spends in each area of our office. Our overall goal is to move patients through our office quickly and with maximum efficiency, allowing them to spend their time in our optical, which significantly increases per patient sales, multiple and specialty pairs, and revenue.
To improve flow, we have all of our patient registration forms available on our website, and we also email new patients this information so it’s taken care of before the patient has even entered our office. We are sure to take all insurance information over the phone and have checked on all of the benefits before the patient arrives.
PATIENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Patient communication software such as 4PatientCare, Solutionreach, Demandforce, and WebSystem3 from CooperVision have made appointment confirmation, recall, and patient notifications simple, and they significantly decrease staff time needed. We confirm all appointments with an email and text reminder beforehand to cut down the number of phone calls our staff has to make. Other features of these systems include automated e-newsletters, thank you/no-show/recall notifications, appointment request functionality, one-to-one messaging, customizable surveys, personalized birthday greetings, “refer a friend” capabilities, online bill pay, online scheduling, and email marketing campaigns. These systems integrate with most electronic medical record (EMR) software and can streamline many front desk procedures.
In the exam room, one of the easiest ways to increase efficiency is to speed up exam times using a digital refraction system. Systems such as the Marco EPIC-5100 (which combines the TRS-5100 digital refractor, autorefractor/keratometer, chart projector, autolensometer, and table) take up less space than a traditional lane. This system allows a doctor or technician to perform a refraction in three to five minutes, saving at least five to eight minutes per patient as compared to a traditional phoropter. The Marco TRS-5100 is completely programmable, making it easy for refraction to be delegated to a staff member.
The Topcon EXAM-5000 also has a customizable refraction sequence and on-screen technician scripts, decreasing the time needed for a refraction and making delegation possible. This system also seamlessly integrates with most EMR systems. Patients move through the exam room quicker, increasing the number of potential patients an office can see in a day.
Additionally, the Phoroptor VRx from Reichert Technologies and the Coburn Huvitz HRK-8000A can also make refracting easier and less time consuming.
Many doctors using EMR systems today find that entering patient data into their electronic charts significantly slows down the exam time. They also find that most of the time they are looking at the computer screen instead of the patient. Having a scribe allows the doctor to spend more time facing the patient and not collecting and entering data. An ideal use of a scribe is to have the same technician work with the patient from pre-testing, through the exam room, and finish in the optical. Having one person help the patient from start to finish allows for maximum efficiency as there is essentially no hand-off. This can drive optical revenue as the technician will be able to seamlessly work with patients from their initial complaint to selecting their eyewear to match what the doctor prescribed.
Many doctors are hesitant to incorporate scribes in their office due to the increased cost. However, scribes can pre-test patients, take history, enter exam information, perform diagnostic testing, get contact lens trials, and instill drops. Productivity increases because doctors can now see more patients per day, increasing revenue, which offsets the cost of hiring more staff. Patient satisfaction increases because patients are moved through the office with greater speed, and doctors and technicians can spend more time with each patient. Exam times can be shortened, saving the doctor more time in the exam room and getting the patient into the optical quicker.
In the ever-changing landscape of healthcare, optometrists find themselves trying to balance creating the optimal patient experience in the face of decreasing reimbursements from third-party payers, while integrating changes such as EMR. By taking a hard look at office efficiency, we can significantly optimize the patient experience.
The plethora of technology and tools available today make it simple for a doctor to speed up information gathering and allow the patient to spend more time in the optical, increasing revenues. Doctors are able to see more patients, if they choose, making their practices more profitable. By streamlining procedures in the office, doctors can spend more time focusing on practice management and staff development or less time in the office overall, increasing their happiness and productivity.
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD, is in private practice at Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, CT.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
877.777.9078 | 4patientcare.com
Coburn Technologies, Inc.
800.262.8761 | coburntechnologies.com
800.210.0355 | optometry.demandforce.com
800.874.5274 | marco.com
716.686.4500 | reichert.com
866.605.6867 | solutionreach.com
Topcon Medical Systems
800.223.1130 | topconmedical.com
866.575.3937 | websystem3.com