As a private practice owner for nearly three decades, one of my primary goals is to ensure that my patients receive the highest quality of care in the best environment. This often requires more work, but work that yields positive reviews from patients and improves our day-to-day processes in-office. I feel it is my duty as a practitioner to stay on top of the latest technologies that ultimately offer our patients an easy, smooth experience every time they come to see us.
Efficiency has been, and continues to be, one of our core practice values. We have regular daily, weekly, and monthly meetings with our staff, which are beneficial in letting us all discuss what is and isn’t working, and something that regularly comes up is efficiency. We reinforce why efficiency is so important to us and the ways that it improves the overall patient experience. One of the biggest reasons is that efficiency helps us create a “friction-free” experience for our patients, and it makes our office a less stressful — and more fun — place to work. If things are running smoothly, our staff and our patients feel the effects of that, and it’s a much better work environment than when things are chaotic.
Investing in Technology
In my time as a practice owner, I’ve consistently strived to embrace technology to take better care of our patients and create a better, more efficient experience for the staff and for our patients, and I do everything I can to keep our practice running with the most up-to-date features. These tweaks improve everything from making an appointment, checking in for your appointment, pre-testing, the exam, the optical, and checking out.
One of the ways we’ve done this is by adopting a practice management system (Crystal Practice Management) that helps with several aspects of the patient’s journey, while also simplifying things for our staff members. From a patient perspective, this system allows patients to make appointments online, update their personal information and history online, and check-in for their appointment at an in-office kiosk. From the staff and office management perspective, we’re able to integrate several key optical features to showcase our inventory in a digital format, as well as track and manage our inventory and sales with the AIMS inventory management system that integrates with CrystalPM. The practice management system also helps us identify and manage patients’ specific vision care plans and insurance benefits, ensuring that their payment is processed correctly, and their benefits are utilized correctly. CrystalPM even integrates with VSP, which makes the job for the optician much easier and faster.
Another feature we’ve incorporated into our practice is Weave, which has allowed us to streamline our communication with our patients. This service has changed the way we interact with our patients. It sends reminders when it’s time for an appointment or when there is a balance left to pay. It also provides patients with a number to text us with any questions or to schedule an appointment. This is also integrated with our EHR.
We’ve also updated the ways that patients pick up their glasses or contact lenses and the ways that they’re reminded to do so. Our practice has a drive-thru specifically dedicated for pickups of glasses, contact lenses, eye drops, supplements, solutions, etc. This helps make our patients’ experience faster and easier. Just like major pharmacies, they don’t have to get out of the car to get what they need or have their glasses adjusted. (Yes, we adjust glasses while the patient is sitting in their car!) They just drive up, and someone is there to help them and retrieve their glasses, contacts, drops, and supplements. If patients don’t even want to come back for the drive-thru, we’re now able to have their glasses shipped directly from the lab to their houses. For patients ordering glasses, they also receive automated notifications of when their glasses are being processed or are ready for pickup. We also use opticalordertracker.com so that patients can go online and see if their glasses have arrived at our office yet. For contact lens wearers, we utilize CLX, a software that allows patients to order their lenses online whenever they need them, and it allows our staff to capture and manage all of our orders at one website. This saves significant staff time.
While these are just a handful of the ways that we implement the latest technology and focus on efficiency in our practice, these updates show our patients that we’re committed to raising the bar, and they’re appreciative of our efforts to make their experience better. Many of our patient reviews mention efficiency specifically, and that means a lot to me, because that’s something we actively work on and try to improve. So, our efforts aren’t going unnoticed — our patients see what we’re doing, and it stands out to them.
Communicating with Staff
Implementing anything new in your practice takes time, dedication, and full buy-in from everyone on your staff. I’ve found that my staff members are the best ones to go to when I’m thinking of adding anything new to my practice, and that’s usually because they have the best insights into what’s working and what’s not working in our office.
I like to survey the staff and find out where our bottlenecks are, and then I make a plan to attack those things. We also had a breakout at an office meeting to talk about where the patient experience with us was and wasn’t “frictionless.” When we were super busy in December, I surveyed the staff and asked where we had any bottlenecks, or where it was busy/crowded, or just didn’t feel good to them. We found out that we had a bottleneck with the autorefractors as one of them takes longer, so we purchased a third autorefractor. We also heard that the patient lounge and the optical felt crowded during the holidays because of the extra guests. We’re currently looking at expanding the footprint of our building, and that should alleviate those concerns. This serves as a good example of ways to communicate with your staff to see what’s working and what’s not working in all areas of your practice.
My biggest piece of advice on getting your staff on board with these changes: communicate! Listen to any potential issues they may be having, any reservations they have about adopting a new system, or their general thoughts on the way you’ve been doing things, and always be open to tweaking things. Something I’ve implemented is telling my staff, “We will try this for ‘x’ months, and if it isn’t working, we’ll stop.”
Be Bold and Grow
Technology has allowed us to do more with less and see more patients than we were before. We’re able to work in an emergency patient without messing up our whole system or flow.
I think many practitioners are fearful about adopting new technologies or new processes. There’s fear of debt or fear of the economy or just fear of change in general. You have to be bold to be able to grow!