Creating Patient Care Opportunities

Monday, May 2, 2016

My father always told me that to get an opportunity, I had to make one. I was a high school wrestler on a very good team. Every week we had challenge matches to determine who would get to wrestle in the next match. After a solid junior season, I ended up losing in my challenge the week of the state qualifying tournament. I was out for the biggest meet of the year. My coach decided to let me travel with the team, but with no expectation of getting to wrestle. We all struggled to make weight so I decided that I was going to be at the qualifying weight even though I was not going to wrestle … I decided to be ready. Sure enough, as luck would have it, our top guy failed to make weight and the coach put me in. I went all the way to the finals and qualified for state. Preparation had resulted in an opportunity.

In much the same way, every moment of optometric practice is about creating opportunities for service. Our job is to address the chief complaint but to also assess the patient for other needs and construct a treatment plan for other service. Each patient encounter is an opportunity to solidify our role in our patient’s long term health and wellness.

It is all about being ready. That next vision care patient may need medical management. The next medical patient may need refractive care. They may have relatives or friends who are also in need of care. They may need to adopt a prevention mindset. Our ability to listen carefully will often uncover hidden opportunities for service.

I have often said that I don’t need an advantage, just an opportunity. We need to eliminate barriers which can slow a patient’s approach to our practices. Once access is achieved, we must then concentrate on utilization. We need to create a value proposition which makes patients want to use their benefits. In the end, it is the combination of access and utilization which leads to patient care opportunities.

Optometry’s progress in gaining greater access in medicine is well documented. Optometry is blessed with many top-notch clinicians. There is no question, optometry is well equipped for medical management. But I also believe that optometry continues to be underutilized within medicine and that we are capable of so much more. We need to loudly tell our story if we expect medicine to further embrace what we have to offer.

As I see it, opportunity is where you find it. It is imperative that we work hard in the areas of access and utilization, to create those opportunities for service. We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients. We have the opportunity to establish ourselves as an integral part in their pursuit of health and wellness. Let’s be sure to approach each day with an eye for new opportunities.

And in the words of that great Hall of Fame Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary: “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

What opportunities have you identified that optometrists can pursue in the eye care industry? Reply in the comments section below for a chance to win during our May giveaway.

The Blue Light Opportunity for Optometry

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blue Light Concern

If you just came back from Vision Expo East, there’s a good chance you found yourself in a conversation or two about blue light. As eye care providers, we’re on the front line of this conversation, as we’re seeing blue light’s impact walk through our practice doors literally every day. Our patients (adults and kids alike) are complaining of headaches, dry, tired eyes, and blurry vision. Many of them have simply accepted the symptoms of digital eye strain as their new normal as a result of so much digital device use. However, this doesn’t have to be.

Digital devices continue to be more and more prevalent in all aspects of life. We’re living through a time in which blue light exposure is hitting unprecedented levels. This presents optometry with a tremendous opportunity to own the conversation as medical experts and educate patients and the public about the harm blue light can have on their eyes as well as the potential long-term health impacts. As optometrists, we can provide solutions to this problem that make a real difference in the lives of our patients, but also differentiate our practices and provide opportunity for it to thrive.

A new survey from VSP has revealed that by the time the average American child reaches age 17, their eyes will have spent the equivalent of nearly six years looking at digital devices. Yet, the survey also found that the majority of parents are mostly unaware of blue light and its impact on vision. This topic needs to be a part of the exam conversation. Screen time has become such a normal part of our lives, that it can go unnoticed by patients. Simply asking how many hours a day a patient spends on their devices on the patient history forms provides you with the opportunity to have the blue light conversation and recommend solutions that curb symptoms of digital eye strain.

When it comes to talking about light protective lenses, especially with parents, I like to talk about it as safety eyewear. Parents wouldn’t want their child to work in a woodshop without protective eyewear, so why should they let their children spend hours a day in front of screens without protection? Even a patient (child or adult) who doesn’t need refractive correction can benefit from a plano lens with a coating that absorbs and reflects blue light.

The blue light story is not going away. Researchers continue to study the impact of long-term, cumulative blue light exposure on our eyes, including possible vision loss. As technology like virtual reality headsets become more mainstream, screens will be at closer proximity to our eyes than ever before. In a sense, we’re in the early days of the blue light story. The opportunity for our profession is right in front of us.

Dr. Gary Morgan is a VSP provider who practices at Eye Tech Associates in Phoenix, Arizona. Follow his blog series on blue light, AMD prevention, and the impacts of technology on vision and health.


Technological Improvements That Will Help Contribute to the Patient Experience

Monday, April 18, 2016

Technology has had a lasting impact on a significant number of industries in the last few decades. There is no question that optometry is one of them.

While new technologies can be a benefit for our practices, it’s a constant challenge to find the next tool that your practice needs, while at the same time justifying the costs and challenges of implementing new technology.

The biggest thing new technologies have done is change the patients’ expectations of what their experience will be. In today’s optometric world, there are so many new options when looking to replace deteriorating equipment or trying to decide on the next advancement of clinical tools. With technology contributing to our patients’ expectations of the “next generation” versions happening multiple times per year, we’re getting to a point where patients are expecting the “latest and greatest” every office visit. Fortunately, this can be addressed by covering all areas of a practice, from the front desk to the exam room, and all the way to the optical dispensary.

A few items that are starting to become common are things like utilizing a smart phone platform to perform auto refractions or retinal/anterior segment imaging. These smaller devices can reduce “equipment anxiety” which can make the patient feel more comfortable during the examination.

There are new optical display technologies that use LED lighting and programmable chips to display frames in your office that a patient may have picked out online before they arrived at your office. This can encourage the “click-to-brick” buyer’s mentality a lot of Millennials have; it can also reduce the confusion that patients encounter when looking at all of the frames displayed in a typical dispensary.

There are new EHRs that utilize an iPad, which increases face-to-face communication time between doctor and patient. Another new idea I saw recently that was intriguing was a practice that created an in office program similar to, in which they brought in a fashionable, price-conscience frame line. The practice then negotiated a great deal on lens blanks and utilized the fashionable frames with the low-cost lenses to create a “swap anytime” single vision frame and lens package for a monthly fee. These are just a few of all of the never ending options that are now being implemented in optometric practices.

Not all technology can be looked at as an immediate profit center for your practice. Some technology tools you implement will create billable fees in the long term, say an upgraded OCT or Retinal Camera, while other tools implemented might strictly be for the patients’ convenience or the “wow” factor that can’t immediately be monetized but will show value through positive patient perception and retention.

As I see it, at the end of the day, you need to make technological improvements within your practice that will help contribute to the entire patient experience. Your patients expect it in today’s world and when you commit to providing the highest quality of care combined with a thoughtful use of new technology, you create a competitive advantage for your practice.

What technology did you see at Vision Expo East that could help your practice more efficiently help patients?