By Ian G. Whipple, OD
August 26, 2020
We are inundated with frightening news about the easy transmission, and sometimes deadly consequences, of COVID-19. It’s no wonder then that some patients may put off care, including delaying annual eye exams. Here is how my practice is reassuring patients that it’s safe to visit us.
Sharing Details on New Check-in Process
We relay as much information about our office’s modified check-in process as possible. Our receptionists explain that our staff will perform a temperature screening and that the patient will have to complete an exposure questionnaire at check-in. Additionally the patient is informed that we require mask use at all times in our office, and that this requirement has been implemented to protect our patients and staff.
This information is explained again at the actual check-in when the patient arrives for their visit.
We informed all of our patients of each significant change in our COVID protocol by sending an e-mail blast through our patient communication system, Prime Nexus. So far we have sent two e-mail blasts (one at the start of the crisis indicating that our office would only be open for emergency visits, and another one in May when we reopened with our new COVID protocols.)
Note to Welcome Patients Back
In addition, we published a post on Facebook that explains the new office procedures, and we continue to post on social media about our curbside pickup of glasses and contact lenses and online and phone contact lens ordering options.
We have used phone, social media and postcards to get the word out that we are here and available for all of our patients’ eyecare, and that we have created a safe place to assist them during this uncertain time.
Staff Prepared to Field Patient Questions
Some patients really seem concerned about their safety when they call to schedule. Our staff is happy to reassure them that every decision we have made in our COVID protocol has been with safety of patients and staff as the top priority. Our staff is able and ready to field specific questions about masks and cleaning procedures.
Our staff knows that everything about how we deliver eyecare takes longer now. They have all been amazingly patient through this process–and are able to explain the new protocols fully to patients. We know that it takes longer to schedule an exam now because we explain our process, but this has forced innovation in the scheduling department.
We have always trained our staff to be empowered to adjust office procedures as they see fit. To further efforts of spacing our patients out as much as possible, our receptionist has taken it upon herself to schedule smarter. What I mean by this is that she only offers certain appointment times to certain patients.
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A new patient, for example, is only scheduled in the middle of the morning or the middle of the afternoon. They are not offered the very first appointment spot of the day because we expect that they’ll likely take longer to complete the check-in process than an established patient. Elderly patients are booked for 40-minute exams instead of 30-minute visits. These small adjustments in our scheduling have helped tremendously.
Every staff member has been well trained to clean equipment, frames and physical spaces in front of the patient. Even if it was just cleaned we’ll do it again to reassure the patient that we take their safety seriously. We reassure our patients that frames have been sanitized.
(Safely) Accommodating Eagerness for New Eyewear
Our office is selling frames like crazy. Many patients express that they waited through the first couple of months of quarantine with their old glasses, and they are so excited to update their vision and look.
Our opticians report that there have only been a few patients who have been hesitant to select frames. They’re grateful that we are taking steps to sanitize frames and that we can continue to give them in-person options for frame selections. Some patients have expressed frustration that many other (non-optical) purchases have to be made online right now, and that for such an important decision as glasses, they are glad they can try on in-person before making a purchase.
Judging from a recent 5-star online review posted by a patient, our communication with patients, staff training and optical experience are a hit: “My safety and the staff safety was perfect, very clean, very friendly staff, very comfortable.”