By Jennifer L. Stewart, OD
May 27, 2020
Two-month practice closures for all but emergency eyecare have taken a toll on our finances. As my practice reopens for routine care, I am planning ways to resume–and even improve–patient care while recouping some of the revenues lost during the shutdown. Here is how I am doing it.
We reopened our doors on May 18, but for the first two days of our reopening, we focused solely on staff training, and did not see any patients. We saw our first patients on May 20. During the shutdown we provided emergency care and visits via telemedicine and accommodated the ordering of contact lenses, glasses and eyecare-related medications.
We reminded patients that while we were not available for routine care, we were there for everything else. We sent out weekly e-mail blasts, and generated a steady volume of contact lens sales.
I operate two practices, one of which is focused on sports vision. We will likely wait longer to offer our sports and performance vision training, as it is difficult to maintain social distancing while providing those services. We are working on developing remote training options for our athletes.
We usually operate with two doctors seeing patients at a time, but we have had to make changes to help our patients and staff maintain social distancing. We now have one doctor seeing patients per day, and have fewer patients scheduled per hour. We have discussed lengthening our days and shortening our lunch schedules to accommodate more patients and keep social distancing in place. While patients are in the office, we try to be extremely efficient to minimize face-to-face time. We are working on ways to educate patients and fulfill treatment plans in the optical quickly, but successfully.
Assessing Patient Needs
After eight weeks with no routine care, there is a backlog of patients needing care. This includes routine visits, visits to update eyewear and contact lens prescriptions, new patient visits, contact lens exams for renewal of prescriptions and continuing medical care for patients who have been diagnosed with conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration.
As patients and their children spend more time in front of screens, I also anticipate an increase in complaints including blurred vision, fatigue, dry eye, headaches and other symptoms due to computer usage.
Blue-Light Filtering Glasses
Based on the number of questions I have received from patients and friends, we are striving to sell more non-prescription blue-light filtering glasses, especially in pediatric sizes. With children doing remote and distance learning, many are spending increased hours on the computer or are on smartphone and tablet screens, and parents are increasingly concerned about this. We have always had a robust blue light filtering offering for our patients, but will increase our investment in these products and find ways to deliver this eyewear to our patients with no in-person visits needed.
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We will prepare our staff for ramped-up blue-light protection sales by doing a refresher on the benefits of blue-light filtering lenses, including information on which patients these products are most important for. I want to make sure all of our staff and doctors are well versed on blue-light technology, so they will be able to skillfully answer patient questions and reinforce my recommendations.
I spent a lot of time while we were closed on webinars, seminars and education on blue-light technology, among other topics, and look forward to sharing this new information with my team. Once we put ordering protocols in place, we will do training to make sure our sales of blue-light products is seamless and fast for our patients.
Editor’s Note: In addition to selling blue-light filtering lenses, you can help patients by showing them how to adjust the settings on their phones, such as instructing them to got into Settings, Display, and then adjusting the Blue Light Filter.
Already On the Forefront–and Now Going Even Further
We have always been on the forefront of blue light technology for our patients, both in prescription and non-prescription form. I anticipate growth in the non-prescription offerings as many patients without refractive error are suffering from computer vision syndrome.
We will focus on patient education through e-mail blasts and social media, and increasing our in-office offerings to meet this need. We want to make sure that we are not just investing in, and selling, blue-light protective eyewear, but that our patients fully understand the benefit of these products, and know that our office is the place to come to–or order from–to make a purchase.
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is a partner in Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn. She also is founder and COO of Performance 20/20, a sports vision training center in Stamford, Conn. To contact her: email@example.com