By Lorie Lippiatt, OD
February 11, 2015
Children form the core of a successful family practice. A welcoming children’s eyecare section in your office sends a family-friendly message.
CATER TO CHILDREN. A separate area for those 17 and younger decorated to young taste with a play area makes children feel more comfortable.
CREATE STRESS-FREE EXAM. Use hand-held instruments to make the exam more comfortable.
HIRE SPECIALIZED STAFF. Devoting one OD and one or two support staffers,who only work with children, enables more efficient and effective children’s eyecare.
Providingeyecare is a critical partof the effort thatoptometric practices make to encourageentire familiesto visit the eye doctor. In our office, weset aside a portion of our office especially for the purpose of serving children. Around 1,500 patients age 17 or younger are seen in our practice annually.
A technician in the Children’s Vision Center of The Salem Eyecare Center, Inc., in Salem, Ohio, works with a vision therapy patient in a kid-friendly room decorated with cartoons on the wall. Dr. Lippiatt says tailoring an environment to a child’s needs and outlook makes a big difference.
Cater to Children
By separating the Children’s Vision Center from the rest of the practice, we have created a truly comfortable place for kids to gather and be themselves away from the more formal areas of the practice, without worry of disturbing any of our adult or geriatric patients. The entire 1,500 square foot first floor of our 5,500 square foot office is devoted to kids with a play area, seating for adults and kids, testing areas, exam rooms, a contact lens room and an optical. We find that the kids are happy and more eager to complete the testing when they feel that their surroundings are kid-friendly.
All the children, infants through teens, are usually seated in the same general area. Many times they are part of the same family, so it doesn’t make sense to split them up. However, we do have a smaller table and chairs for the smallest children so they can comfortably play or sit without worry of falling. If a teen asks to be separated, we try to accommodate them in the adult portion of the practice.
Make Exam As Stress-Free As Possible
Having a pediatric practice, we get referrals for more serious conditions of the eyes which require dilation and more in-depth testing, so we have found ways to instill drops and perform testing that seem more like games, and because our surroundings are comfortable, children usually are not afraid. “No tears or fears” is our motto for how we like the exam to go. The use of hand-held instruments, rather than requiring children to place their heads into large equipment, also can help young patients stay calm.
Invest in Handheld Instruments
Handheld instruments are key to examining the youngest patients. Due to body size and ability, children can not always use instruments designed for adults. I also use toys and action figures to get and keep the kids’ attention.
Hire Specialized OD & Support Staff
We have a receptionist, pre-tester and doctor who are devoted to the Children’s Vision Center. We find that the more interaction a staff member has with children, the better they are at getting the test results that are needed.
Carmela Abraham, OD, the doctor in Dr. Lippiatt’s practice who works solely in the Children’s Vision Center, conducts an educational presentation for children. Dr. Lippiatt says it is important to reach out to the community with educational events geared toward children.
Explain to Parents Why Annual Exams Are Necessary
Once I know a patient is a parent, I educate them about the need for yearly eye exams for their children: “Just like their overall health, your child’s vision development needs to be monitored on a yearly basis to ensure that not only are they seeing clearly, but also their focusing, tracking, binocular skills and perceptual skills are all adequate to learn in a visually centered classroom experience.”
Market Children’s Eyecare Center
Marketing is done on our social media pages, such as our Facebook page, and on our practice web site. We also take part in school screenings and area activities that involve children. We have practice information folders that are given to educators and school nurses that detail all the pediatric-specific services we provide.
Keep Abreast of New Developments & Trends Affecting Children
We constantly monitor the changing needs of children, such as the home schooling trend of the last decade and computer-based education. We have added testing procedures that specifically monitor visual hygiene and technology use, and we make sure parents are aware of these procedures and outcomes, so that they are fully educated about our services.
A back-to-school exam and eyewear advertisement posted to the Facebook page of Dr. Lippiatt’s practice. Dr. Lippiatt says it’s important to communicate the children’s eyecare message directly with patients who are parents, and also through channels like social media.