By Clint Taylor, OD
Sept. 2, 2020
The improvements you make to your practice are important both because they can enhance patient care and because they can build revenues. Here are three changes we made that were highly beneficial for our patients and office.
Purchasing a Retinal Camera
Why we did it: We wanted to be able to document new retinal pathology and track changes in existing retinal pathology.
Impact on patient care: When we purchased our Topcon camera in 2007, we were one of the few practices in our area who had one. So, there was definitely a “wow” factor. It’s one thing to tell a patient they have something going on in the back of their eye. But when you can pull their retinal image up on the screen and show them hemorrhages, macular degeneration, vessel crossing changes, glaucomatous changes and other pathology, it definitely gets the patient’s attention. I also believe it increases patient compliance with treatment, follow-up visits and referrals.
ROI: We bought our retinal camera in 2007 for approximately $26,000. I estimate that we’ve taken about 2,639 billable retinal photos since then. Assuming each photo reimburses at a rate of around $70, our financial return has been around $185,000. I know of no other piece of equipment that has generated a stronger return on investment for our office. And this doesn’t even account for word-of-mouth referrals from patients who were impressed by the technology.
Further, the widespread emergence of screening retinal photos makes getting a camera even more of a no-brainer.
Setting Aside Time for Regular Staff Meetings.
Why we did it: From the beginning, we wanted to offer exceptional patient care and an unforgettable patient experience. To achieve those two goals, our team needed to be knowledgeable, skilled and confident. Our staff meetings were implemented to ensure our team members were trained appropriately and kept up to date on all changes in the practice.
Impact on patient care: Having a properly trained staff, and meeting regularly to debrief any service lapses, has ensured a consistently outstanding patient experience.
ROI: Holding regular staff meetings does cost money. Since January of 2006, we have set aside time for scheduled staff meetings. For the first 11 years, we set aside one hour every other week. Beginning in 2017, we started having weekly meetings. If we conservatively assume we could see three full exams in those hour-long slots, and each full exam generates $350 per patient, that means we are missing out on around $1,000 in revenue per staff meeting. We have had approximately 442 staff meetings over the years, which would equate to $442,000 in lost revenue.
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While this is a large amount invested, the return on this investment has been priceless. Not only have the meetings enabled us to keep our staff properly trained, but they have also given my employees a platform to share their ideas. Hundreds of ideas on how to improve our practice have been brought up in meetings by our team members. Not only have these ideas led to practice improvements, but they have also given our staff members a sense of ownership and have led to professional and personal growth. The culture this has created in our office is priceless.
One successful change we made based on a suggestion at a staff meeting is the use of our dispensing sheets (explained below). This was a recommendation that came from our lead optician at a staff meeting. She brought up the idea, we discussed the pros and cons, then decided to implement the change. She worked with our lab to design them and brought prototype sheets to the next couple of staff meetings until everyone had given their input.
I recommend holding staff meetings at a regular, scheduled time. It might be before your practice opens each Monday, over lunch on Wednesdays or every other Thursday at 4 p.m. – just pick a time that works for your practice. But the time needs to be consistent. And for those who may wonder if they’ll have enough to talk about at a weekly meeting, I can say that I’ve never had that problem. Most of the time, my team and I run out of time before we cover all of the topics we would like to discuss.
Implementing Dispensing Sheets
These are dry-erase sheets with all of our optical products listed. In the exam room, the doctor checks the box next to each product they are recommending for each patient. This is done in front of the patient, and then the recommendations are reiterated to the optician at hand-off.
Why we did it: We were looking for a way to put the doctor’s recommendations from the exam room in writing. We wanted to stress the importance of our recommendations, and make them clear to both the patient and the optician.
Impact on patient care: It lets the patient know that all optical products are not the same and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Instead, we are customizing our recommendations to fit the visual needs of each patient. This differentiates us from our competition. Patients have also been more likely to purchase premium lens options, which has resulted in better patient visual outcomes.
ROI: The investment in dispensing sheets was minimal. We worked with our lab to have several laminated sheets made and we purchased dry-erase markers for all of our exam rooms. It does take an extra minute or two to go over the recommendations with the patient and the optician, but the return on these investments have been fantastic. The usage of premium materials and lens add-ons have grown at our office since implementation.
For example, our anti-reflective coating percentage went up 16 percent the first year we started using the sheets, and have gone up a total of 22 percent since initial implementation.
If you decide to use dispensing sheets in your practice, I recommend putting one staff member in charge of the sheets. They can work with the lab to get the sheets made, and then edit them as the office implements new products.
Never stop improving your practice. Don’t fall into the trap of doing things because you’ve always done them that way. Instead, look for better ways to do things, listen to the input of your staff, make changes and improve your patients’ experience and your profitability
Clint Taylor, OD, is the owner of Taylor Eye Care in Carmi, Ill., a one-OD, one-location practice with eight support-staff members that delivered about 3,000 comprehensive eye exams in 2019. To contact him: email@example.com