By Jonathan Weston, OD
July 1, 2020
When the COVID-19 closures hit this year, practices were put under enormous strain. Fortunately, we had a buffer from a lot of that strain, thanks to the ownership–and partnership– with EyeCare Partners. Here is how being a part of this company helped us survive the shutdown, and now is helping us enjoy a strong recovery.
Patients & Employees First
There was a constant focus by ECP on doing what was best for our patients and employees. There was a team-based collaboration by each department to create our COVID-19 response, from moving to an emergency-only clinic with telemedicine to the ramping back up when it was time to reopen and everything in between.
Each of our employees completed COVID-19 training modules before returning to the office. This included education on the disease process and transmission of SARS-CoV-2. There were modules on sanitation protocol and how to reduce the spread through personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing and/or barriers. The modules included training on how to relate to patients the safety measures we are taking, so each of them could expect the same level of care they were accustomed to pre-pandemic.
Boost Toward New Normal
ECP has been a tremendous resource in helping us get back to a new (somewhat slower) normal, whether that be sanitizing the office, maintaining social distancing, or seeing a reduced patient load to comply with reduced capacity limits in a smaller office.
After being quarantined for over two months, I was really looking forward to seeing patients again. ECP has been proactive about communicating with patients the safety measures that we are taking, and what to expect at their appointments. They have provided ample PPE and cleaning supplies for each office, and provided clear signage and direction in the offices.
Full-Time Focus on Patient Care
Practice recovery from the shutdown requires owners to divide their focus between administrative tasks and patient care. When your practice is overseen by a company like ECP, you have the advantage of being able to keep an undivided focus on patient care.
The most rewarding part of the practice recovery period is returning to caring for patients full time, and doing it in a safe manner. I’m proud of the opportunities that we offer our staff in training and career advancement, but I’m even more proud about how the whole team has pulled together to get through this pandemic.
Maintaining Safety in the Pandemic
We had a general protocol that was adapted to each office. We reduced our schedule to ensure we could safely see every patient (different for each office, from 20-50 percent reduction, with plans to increase as possible). We have decals on the floor to maintain social distancing, plexiglass shields at the front desk, and we removed chairs from the reception area. Patients wear masks to their appointments, as do all staff and doctors. Face shields are available for those who want them.
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Patients come alone to their appointment unless they are minors or otherwise in need of assistance. Appointments are made for optical shopping, even if it is just for an adjustment or repair. We are offering free shipping on contact lenses to all patients. Every single staff member is trained in the sanitation protocol including doctors.
Every surface in the room is disinfected with either TB-cide or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol in between patients. We have protective shields on the phoropters and slit lamps.
Anything touched during the exam goes into a basket that is sanitized before being used again. In the optical, each patient receives a basket. After trying on all their frames, they are taken to the lab to be sanitized in a frame bath that won’t damage the frames. ECP provided these baths and all cleaning supplies. Additional supplies are automatically replenished and shipped to each office.
Keeping an Eye on High-Quality Care
The level of satisfaction our patients have with our care is of the utmost importance to us. We use Net Promoter Scores to gauge how well we are doing from our patients’ perspectives. We are paying special attention to the new anxieties our patients express to us, and being sure their experience in our office isn’t presenting new worries to them.
Every patient gets a survey when they leave our office so that we get live feedback on how each visit went. Currently our NPS scores are as high as they have ever been. Hopefully that is a trend we are able to maintain, and continue to adapt to our ever-changing work environment.
ECP makes it easy to provide the kind of care we can be proud of, and our patients can feel secure and more-than-satisfied with. They know us as a practice that consistently exceeds their expectations.
For more information, contact James Wachter, OD, Chief Professional Officer of EyeCarePartners: email@example.com
Jonathan Weston, OD, is the medical director of Clarkson Eyecare Michigan, an EyeCare Partners practice, with multiple locations in Michigan. The practice was previously known as Bennett Optometry. To contact him: JonathanWeston@clarksoneyecare.com