OPTOMETRIC BUSINESS INNOVATORS
MARY E. BONAME, OD, MS, FAAO
Montgomery Eye Care
“Good, better, best, never let it rest, til your good is better and your better is best.”
The practice that Mary E. Boname, OD, MS, FAAO, has created is what she calls “concierge,” meaning a comparatively small practice that is highly focused on patient care. This means spending time getting to know each of her patients so Dr. Boname can fully understand their vision needs.
Dr. Boname’s attention to her patients’ needs includes finding out how best to stay in touch with them. “I am surprised that many patients are saying ‘I would really love it if you could send me a reminder postcard for my annual exam, in addition to the e-mail or text,’” Dr. Boname says. “Patients report they are inundated with e-mails, and delete many of them without reading them. In some cases, e-mail communication from our office may be going to spam filters. Just a few days after mailing out recall postcards, there was a noticeable increase in phone calls to schedule annual eye exams.”
In addition to regular practice-patient communication, the efficient office Dr. Boname maintains is a feature her patients appreciate. “Since March 2007, I have been using electronic records, and we are nearly all wireless now,” she says. “A few of the more senior staff members are very resistant to computer use, and I had to bring in more high school and college students to do tasks that were overwhelming to my receptionist.”
Dr. Boname keeps her staff focused on what matters most: “At Montgomery Eye Care, our mission statement is “To provide an exceptional patient care experience for each patient every time they are here. I emphasize, that we are all members of a team and ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’”
KEVIN L. GEE, OD, FAAO
Gee Eye Care
Missouri City, Texas
“Our employee manual says: 1. Do what is best for the customer experience; 2. When in doubt, revisit #1.”
“Patients are not ‘patients’ any longer, they are consumers and savvy consumers at that,” declares Kevin Gee, OD. To create a positive customer experience at Gee Eye Care, his six-year-old practice located 30 miles from downtown Houston, Texas, Dr. Gee looks to the hospitality industry for ideas.
“Hotels and restaurants are a great source to learn and bring back ideas, but one must implement,” he says. “For example, the Ritz Carlton has a saying, ‘a warm welcome and a fond farewell.’ When you enter our doors, you receive a ‘welcome,’ not a ‘hello’ or ‘hi,’ and from the very beginning we have always escorted the patient out the door by opening the door for them as they depart.”
Dr. Gee makes sure his entire staff is involved in the effort. As a lesson in customer service, he once held an office meeting at a local Nordstrom department store. Employees shopped for shoes, then compared notes with a Nordstrom personal shopper who helped them understand how he keeps loyal customers.
Dr. Gee adds his personal touch to customer service, often hand delivering glasses or a contact lens order to someone’s office or home himself. He sees patients four nights a week, until as late as 9:30 p.m. “Our patients love that,” he says. “They don’t have to miss work or worry about the kids missing school. We receive countless ‘thanks’ for staying open for them.”
A nationally recognized speaker on topics such as anterior segment disease, business marketing and patient experience, Dr. Gee has a special interest in luxury eyewear. He has been recognized by designer Tom Davies for his custom eyewear designs, including a striking pair that is half round, half square.
PAMELA A. LOWE, OD, FAAO
Professional Eye Care Center, Inc.
“What is best for the patient is always what is best for business.”
Pamela Lowe, OD, FAAO, a graduate with honors from the Illinois College of Optometry, established Professional Eye Care Center, Inc., in 1992. In 2007, the practice had grown to such an extent that it was relocated to a space nearly three times the size of the original locale. A Vision Source office for more than a decade, the practice provides full scope, primary care optometry with an emphasis on prevention and implementing the latest technologies.
“Our practice has stayed vital for the past 21 years because we aren’t afraid to be early adopters and invest in the best technologies that allow us to be very effective primary care optometrists,” says Dr. Lowe. “We like to be the first and often the ‘only’ office in town to offer differentiating innovations and services.”
“The economic changes of 2008 affected patient perception and bottom lines across the board in this industry,” she adds. “Many of our patients experienced challenges that affected their spending. Fortunately, since our practice adopted a medical model when we computerized in the mid-90s, and has always been committed to investing in technology to better diagnose and treat patients, we have been able to survive and thrive as the economy comes back.”
Lowe has also led her office through other challenges. “The biggest management challenge has been paradigm shifts in our industry. Change is not comfortable for most and it is often difficult to break old habits and introduce new standards. Educating myself and the staff about new innovations and translating them into everyday practice is time consuming, yet it has the reward of giving the patient the best care.
“In an effort to give the best of care to our patients, having regular staff meetings is essential. We have ‘mini’ two- to five-minute staff meetings daily to troubleshoot and discuss the day before us. We also frequently remind ourselves of our mission statement, ‘To provide the highest quality eyecare available in a comfortable, professional setting.'”
ANDREA P. THAU, OD, FAAO, FCOVD
Dr. Andrea P. Thau and Associates
New York, NY
“We try to establish a relationship with each patient so that we can be their primary eyecare provider for their entire lifetime.”
Many practitioners script the superior patient experience that they want their practice to provide with each and every visit. In the case of Andrea Thau,OD, FAAO, FCOVD, of Dr. Andrea P. Thau and Associates in New York City, delivering an exceptional experience is often more of an improvisational performance, differing with each patient. “We deal with a lot of special needs patients, and each one is a unique challenge,” she explains.
About 65 percent of Dr. Thau’s patients are children, including some very young in age and many with vision challenges that brought them to the office by referral from a teacher or occupational therapist—or from another family where a child was profoundly helped by Dr. Thau, who specializes in providing vision therapy.
“We try to establish a relationship with each patient so that we can be their primary eyecare provider for their entire lifetime,” says Dr. Thau. That is especially challenging when children present with paralyzing fears of seeing a doctor or sitting in an examination chair. Making a child feel safe and engaged are keys to a successful visit at her practice. “I sometimes say, ‘I’m the Eye Doctor Detective, and I need good clues to be able to help you to see really, really well.’ Then together we use our good clues to come up with the ‘right conclusions,’” she says.
When Dr. Thau works with a child to improve their ability to focus or to better concentrate on school work, she pro-actively (with a parent’s consent) shares the process, as well as vision-health tips, with teachers and occupational therapists who may also be working with her young patients. “We see ourselves as being part of the child’s team.”