Forward-thinking ODs provide fresh ideas. They are the focus of our fourth annual Optometric Business Innovators report from Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business. Each month for the rest of the year, ROB will profile the honorees in various categories–business management, optical and contact lens dispensing, digital media and marketing, the patient experience, and influencers. This month: ODs who are innovative in the patient experience.
GREG AKER, OD
AKER EYE CENTER
“Our mission is to provide an eyecare experience that is like none other. Service to the patient is our highest priority. Advanced technology is our gift to their sight.”
Being proactive with technology, education and outside consultants has enabled Greg Aker, OD, to improve the patient experience. Enlisting staff participation in these aspects of his practice has helped build on that success.
In addition to automated diagnostic equipment, such as the OptoMap, Optovue OCT, Visucam retinal camera, Diopsys ERG/VEP, and Marco phoropters in all exam lanes, Dr. Aker also invested in software. “My greatest technology is the Versus patient and staff tracking system,” he says. “After consulting with ODLean, I contacted Versus.” Average patient time went from one hour and 12 minutes to 52 minutes.”
Outside consultants helped Dr. Aker improve patient care, as well: “I learned the importance of benchmarking after attending a Management and Business Academy conference. That process was enhanced through The Edge program to mine my OfficeMate information. Essilor consultants trained the staff in AR sales, which brought our AR percentage from 25 percent to 75 percent.”
It’s focusing on staff that ultimately enables Dr. Aker to implement these improvements. All staff are certified paraoptometrics, either CPO, CPOA, or CPOT. “I have worked hard to gather quality staff who are compassionate, friendly and knowledgeable,” says Dr. Aker. “Every new hire is told that the main successful trait of a great employee is showing up.”
TIMOTHY HAUPERT, OD
PRESIDENT ART OF OPTIKS
“My business philosophy is straight- forward: Work hard every day to provide the best care, service and products. Everything else will take care of itself.”
In his 25 years as an optometrist, Timothy Haupert, OD, has practiced in many different modalities including a big box retail location, a high-end retail optical, an ophthalmology clinic, a contact lens specialty practice and two different lasik eye centers. Thirteen years ago he founded Art of Optiks, a two-doctor, 11-employee practice with a luxury dispensary located in a western suburb of Minneapolis.
From the outset, Dr. Haupert has implemented the latest technologies at Art of Optiks, including electronic medical records and digital refractive equipment. “Since we were the beta test site, our clinic was the first in the country to integrate our digital refractive instrumentation to the EHR system–eliminating the need to manually input K readings, auto-refractor data and subjective manifest refraction measurements,” Dr. Haupert notes. “We consistently adopt new technology that improves the patient experience or the care we provide earlier than most of our counterparts. For example, we were the second practice in our state to purchase the iCare tonometer.”
Recently, Dr. Haupert and his staff successfully implemented new software that enables them to adopt the government standards of Meaningful Use of EHR. “Being able to achieve that level of electronic record documentation, and yet make it seamless from the patient’s perspective, required a tremendous amount of teamwork with the software vendor and our clinic staff,” he says.
MICHAEL J. LYONS, OD, FAAO
FOCAL POINTE EYE CARE
WEST CHESTER, OHIO
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did, so throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails, explore, dream, discover.”
After seven years at Cincinnati Eye Institute, Michael J. Lyons, OD, FAAO, opened Focal Pointe Eye Care. He has a special interest in therapeutic contact lenses to treat corneal disease, and is one of the leading scleral lens doctors in the region.
Dr. Lyons is also a volunteer instructor in the department of ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati and head of the University Contact Lens Service. He also provides low vision services at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Using cutting-edge technology is also important to the practice’s success. “Last year, we invested in a Visual Evoked Potential testing system, an OCT, and an in-office optical lens edger,” says Dr. Lyons. “We use animated software to explain ocular conditions, and we have incorporated texting/e-mail to notify patients.”
This year, Dr. Lyons is looking at establishing a direct communications link with a major tertiary eyecare center to securely exchange patient data.
“Our motto is ‘Embrace Change.’ The health care environment over the next decade will be defined by the practice’s ability to adapt,” Dr. Lyons predicts. “If a practice is unable or unwilling to change, then that practice will go away. My goal is to change at least one thing per week. This keeps it fresh and interesting to the team and patients alike.”
MARIA SAMPALIS, OD
SAMPALIS EYECARE PC
WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND, AND
NORTH DARTMOUTH, MASS.
“Hard work and determination are important to succeed as a business owner. My passion for my business comes from within—this is what drives me to want to succeed!”
Maria Sampalis, OD, has only been out of optometry school for seven years, and a practice owner for two years, but she is well on her way. The doctor, who has memberships in the AOA, National Glaucoma Association and the Rhode Island Health Department, is also an adjunct professor for The MCPHS University School of Optometry. In addition, she is on the executive board of the Massachusetts Society of Optometry and is on the Optometry Advisory Council for Luxottica.
Dr. Sampalis says a key to her success has been her focus on the patient experience. The practice, which provides primary care optometry, including contact lens fittings and routine comprehensive eye examinations, among other services, takes time to educate patients. “Our mission is to provide quality care with a personal touch that exceeds our patients’ expectations,” she says. “I truly believe that customer service is what differentiates us. I take my time with patients to help them understand their conditions, whether it is macular degeneration or myopia.”
Part of educating her patients is ensuring they keep all the appointments needed to care properly for their eyes. She does that with the help of a robust recall system. “Our recall system, TAB, is great for patient communication via e-mail or text,” she says. “I use my recall system database to e-mail patients education newsletters about our office equipment and about their condition. This is a practice builder!”
Rather than competing by cutting prices, Dr. Sampalis focuses on the value of medical eyecare and the high-quality experience she can provide. “The changing climate in health care today is a real challenge,” she says, citing health care reform and competition from online optical retailers. “I’m focusing on quality patient care through customer service and the medical model.”
JERI A. SCHNEEBECK, OD, PC
HIGHLINE VISION CENTER
“I have always considered my patients and my staff as family. I love helping my patients have the vision to enjoy all aspects of their lives more fully!”
Jeri Schneebeck, OD, PC, combines technology with service to ensure a positive patient experience. Flow is optimized using a system that alerts technicians when patients arrive and allows doctors to call for assistance when needed. IPads and Eyemaginations are used throughout the office. Software improves service using benchmarks such as patient wait time, and Visioffice provides accurate measurements.
Low-tech personal service improves the patient experience, as well. “We expect our patients to have an over-the-top experience,” says Dr. Schneebeck. “We have received the AOA Award given to practices that have every staff member certified in their area of expertise.”
“Patients love to see someone familiar,” she continues, referring to the practice manager who started as a receptionist 24 years ago, the director of vision therapy with her since she bought the practice 32 years ago, and another team member who has been there over 25 years.
Each doctor is assigned two technicians, one in the exam room as scribe/assistant and the other with the next patient doing testing. The doctor can be face-to-face with the patient while the scribe enters information into the computer.
Dr. Schneebeck recently opened a new office in a growing area of Aurora. She also gives back to her community, having granted five wishes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
MARK L. SKOWRON, OD
“We use the 3 Ps—personality + presentation = profits. Patient perception is reality. The patients’ best interests always come first. The patient is always right.”
Technology permeates every aspect of Skowron Eyecare, enabling Mark L. Skowron, OD, to focus on and improve the patient experience. “Our technology has enabled us to provide better eyecare. We are able to diagnose diseases that otherwise would have had to be referred,” says Dr. Skowron.
“Our technology and its presentation are powerful tools for in-office marketing. Photographing patients’ eyes helps us explain their particular conditions, which increases patient compliance on our recommendations. We also show the patient all the different conditions that can be diagnosed in the eye. All these help to retain the patient and increase word-of-mouth referrals.”
All of Dr. Skowron Eyecare’s six exam lanes are networked together, and the office is fully automated with electronic health records. Other technology includes autorefractor/keratometer, Cirrus 5000 OCT, Humphrey VF, retinal camera, in-house finishing lab, autolensometers, Optikam, Ocutouch patient education videos and slit lamp photography/videography.
Dr. Skowron, in practice for 33 years, understands the need to invest in the right people, as well as the appropriate technology. “We hire people who smile. You can teach people how to dispense, how to work the instrumentation, and what to say when you answer a phone, but you cannot teach a person how to smile while they answer the phone,” he says.