You should build relationships with local school nurses and pediatricians, based on findings from the 2014 Vision Council VisionWatch Parent Child Vision Care Report. About one out of every six parents that have taken their children for an eye exam in the past 24 months did so based on the recommendation of a physician while over 10 percent did so based on the recommendation of an educator or teacher, the study reports. Parents of younger children (age nine and under), as well as parents with multiple children living at home, were more likely than other parents to have taken their child to get an eye exam within the past two years based on the recommendation of a physician, educator or teacher.
Let’s be proactive about getting children into our exam chairs.
Approximately 20 percent of school aged children have vision problems. Many of these children have undetected vision problems. Undetected problems are unresolved problems. Unresolved vision problems can negatively impact academic performance. According to a paper written by Lynne Huffman, MD (Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and The Children’s Health Council) along with others, a child not performing at expected levels in school is at higher risk of having long-term problems with academic competence, behavioral competence and social competence. Problems in these areas lead to larger problems that can negatively impact the child through adulthood.
Many times this is preventable. Preventative intervention is always a better approach than waiting for problems to occur and then trying to dig out of the hole. Getting children into our exam chairs and catching problems early is essential. It is our duty as eyecare professionals to improve the quality of life of the patients we see.
One of our core jobs as health care providers is to educate as many people as we can about the need for children’s eye exams. Knowing the three main drivers for children’s eye exams are pediatricians, school nurses and teachers, let’s take this week to re-examine the internal and external marketing of the practice to these key groups. Here are three questions to ask to help you with this process.
1) When was the last time we upgraded our office to better handle children?
2) When was the last time we sent a message about the need for children’s eye exams and how we are equipped to handle the diagnosis and treatment of children’s eye problems?
3) What are our in-office processes for communicating to these three groups when we see a child? A key here is not just when a child is referred to the office but do we send a letter on every child’s exam to the pediatrician, school nurse and teachers?
The other major driver for children’s eye examinations are parents. Both staff and doctors need to work on this one. Staff needs to point out to parents when children have vision coverage and actively ask for a scheduled appointment. A key here is to educate everyone in the practice about the Pediatric Vision Essential Benefit under the Affordable Care Act so that everyone is thinking beyond just vision insurance coverage. It is a reasonable question for doctors in the exam room to ask parents when was the last time their children had their eyes examined. Be prepared to handle, in a nice way, the most common answer which is: “Last year in school.”
All right, we’ve got our work cut out for this week. What changes are you going to make to improve your internal and external marketing to pediatricians, school nurses, teachers and parents? Don’t put this off. If you need additional motivation to get this handled quickly, just remember, these at-risk children are the people who are going to run the world in a few years. They will be in government and in health care. If fact, these are the people who are going to take care of us when we are in the nursing home. Let’s make sure they are as competent as possible!