Patient Experience

My 3 Most Powerful Practice Improvements

By Ian G. Whipple, OD

Dec 2, 2020

The most successful practice can do even better. Over the years, my practice has made key improvements that enhanced our patients’ care and time in our office while helping us to become more profitable. Here are a few changes that have made a huge difference to our patients and ourselves.

No Phones on the Optical Floor
Several years ago we had a phone at the optical desk, as well as at the check-in reception area. We were aware that the phones were a distraction that would often take our staff members away from the patients in the office.

One trusted patient confided to me that she felt less important than the person on the phone during her check-in process. That comment still stings as we always strive for a 5-star experience. Her unsolicited feedback prompted change, and I am grateful that she spoke up.

We already had most of the phones in a separate business room, so the logistics of implementing this idea were as simple as unplugging the remaining phones on the optical floor and at the check-in station. We were able to use one of the phones in another room, but the end result of this change is that we are down one phone in total for the office.

The patient experience has improved tremendously. Our staff can pay full attention to the patient they are currently helping without the distraction of phone calls. We have also improved HIPAA compliance as a result, with less chance of revealing private health information within earshot of others. I also am certain that uninterrupted time with the optician team has led to more sales and/or higher-value sales.

Phones are inefficient. We now offer contact lens online reordering through our office with CLX and online appointment bookings through Prime Nexus. We have a dedicated staff member who pulls insurance benefits. Most of her work is done online. Any chance we have to eliminate phone use, we’ll consider taking it.

Online Bill Payments
I purchased a practice that had well-defined processes and procedures in place. For at least the first year in private practice I made few changes to these processes and procedures. As a new practice owner, I sat back and observed how the practice ran. One of the things that seemed to work for us was to mail patient statements and include a return address envelope. We did a pretty good job of collecting patient balances and co-pays upfront, but over the years we sent out statements and patients would pay via check.

Another unsolicited patient comment occurred in the exam room when a patient asked, “You have such nice equipment and a modern office, why do I need to mail in a check to pay you?”

I asked my billing specialist to look into it for us and she found that an online bill payment solution, Transaction Express, was simple and incredibly inexpensive–just $5 monthly.

We now have a link to our web site where a patient can easily make a payment for any bill or service. We probably save a nominal amount in postage and stationary, but the most important way this change improved our practice was in creating greater convenience for our patients.

We are able to use the online payment system to process a payment for telemedicine exams in triage settings. For example, a patient recently called in with concerns about an internal hordeolum. I sent her a link to process payment and we did a quick telemedicine visit to ensure she was on the right treatment (prescribed by a family physician.) The process was simple and we were able to collect payment prior to the telemedicine visit.

Digital Glasses Measurement Device
We’re all human. We messed up. We strive for a 5-star experience with every patient. However, one patient left us an online review saying: “The staff is nice but nice doesn’t make glasses.” They proceeded to say that our office “measured me for the new glasses by eyeballing my eyes and drawing dots on the frame I picked.”

I recognize my vulnerability by sharing this 1-star public review with readers, but I think it’s important to know how to respond to those patient experiences that fell flat.

Here is how I responded: “We are so sorry to hear about your experience. I’d invite you to please call the office so that we can make things right. We strive for a 5-star experience every visit and we clearly did not deliver that to you. Thank you for your feedback and I look forward to working with you to solve the problem. – Dr. Whipple ”

I had been on the fence for a while about investing in a digital measurement device. I decided to finally give these devices a try by purchasing Smart Mirror Mobile for around $5,000. My staff has fully embraced digital measurement and we can now proudly say that we learned from this patient’s review and improved our patient experience.

All of my opticians were trained and started using our device within just a few days. Our opticians love new technology and embrace potential improvements in the patient experience. Any skepticism was quickly put to rest when the opticians discovered how easy digital measurement is.

We have fewer glasses remakes for sure. We rarely run into PD or Seg Height issues now that we use this device, and we can proudly say that we deliver more accurate measurements.

VSP pays us a small bonus on glasses that are measured with digital devices. Each pair can now yield up to $15 in additional revenue just by using this device at checkout. Our opticians point out that digital measurement increased accuracy, and I would definitely say that some patients choose to purchase glasses from us when they see how carefully and accurately we measure them.

I am grateful that my staff embraced this and all the other new technology we have brought into our practice.

Ian G. Whipple, OD, is the owner of Vision Source of Farr West in Farr West, Utah. To contact him: 


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