By Eric M. White, OD
Note the time patients spend in each part of your office–from examination through check-out–and see how much time they have left to shop in your dispensary. It is best to leave patients at least 30 minutes to explore their options.
We strive to provide exceptional care and service, but also to keep visits convenient for patients. That requires thinking about how to streamline office visits. My staff and I have examined how long each portion of an office visit takes, and we have tried to make changes when necessary. Here is what I have learned about the flow of my office, and how I have tried to shorten the office visit so patients have plenty of time to do something important: shop in the optical dispensary.
We try to leave patients at least a half-hour after their exam for frame selection, measurements and checking out–for progressives. Single vision will take less time; 15 to 20 minutes. We do not want patients to feel rushed, yet we respect their time and want them to be able to have their total visit–from reception check-in to exam and dispensary–take no more than around an hour. When patients make their appointment, we tell them to allow 1-1 1/2 hours for the exam and frame selection. That way they know to expect a comprehensive, rather than quick, exam.
We have a three-step process that begins when I prescribe from the exam chair–I feel this is critical. When I leave the exam room, I take the patient to our Visioffice system to explain what I am prescribing, i.e. anti-reflective lenses, Transitions and digital. I take one minute to explain the process that will create their eyeglasses and the results they can expect. Then my optician will come over and I will hand off the patient to the optician, explaining that the optician is going to update the patient’s eyeglasses with the latest reflection-free lenses with Transitions 6 and digital progressive lenses giving her the widest and clearest vision. The patient will also be shown sunglasses with Polaroid lenses and possibly computer eyeglasses with Transitions and reflection-free lenses. I feel that taking an extra two minutes cements the hand off. My per patient revenue, $600+, is one of the highest in the country for an independent practice OD.
One-Hour Comprehensive Examination
Comprehensive examinations are scheduled for one hour. My staff and I pride ourselves on not keeping patients waiting in the reception area–and we track it. In fact, we are careful not to leave patients idling at any point during their office visit. On average, our patients wait less than five minutes for the start of their appointment. We allow for a half-hour for the pre-test and case history, and then I spend a half-hour with patients in the exam room. I feel that if I spend more time with patients they will understand more about the products I have prescribed and make a purchase.
Encourage Patients to Fill Out Forms Online
When patients call for an appointment, we encourage them to fill out everything online. This gets them to spend time on my web site and get comfortable with the office. It also gives them more time to be tested and learn from the exams and to shop instead of worrying about forms. The added time patients spend on my site filling out forms and getting exposed to information about our practice allows them to feel they know me before they arrive for their first appointment. That sense of familiarity hopefully helps put them more at ease. I have an extensive CV, and we encourage patients to look at it. As patients make their way through the online forms, they become more familiar with me and the practice and also have information to back up a positive experience. This may make them feel more comfortable about referring us to a friend.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
We are able to keep patient appointments down to around one hour because my staff is aware of how long each task–from reception area wait to pre-test, case history and exam–should take. That awareness and the time management expectations I have set enables us to stick to our schedule. Since, in addition to organization, your team must be prepared to handled the unexpected, we even have a protocol on where on the schedule to place emergency eyecare visits.
Now, Consider How Long Your Office Visits Take
If you can’t provide the same break-down of times–from reception area wait through end of exam and optician hand-off, you don’t have the tools you need to streamline your office experience. For the next week, you and your staff can embark on an experiment to see what you discover–for one full week of appointments you can each make a note of how long it takes patients to complete each step in an office visit. At the end of the week or before the start of the next week, sit down with your team and see how you can make the experience go faster without sacrificing quality of patient care.
Take a step back and be a patient and walk through the office and realize where the breakdown is and fix it.
Related ROB Articles