Article Date: 2/1/2011

Enhancing Office Flow
Contact Lens Practice Pearls

Enhancing Office Flow

By Thomas G. Quinn, OD, MS, FAAO

An efficient office can go a long way toward creating a positive patient experience. Smart office systems can help make it happen. Here's how we've improved office flow in our practice.

Jump Start the Experience

When patients call to schedule a comprehensive examination, ask them whether or not they wear contact lenses. If so, advise patients to bring their contact lens information with them, including their contact lens type and prescription, lens case, and lens care system.

Put demographic and medical history forms on your Web site for patients to complete prior to their arrival at your office. They may even surf your site while they are there. Completing registration forms ahead of time allows your team to initiate the patient care process soon after the patient arrives at the office.

The Paging System

Once a patient arrives at the office, the front desk alerts the technician via a silent, vibrating pager. Many such systems are available at a very reasonable cost. Practitioners can also use this system to page technicians and opticians to the examining lane. Calling a staff member to the examining lane to explain what procedure is being ordered (in the case of technicians) or what eyewear is being recommended (in the case of opticians) improves efficiency and allows for a very effective transfer of care.

Technician/Practitioner Teams

In the past, practitioners in our office worked with whichever technician happened to be free when assistance was needed. One problem that developed from this system was an inequity in workload. Certain technicians tended to jump up to answer the call faster than others did, often resulting in hard feelings among coworkers.

We resolved this problem by assigning each technician to work with a given practitioner. Now when a practitioner needs assistance, there is no question as to who must answer the call.

An added benefit of teaming a particular technician with a given practitioner is the familiarity that they develop with one another. It wasn't long before my technician knew not only my personality idiosyncrasies, but also what testing I would want for a certain type of patient. This is particularly valuable in multi-doctor offices that offer various specialty services.

The Floater The floater is a technician who is not assigned to any particular practitioner. The floater keeps the system flowing by going where needed. This is particularly handy when a patient needs a service that will take more time than average such as visual field testing or training a first-time wearer in contact lens handling and care.

To Fit or to Dilate

We perform a dilated fundus examination on all first-time patients and on many return patients. How do we approach first-time patients interested in pursuing contact lens correction?

It comes down to what is of prime concern to the patient and to you. If the patient suffers from a condition such as diabetes or is suffering some vision changes that you feel may be due to internal ocular pathology, it makes sense to dilate now and fit later.

However, if a patient is healthy, has normal retinal screening images, is correctable to 20/20 in each eye, and is highly motivated to get started with contact lenses, consider fitting on the same day and performing a dilated fundus examination at the contact lens follow-up visit.

Finding the Right Balance

An efficient office experience respects the patients' valuable time, but takes care to avoid making it a rushed experience. Careful, caring service, employing well-thought-out in-office systems, will result in what everyone is striving for: satisfaction. CLS


Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio. He is a diplomate of the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry, an advisor to the GP Lens Institute, and an area manager for Vision Source. He has served as an advisor or consultant to B+L and AMO and has received research funding from AMO, B+L, Ciba Vision, Paragon Vision Sciences, and Vistakon. You can reach him at tquinn5@columbus.rr.com.

Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: February 2011