business of contact lenses
Administrative Red Tape Keep Patients Out of Lenses?
GARY GERBER, OD
My 11-year-old son Maverick (yes, that's his
real name and yes, it's cool) was having a problem with his braces. An exposed wire
had suddenly started irritating his mouth. When we called his orthodontist, we learned
that she was away and that another doctor was covering for her. We called
that doctor and the receptionist told us to come right over. She said, "You don't
need an appointment, we'll remember his name."
On the drive over I was expecting to have to fill out his
dental history, insurance information, HIPAA documents and the like. Upon entering
the office however, I received a very pleasant surprise. "Maverick, come right in
and we'll take care of you right away," the receptionist said. "Do I have to fill
out any paperwork?" I asked. "No, that's not necessary. Just have a seat and relax."
What? No paperwork for a new patient? Is this doctor legitimate
and licensed or is an auto mechanic filling in for our doctor?
But the biggest shock was yet to come. When my son came out the
doctor told me he had fixed everything and all was okay. I thanked him for the quick
service and headed to the front desk to pay. "No charge" the same smiling receptionist
said. "Excuse me, did I hear you correctly?" I asked. "No charge?" "Yes, that's
correct. Have a great day!" she replied.
Question the Status Quo
This experience got me thinking about what happens to our contact
lens patients who might need to see a covering doctor when we're away. If one of
your patients gets a contact lens stuck under his upper lid while you're scuba diving
in Fiji, how does your covering doctor handle this?
When things are reversed and you're covering for someone else,
how would you and your staff deal with this patient? Would you be willing to take
the lens out with no preliminary paperwork, no HIPAA documents and no fee? Are you
concerned about potential legal liabilities should there be any problems? Would
any significant problems occur? Admittedly, I have more questions than answers on
this topic, but I hope that as I felt after leaving the covering orthodontist's
office, you also start to question the status quo of how you handle things like
Put Yourself in Patients' Shoes
If there's a way to make your patients' experience less of a hassle
by removing any non-essential administrative road blocks, then do so. As far as
fees, I don't think anyone likes when practitioners do things for free less than
I do. After all, I've built a consulting company based on teaching our colleagues
how to be profitable, and providing free service isn't the fastest path to profits.
Or in this case, is it?
If we as an industry took a more macro view of my son's visit
and worked toward making our own patients' contact lens experiences devoid of front
desk snags, might more patients be wearing contact lenses? Have we added our own
micro-bureaucracies to the contact lens segments of our practices and have those
bureaucracies dissuaded patients from wearing lenses? Again, more questions than
answers, but certainly food for contact lens building thought.
Reassess Your Office Policies
The next time a prospective contact lens patient tells you, "I'll
think about it," question if something in your contact lens office process prevented
him from saying "Sure! I'd love to wear lenses!" Beyond things like lenses and solutions,
make sure the infrastructure and systems that support your contact lens "fitting
machine" are as up-to-date and trouble-free as the newer types of lenses we've been
Dr. Gerber is the president
of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software
solutions for optometrists.
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: January 2007