contact lens economics
Do You Know Where Mrs. Jones's Chart Is?
BY GARY GERBER, OD
At one time or another during my travels as a consultant to various offices, I've found stacks of patient charts that the staff had placed in one of the following piles:
- Doctor to determine patient's prescription
- Lenses need to be ordered
- Lenses ordered
- Lenses on backorder
- Lenses received
- Patient notified that lenses are here and has a balance due
- Patient notified that lenses are here and doesn't have a balance due
- Patient has received lenses but still has a balance
- Patient received lenses, coming back next week for follow up
- Patient received lenses, coming back next year for follow up
- Patient received lenses, not coming back
Multiple possible locations for patient charts can wreak havoc on an already over-burdened staff. One of the prime telephone embarrassments your staff can deliver is, "We'll have to call you back -- I can't find your chart."
While we'll always have patients who are "exceptions to any rule," we should try to consolidate these chart-eating piles into one centrally accessible location. This not only allows you to find a chart much faster, but it can help a patient's entire contact lens experience happen more seamlessly.
Use Your Software
Most practice management software systems have contact lens modules that allow practices to carefully track where an order is at any particular time. Have we placed the order? Has the patient received it? Have we notified the patient? If yes, then how many times? But while most software can help with this cumbersome task, practices rarely use it.
Short of using your software to its greater potential, here are some other strategies to eliminate the chaos that multiple piles of charts can cause.
Here and Now
I often counsel clients to order contact lenses for a patient in front of that patient. You can pick up the phone and place the order, have a staff member do it at the front desk during checkout or order them via a Web site. Not only have you placed the order, but you can collect the fees at the same time. This eliminates our first four chart hiding places.
Create a Notification Protocol
I've been in many practices in which supplies of contact lenses have layers of Post-it notes. The notes say, "Called patient, left message," "Patient said they will be in tomorrow to pick up lenses," "Patient sending wife to pick up lenses." I commonly see practices order lenses for patients when the identical lenses are already sitting in the "waiting to be picked up" bin (with its corresponding pile of charts). Doing this can have a profound negative impact on your practice's bottom line net revenue. You are, in effect, ordering lenses that are already in your office collecting dust and Post-it notes.
Automate Your Notification
4patientcare.com offers a great tool to help you automate this part of your practice. Its software can call the patient, let him know his lenses are in the office and set up an appointment for him to pick them up -- all with little staff intervention. You can also program automatic repeated reminder calls. This software can reduce yet another group of chart-eating piles.
Just Get Organized
Whether you use software or improve your system for processing patient contact lens orders, eliminating hiding places for charts will benefit your patients and your staff.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.