contact lens care
A Good Tech Means Good Care
BY SUSAN J. GROMACKI, OD, MS, FAAO
What separates the great practices from the good practices isn't just the doctor, but his staff. For example, Dr. Molar may be the most skilled crown maker on the planet, but if the practice's hygienist, with whom you spend the majority of your appointment, doesn't make you feel at home, then you're unlikely to return for another visit.
Like a dental hygienist, a good contact lens technician adds value to a practice. He can perform duties such as lens application and removal training, lens care review, ordering and verifying contact lenses, notifying patients, scheduling appointments, modifying lenses, taking history, entrance tests, refraction, trial contact lens application, tonometry, dispensing visits, meeting with sales representatives and even assessing contact lens fits.
Establishing Practice Principles
My philosophy has always been to hire the best people, pay them appropriately and let them assume increasing responsibilities. The nature of managed care is such that we need to become more like dentists and delegate to our staff. This makes qualified assistants more valuable. If you're looking for a good lens tech, consider the following five Principles:
Your staff members should work as an extension of you. Make sure that you and your staff are on the same page. Your technician must share your philosophy on contact lens care and follow up so that patients receive a consistent message no matter whom they're interacting with in the practice.
Application and removal training isn't easy for the patient or for a staff member. A contact lens assistant should have the ability to shrug off patient frustrations and offer constructive assistance with a smile. The same demeanor is also beneficial when a frantic patient calls in for a lens replacement.
This is not only important for application and removal, but for contact lens care as well. A history-taking staff member needs to ask patients how they clean their lenses from the time they start until the time they finish -- and correct them immediately if they're not complying. A technician afraid to make corrections reinforces poor care. Despite being embarrassed by their noncompliance, most patients are ultimately grateful that we care so much about their eyes.
4. POSITIVE ATTITUDE
This principle is important throughout the entire contact lens process. A patient may be nervous about application and removal, multiple fitting visits (for a difficult cornea or lens design) or (for a straightforward fit) what he may perceive as unnecessary follow-up visits. The contact lens technician needs to encourage this patient every step of the way, from the first impression to the final contact lens check.
Chances are, your first-time contact lens patient will be spend more time with a staff member than with you. And if your tech truly loves working with people, then it will show. This will give the patient a good impression of the practice and a positive attitude toward contact lenses.
To all of my fantastic contact lens techs over the years: Kim, Cathy, Jamie, Kerry, Phyllis, Marianne, Pam and Mike, thank you. You've made a difference!
Dr. Gromacki is in group practice in Burke, Virginia, and has served as a faculty member at the University of Michigan Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.