The Business of Contact Lenses
Get Your Practice into the Dry Eye Zone
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Depending on how it’s defined, it’s estimated that the number of patients who have symptomatic and treatable dry eye is at least 10% (Nichols, 2014). This means that if your practice examined about 2,500 patients last year, 250 of them—or about one per day—would fall under this category.
Do you consistently treat at least one dry eye patient per day? Our experience as consultants watching practitioners communicate with patients shows that this number is often markedly less due to practitioners talking patients out of potentially life-changing therapies.
The dialogue to blame can be subtle: “The burning you’re experiencing at the end of the day is due to a condition called dry eye. We may be able to help you with that by… .” Or, “Dry eyes are common as we get older. You should consider coming back for a more thorough dry eye evaluation to see whether we can help you.”
Now, you shouldn’t over promise or make incredulous clinical guarantees; but take a step back and examine why the discussions are so non-committal and lacking in clinical assertiveness.
What’s Really Happening
In our experience, one reason why practitioners do not want to commit to a higher degree of anticipated clinical relief is because a dry eye patient in the middle of a more common, “refractive” day can become a wrench in the gears. Once in the eyeglass/contact lens zone, having to perform thorough dry eye evaluations and treatments can be perceived as inefficient and harmful to the flow of a more normal schedule.
Getting in the Zone
As with any other specialty in a practice, you need to master getting in and staying in the zone to have a successful dry eye practice.
Set up one day of the week, or part of one day each week if your current practice volume is small, for taking care of dry eye patients. The dialogue should be very straightforward: “I’m confident that we can help you with the scratchy sensation you’re experiencing. As we discussed, it’s most likely due to a condition called dry eye. The next step would be to have you come back on a Thursday afternoon when we have our dry eye clinic hours.”
Of course, there will be patients who reply, “I can’t come on Thursday afternoons.” At that point, you can make exceptions and reschedule such patients for a mutually convenient time. However, when presented as a fait accompli, the majority of patients will work within the parameters of your schedule. Using the numbers stated previously, a midsize practice should see five dry eye patients consecutively, one day each week. Our clients who have worked hard to develop their dry eye practices often see 20 to 30 such patients one day each week.
The benefits of getting in the dry eye zone are that you and your staff will have an acute and common focus on each patient and his dry eye condition. Your clinical brain will be laser focused on the problems at hand and not distracted by other disease states or by eyeglasses and contact lenses. Additionally, patients in the waiting room may chat about their own experiences; a lobby full of patients who have similar symptoms adds credibility to your position as a dry eye expert.
Another benefit is that for those procedures requiring any consumables, you can have all of the necessary components on hand, and you’ll find it easier to keep them inventoried.
You can also use this scheduling concept for other disease states or specialty areas in your practice. CLS
For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #224.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.