Patients know the importance of an up-to-date eyeglass prescription and eye health, but often appointments are avoided due to long wait and exam times. Generally, patients just want to get in and out.
The good news: There are eight effective ways to shorten exam times. From improving your exam lanes to patient feedback, these tip allow you to cut down on the length of your eye exams, which will give your practice several different advantages:
- Patients appreciate your focused attention.
- Patients are more likely to refer friends and family to your practice, knowing they’ll receive the same quality treatment and care.
- More efficient exams give you more time to dedicate to your practice. Whether you choose to finish projects you’ve been meaning to start, enhance your marketing by updating your website, writing a blog, or focusing on your social media accounts, or decide to take on new patients—shorter exam times lead to business growth.
Start by looking at your exams as an outsider, and taking an inventory of each component of the exam. Ask yourself if certain components take longer than you like as a doctor, and then consider how your patients might also feel. Incorporating these eight tips makes a considerable improvement when working to improve eye exam time.
- Give Your Patients What They Want
Patients don’t like to feel rushed, but they may not enjoy small talk or a lengthy conversation either. While dialog is encouraged during exams, it’s also good to be prepared for common patient questions so you may be concise in your answers. Consider using handouts, lists, or diagrams that clearly detail the information, so patients can review the specifics later.
You may also consider using anonymous patient surveys to receive feedback on patient experience. They can be offered as a pen-and-paper survey that patients fill out immediately after their exam, or an emailed survey that gives them the opportunity to be anonymous. Ask about their experience, and use the feedback to improve your eye exams by meeting the needs indicated on the surveys.
- Delegate as Much as Possible
While you may already feel you delegate a great deal, analyze each step of your practice. Look at tasks that don’t require your expertise and experience, and consider passing those responsibilities to a qualified technician or employee. Start making a list of your daily duties, and look to see what must be done by a doctor, and what can be delegated. In order to provide a high standard of care, and meet the laws and regulations established by the state board, there are certain responsibilities that only a doctor can perform. Others, though, like taking notes, data entry, and making certain phone calls, can usually be handed off to trained employees.
- Train Your Techs
In order to delegate and run an efficient practice, it’s vital to make sure all technicians are properly trained. Work with technicians to create a history form along with questions that are thorough and prompts quick and complete responses from the patient.
For example, asking “Are you currently taking medications?” leads to a yes or no answer, which can require a follow-up question. On the other hand, “What medications are you currently taking?” gets to the point and invites patients to share their medications on the first question.
Work with technicians to develop an order and structure to their part of the exam process, and your patients will see a more detailed and complete eye exam in less time.
- Trim Down the Small Talk
Sometimes the small talk and chit-chat can just add time and fill space that the patient would rather spend elsewhere. Allow patients to ask questions, but when the exam is dragging on because the patient is being chatty, be politely assertive and take control.
In an effort to make the patient feel comfortable, many doctors will ask excessive questions. Patients aren’t going to let you know when they feel the exam is running long, or that they wish they could leave sooner. Be respectful of their time, while also being friendly and warm.
- Efficiently Educate Patients
When discussing an eye condition or disease with your patients, make sure they have all the information they need to make the best possible decision. However, presenting them with an in-depth look at their condition and treatment options can make an exam go much longer than expected. Most patients prefer an overview and summary of the treatment options available, along with your professional advice. Go over the test results and explain the diagnosis and your top recommendations, and then present them with further resources regarding treatment options: Websites, literature, or handouts that can help them gain a better understanding. Invite them to email you with questions that arise later.
- Email Patients in Advance
Prior to their appointment, send patients a welcoming email. Let them know what to expect at their appointment, what tests will be completed, and what information they should bring to help the eye exam run smoothly. Ask them to bring a list of any medications, or even the actual bottles, their current glasses or contact lenses, or the prescriptions, a list of allergies, and a description of their chief complaint.
Attaching any new patient forms, updated forms, or files the patient will need to fill out can be a significant time-saver, especially if they are bringing along children or multiple family members. Patients can print and bring in the paperwork they’ve completed in advance, which means less time sitting in the waiting room.
Creating an email template, or using an email automation program, will save your practice time and effort. Your staff can set the parameters that determine when emails are sent, and allow the program to send the emails prior to the appointment.
- Reduce Re-Make Exams
Exams to re-make glasses or re-adjust prescriptions can be lengthy and take away from the time you spend with other patients. Look into new technology, like a digital refraction system, that can quickly give an accurate, precise prescription. This means patients will get the best quality eye exam, the first time. A digital refractor cuts down on the excess time spent manually adjusting and entering data—and is highly accurate the first time.
- Streamline Your Exam Process
An effective exam lane keeps everything easily accessible, where you can reach the tools you need, when you need them. Adding a digital refraction system helps ensure those tools are efficient, up-to-date, and maximizes the time you have with patients. There are several ways a new system makes this possible:
- Eliminating the manual flipping of lenses, which tacks on a great deal of time as the patient provides objective feedback of the most accurate prescription.
- The level of imagery available through a digital refraction system allows you to show your patients exactly what they need to see to learn more about their eye health. If there is any disease or illness, these images will allow them to see and understand the diagnoses to a greater degree.
- With automation, technicians can be trained to operate much of the equipment, freeing you up to work with patients on a more clinical, medical level.
The investment in a digital refraction system can be returned multiple times over, by making for a more professional exam experience. A shorter overall exam time will lead to higher patient satisfaction, and an increase in available time, which could be the spark your practice needs to see rapid overall growth.
Contact Veatch Ophthalmic Instruments to learn more about exam lanes and digital refraction systems that shorten exam length times and improve patient satisfaction today.