A Vision Monday site which illustrates how integrated technologies improve patient care and build practice success

Going Beyond Brick and Mortar

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A growing number of eyecare practices are taking advantage of smart phones, email and text messaging to stay connected with the patients who are at home, at work, or otherwise on the move. Using specially designed software, they are scheduling appointments, reminding patients of their appointments, informing patients about new products or upcoming events, or answering questions after hours. Many practices are also using social networks to foster a dialogue with patients.

Kevin Gee, OD, a private practitioner in Missouri City, Texas, favors the Solution Reach system, formerly known as Smile Reminder, for communicating with patients and posting to Twitter and Facebook. His staff sends patients multiple appointment confirmation messages by email and text, a technique he said is particularly effective.

“We send out confirmations a week ahead, two days ahead and three hours ahead of their appointment,” explained Dr. Gee. “If the patient confirms at one week or three days before, they get a simple reminder message after that. If, at the three-hour mark there’s no confirmation, we assume they’re not going to keep the appointment. That frees the office to take that patient off the books. No-shows usually happen within three hours,” he noted.

 
 Dr. Kevin Gee.
Dr. Gee also believes that conducting surveys of his patients is vital to helping him optimize the patient experience at his practice. “We have a 21 percent survey return rate, which is pretty good. These questions are very specific, and patients can even rank individual staff members on their performance. We send a follow up email after an appointment, which is automated thru SolutionReach. Patients have the opportunity to send their comments, which get posted to a review website as well as to Google. Reviews are quite vital. We call it the glass ceiling. It keeps everyone accountable, including the doctor.”

Several other vendors offer tools to help the practice assess patient feedback.

DocPIES EyeCare features a patient experience survey based on the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) protocol from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a U.S. Government agency.

A new company, focalCenter, has launched a validated and standardized eyecareScore survey that provides eye doctors, clinics, optical retailers, or vision plans a standardized method for determining how their patients’ experiences compare to their peers and over time. According to focalCenter president, Ron Krefman, OD, eyecareScore is a “visit-specific patient experience measure developed with the latest survey science methodology.”

Wineinger Eyecare, an optometric practice in Shawnee, Kan. uses a variety of electronic tools to survey patients, send them information and schedule appointments. “We use Demandforce to text patients two hours before their appointment,” said Ryan Wineinger, OD, referring to the automated marketing and communications program that integrates with Eyefinity/OfficeMate, his practice management system. “It allows more intimate communication with our patients. We send them a text to remind them about their appointment, or when their eyewear or contact lenses are ready. It’s instantaneous.”

Dr. Wineinger said that sending out appointment reminders this way helps his practice run more efficiently because, “it keeps putting patients in our chairs.” He also noted that using multiple methods of electronic communication to patients boosts his practice’s visibility. “We send out our quarterly newsletter via email. Depending upon the time of year, we can also coordinate reminder appointment with information about sunglass trends, or remind patients to use their Flex spending. It creates a more enjoyable atmosphere for patients.”

Integrating Demandforce with Eyefinity/OfficeMate and a patient’s electronic medical records allows Dr. Wineinger to easily gather information about their eye health and then email them specific information about product and treatment options. For example, he might send a 14 year-old information about wearing contact lenses in the summer while swimming.

Other program features let him read patient reviews online and access the practice’s Facebook page. “When a patient comes to see us, they get a thank-you email within 24 hours. They can select a button, fill out a survey and review us on Demandforce. Those reviews get driven straight to our Facebook page and Google. We respond to every one, including a bad review.” He noted that he also uses Demandforce to conduct surveys, which can include customized questions.

akarp@jobson.com