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How to utilize staff in a myopia management practice

Dr. Sally Dillehay, Special Content Contributor
Brien Holden Vision Institute

Managing myopia as a disease represents a major shift in thinking for many eye care practices.

It is no longer enough to prescribe thicker glasses or stronger contact lenses to progressive young myopes. Practitioners must use available information and intervention strategies to proactively manage myopia with the aim of decreasing potential factors associated with increased risk of cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and myopic macular degeneration.1

Clinical excellence in managing myopia must include strong communications with patients and parents, and involvement of the practice staff is an essential part of the practice’s fundamental shift from prescribing glasses or contact lenses to treating the underlying risk factors for myopic progression.

Managing myopia as a disease represents a major shift in thinking for many eye care practices.

Importance of staff

Staff members are one of the most important components of success to any optometric practice. But practitioners often lament that one of the most difficult tasks for running a practice is training and keeping staff members.

As in any health care practice, staff members report that professional development is important to them in order to remain engaged and avoid burnout.2 Van Vuuren et al3 investigated the factors that contributed to patient loyalty within an optometric practice and determined that interactions with the practice’s staff were critical to maintain patient loyalty.

With the number of formal optometric staff educational programs dwindling over recent years, practitioners must be prepared to provide initial and on-going training to continually develop their staff and ensure high quality communications that address patients’ needs and exceed their expectations.

SOPs allow a practice to be consistent and accurate, which can lead to increased efficiency and patient communication. SOPs also assist with coverage due to staff time off or turn over.

Creating standard operating procedures

As discussed in the BHVI Myopia Education Program: The Business of Myopia, creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for practice procedures is an effective method of engaging staff and training each person on how to complete a task in a way that maximizes operational efficiency and quality of care.

SOPs allow a practice to be consistent and accurate, which can lead to increased efficiency and patient communication. SOPs also assist with coverage due to staff time off or turn over.

Importantly, engaging staff as an active part of creating the SOPs allows them to have ownership and pride in contributing their knowledge, experience and ideas on how to improve operations and quality for the practice. Involving staff in this process will help to get their buy in with the focus on managing myopia as a disease, similar to how the practice would manage other potentially progressive and vision-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.

As a practice moves into proactively managing myopia, it will need to create new procedures, and perhaps to acquire new equipment; and with that practitioners may need to delegate new tasks to staff, so as to spend more time in consultation with the patient and parents/caregivers.

SOPs will help to ensure that the entire practice, including all staff and practitioners, are presenting a uniform approach on the benefits of proactively managing myopia, the available treatment options, the procedures, billing and follow up schedules.

Having pre-printed brochures or information packets can assist with answering some of the more common questions. But using staff to handle as many of the questions as possible, is also a great way to help the practice handle patient flow and stay on schedule.

So many questions!

One thing to be prepared for when actively managing myopia, is that there will be many questions from patients, parents, and caregivers. These questions can easily require an additional 15-30 minutes when discussing the currently available treatment options for myopia.

Having pre-printed brochures or information packets can assist with answering some of the more common questions. But using staff to handle as many of the questions as possible, is also a great way to help the practice handle patient flow and stay on schedule.

While clinical questions about which treatment is recommended or how a specific treatment is believed to decrease myopic progression could all be handled by the practitioner, staff training to handle other questions will be essential to success.

Surveys of patients have shown that a positive experience with staff helps to increase patient satisfaction when they are able to engage with patients in an authentic manner.3

Develop scripts

Some of the more common areas in myopia management that a practice should develop scripts on how to discuss each item with patients and parents/caregivers, include:

  • Reasons why “regular” glasses and contact lenses do not help with progression of myopia
  • Benefits of myopia management
  • Myopia as a risk factor for potential long term changes in vision
  • Examination procedures and equipment
  • Available treatment options
  • Scheduling appointment times and length
  • Billing for myopia management consultation and products
  • Insurance coverage (if any)
  • Follow up schedules
  • Information to include in patient packets

A positive experience

Surveys of patients have shown that a positive experience with staff helps to increase patient satisfaction when they are able to engage with patients in an authentic manner.3

When staff are able to demonstrate the proper knowledge, skills and attitudes around myopia management, patients’ experiences will build confidence in the practice and its expertise in managing myopia, leading to increased patient, staff and practitioner satisfaction.

References

  1. Gifford KL, Richdale K, Kang P, Aller TA, Lam CS, Liu YM, Michaud L, Mulder J, Orr JB, Rose KA, Saunders KJ, Seidel D, Tideman WL, Sankaridurg P. IMI – Clinical Management Guidelines Report. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. February 2019; 60: M184-M203. doi:10.1167/iovs.18-25977
  2. Teel P. Five top challenges affecting healthcare leaders in the future. Beckers Hospital Review. February 13, 2018. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/five-top-challenges-affecting-healthcare-leaders-in-the-future.html
  3. van Vuuren T, Roberts-Lombard M, van Tonder E. Customer Satisfaction, Trust and Commitment as Predictors of Customer Loyalty within an Optometric Practice. South African Business Review. 2012;16(3):81-96.