Article

Increase your cataract evaluation efficiency

Educate early and often, evaluate your equipment, and staff properly.

Efficiency, effectiveness, and experience, or “E3” as we like to call it, is the name of the game in ophthalmology. With the baby boomers living longer and using their eyes differently than any other previous generation, the cataract boom is officially upon us.

The boomer generation has very specific needs and expectations that we must meet, and often exceed, to keep them happy. With this new demand on our practices, it is essential that we complete cataract evaluations, scheduling, and counseling as efficiently and effectively as possible, while maintaining the highest quality of care.

Here are the three best ways to increase cataract evaluation efficiency.

PRIOR EDUCATION

Educating the patient and answering questions can take a significant amount of doctor chair and employee time. And, unfortunately, approximately 50% of information provided by health-care workers to a patient is lost, with 40% to 80% of that information lost almost immediately, according to a recent Gallup poll. With statistics like this, it’s no wonder that patients often feel confused and need additional time to understand their options. To combat this loss of information without adding time with the doctor, techs, and surgical counselors, we must help the patient learn on their own as much as possible before they even walk through our doors.

Boling Vision Center staff member Katie Okeley educates patients and sets up a customized patient portal.
COURTESY HEATHER GERLACH, BA, CPPM, COA, ABO

Educating early, and educating often, can be an extremely helpful way to decrease the overall time of a cataract evaluation. Whether your cataract evaluations are with your established patients or external referrals, your office can use several methods to educate patients prior to their appointments. For new patients, consider sending a welcome letter (via snail mail or electronically) that includes links to educational videos on what a cataract is, the types of available lifestyle lens options, and how the choice of lens could affect their vision. This is also a great opportunity to highlight your surgeons, your practice, and why patients should trust you for their cataract surgery.

While your established patients already know and trust you, it is important to continue educating them throughout their cataract experience so they become more and more familiar with their options by the time they are ready for surgery. Consider sending them home with a brochure after they are diagnosed with cataracts for the first time. The brochure should explain cataracts, their options, and what they can expect moving forward. Various software options on the market (either through your EMR or third-party vendors) can create secure portal accounts for the patients that allow the doctor or staff member to choose videos that are patient specific and can be easily viewed at home and shared with their loved ones. Family members should have easy access to educational materials as they are often involved in the decision-making process.

Your reception rooms are also excellent avenues to educate and entertain your patients with slideshows or videos. These can be customized to include education regarding cataracts, lifestyle lenses, your surgeons, and even your cataract commercials if you have them. Also, you can play these same videos or slideshows in the exam lanes for patients to watch while they wait for the doctor.

EXAM/EQUIPMENT EFFICIENCY

Creating an efficient exam can be difficult when trying to ensure that you meet various elements and documentation needs. However, automating these processes as much as possible can help shave minutes from the exam and follow-up appointments. For example, our practice’s EMR system automatically populates items into the exam based on the reason we are seeing the patient that day. For instance, once we click cataract evaluation in our chief complaint, a list of activities of daily living, or ADLs, automatically populates for the technician to cover with the patient. This eliminates the need for the technician to remember to cover the various questions or search for a paper for the patient to fill out and ensures that the correct elements for each type of exam are appropriately completed. We have also set this up to automatically document autorefractor and topography measurements because we can obtain this information from the same piece of equipment, which saves time later during the A-scan appointment.

Also, it’s important to evaluate your equipment to ensure that it is as efficient as possible (while of course remaining accurate). For instance, our practice recently invested in equipment that evaluates several different lens calculation formulas at one time (and prints on one sheet) instead of having to manually enter these into different pieces of software. These little timesavers add up.

RIGHT PERSON, RIGHT RESPONSIBILITY

We must ensure that the right people on our teams complete job functions that play to their strengths. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole causes frustration for everyone. Oftentimes, the technicians who perform measurements are not the best people to discuss pricing and financing, and our best educators may not be the most accurate and/or efficient person to obtain measurements.

By separating these responsibilities and ensuring that the right people perform these functions (scheduling/educating, obtaining measurements and financial counseling), you will gain efficiencies, have a higher conversion rate, a more educated patient, and quality/efficient measurements. The patient will also be well educated on their financial options and have an overall better experience.

CONCLUSION

With the influx of cataract patients that our practices will see over the next several years, it is crucial that we find ways to be efficient and effective while still providing an amazing experience. To accomplish this, we need to educate patients as often as possible regarding their condition while also looking closely at our exams and equipment to ensure that they flow smoothly and do not include duplicated efforts. Finally, it is essential that we have the right people performing the right job functions.

By doing these things, we will find efficiencies in chair time, staff time, and exam time while also thoroughly educating our patients and providing a great experience. OP