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Opening Lines

‘Share-worthy’ COVID-19 pearls

By James D. Dawes, MHA, CMPE, COE

The COVID-19 environment has created challenges for all of us as we try to protect our team members and provide safe and effective patient care in our new world. Over the last few months, in talking with physicians and administrators, I’ve picked up some valuable pearls that are “share-worthy”:

1 Show your face. Now that we are all wearing masks, patients can’t see our smiles and we are somewhat unrecognizable. As a solution, several practices have asked their team to wear lanyards with a picture of their face in a laminated tag. I’ve even seen an 8 x10 picture attached to the front of a scrub shirt. This can help patients feel comfortable while demonstrating safety.

2 Visually demonstrate “Clean” and “Need to be cleaned” rooms. The optics of how we sanitize our facilities are very important to patients. One practice attaches laminated cards to the door of each exam room to indicate either “Clean” or “Need to be cleaned” rooms. This simple task ensures that every room is properly disinfected and demonstrates to patients that they are walking into rooms that are clean and safe.

3 Use “virtual consultations” to include spouses, adult children or caregivers in decision making. Our patients have to make serious decisions. From cataract treatment options to retinal injections, patients often want the opinion of a loved one. Many practices are using digital technology to bring the third party into the consultation or counseling session for input. Whether through Facetime, Zoom or any other of several technologies available, having the third party join the conversation virtually is quickly becoming the new normal.

4 Teach patients and staff to prevent fogging. Eyeglass wearers have to deal with the fogging of our lenses while we wear a mask. An eye doctor friend showed me that washing my glasses a couple of times per day in warm soapy water will prevent the lenses from fogging as I breathe through my mask. This invaluable tip has saved me a tremendous amount of frustration and will win kudos for you. It also makes a nice social medial post.

5 Offer “curb-side” eyeglass pick-ups, IOP checks and online ordering options. As we rethink how to deliver products and services, eyeglass pick-ups and IOP checks have proven to be low hanging fruit for eye-care providers. Both can be done curbside. Is it ideal? No. Can it be done? Yes. Is it a great service for patients? Absolutely! Also, online ordering and home delivery of contact lenses and vitamins offers additional conveniences.

We must continue to think of how we can serve our team members and patients in this dynamic and ever-changing environment. So, put on your thinking caps and get creative! OP

Lessons learned from COVID-19 … so far

By Kristy Gleaton, LDO, ABOC, NCLE

As elective surgery and routine eye care resumed in the state of Georgia, the Thomas Eye Group (TEG) faced a number of challenges in navigating a new environment that accounts for COVID-19. TEG also learned a number of valuable lessons, which follow.

  • Communication, for both staff and patients, continues to be critically important due to COVID-19. For staff, we have set up virtual, town hall meetings to create a positive and informative touchpoint and remain connected to our employees. We use this time to communicate safety protocols, operational changes or direction, while setting goals and expectations around patient volume. We also have used this time to “interview” some of our long-time doctors so we can share this history of TEG and share in the pride of our organization.
  • Using our integrated EHR and PM systems (Modernizing Medicine) along with reporting and electronic communication capabilities, we can strategically contact patients who canceled appointments due to COVID-19. We created a cancellation protocol in the practice management system and have used this information to help build our reopening plan. We contacted patients in the order of which they were scheduled for their original appointments. This has helped us to provide care to patients, slowly build patient volume, and provide a positive patient experience before, during, and after appointments.
  • We created targeted lists for specialties we serve. For instance, we pulled specific information for our retina patients based on the physician and set up automated texts, emails and voice calls. This is a key tool to help us ramp up our patient volume strategically and safely.
  • To help accommodate our patients and meet business objectives, we have expanded office hours, including Saturday appointments when both our ophthalmologists and optometrists can see patients.
  • With many patients rescheduling cataract surgeries or facing apprehension for coming in for a procedure, we hosted our first patient-facing webinar. One of our cataract surgeons shared what patients can and should expect. It was an informative session with lots of engagement from patients. As patients will be risk averse in the coming months, we plan to continue these educational sessions and will think of new and creative ways to keep in touch with current and future patients. OP

In Brief

Vasoptic Medical received 510(k) clearance from the FDA for its XyCAM RI noninvasive retinal imager. The device images retinal vessels and blood flow and features include spatio-temporal resolution, measurement reproducibility and flow-sensitivity over a wide range. Vasoptic intends to continue gathering clinical evidence to support the expanded use of the XyCAM RI in specific disease conditions.

Aldeyra Therapeutics reached an agreement with the FDA for the use of reactive aldehyde species (RASP) as an objective sign for the treatment of dry eye disease. RASP are pre-cytokine pro-inflammatory mediators that are elevated in the tears of patients with dry eye disease, and correlate with dry eye disease symptoms and signs. Aldeyra has a first-in-class RASP inhibitor currently in a Phase 2a dry eye disease clinical trial; the inhibitor has demonstrated reduction in tear RASP levels after 28 days of treatment.

Genentech announced positive top-line results for its Phase 3 Archway study, which evaluated the first-of-its-kind Port Delivery System (PDS) with ranibizumab in neovascular, or wet, AMD. PDS is a permanent refillable eye implant, approximately the size of a grain of rice, which continuously delivers a customized formulation of ranibizumab. The study met its primary endpoint, and top-line results showed that PDS, when refilled every 6 months, achieved similar visual acuity outcomes to that of monthly ranibizumab injections.

Mynosys Cellular Devices, manufacturer of the ZEPTO Precision Cataract Surgery platform, has renamed itself Centricity Vision. The name change follows the recent appointment of Rob Thornhill as company CEO. New members of the executive team have also been announced, including Louis Bunn, chief financial officer; Todd Pinkney, vice president of marketing; Kevin Pratt, vice president of sales; Dan Glazerman, vice president of research, development and manufacturing; and Nealen Hartman, vice president of regulatory affairs and quality assurance.

Accelmed Partners acquired TearLab Corporation. TearLab will be a private company with Accelmed Partners as the controlling shareholder. Accelmed Partners will also invest $25 million in TearLab.

Build the career ladder, one step at a time

Tips for creating professional success as plans evolve.

Janna Mullaney, COE, OSC, OCS

As many in the profession have been or are currently experiencing a reduction in hours, now is a good time to consider professional development as an avenue for spending your time. As I look back at nearly 35 years of my ophthalmic career, it is rife with change as my plans evolved, by necessity or choice. To be clear, my plan to be successful didn’t waiver, how I got there did. I learned a few things that others might find valuable, which I share here.

  1. Don’t be shy. Showcase your skills, such as good memory, diplomacy, and stamina; standout by performance, and don’t be afraid to help with tasks outside of your “box.” This is how you will get noticed within and outside of your office.
  2. Find mentors. This should be obvious, but remember, mentors aren’t always your boss or even someone who does the same job. Mentors can be found in many places. The key is to find someone who you can emulate. Don’t try to remake yourself, but weave in the lessons you witness and that made an impact on you.
  3. Find a comfortable pace. Don’t set unrealistic deadlines. Give yourself enough time to learn a skill well, be the go-to person, and tuck that knowledge away as a building block.
  4. Don’t be complacent. It’s easier to stick with what you are good at, but growth isn’t found in complacency. And don’t confuse consistency with complacency. Consistency can be a form of momentum if done right.
  5. Add skills to your toolbox. Think about taking courses on something like project management, Excel skills, or even public speaking. Many high-level executives started out getting all of the big projects because they could build and execute a project plan seamlessly. This can build confidence.
    Speaking of which: look people in the eye, and emit passion and authority when you speak. I did this way too late, but I now have a level of confidence among my colleagues that I didn’t have before I faced this issue.
  6. Find peace in what you do. Yes, it sometimes takes a certain level of discomfort for growth, but you should be able to feel satisfaction and happiness in what you do. Success is hard to maintain when you are always stressed or overwhelmed.
  7. Set up a system that is not dependent on you. The founder of my practice, and my first career mentor, once told me that if you aren’t training your replacement, you are not planning your next steps. Build a team that can support and, in some cases, replace you, when the time is right. Creating a legacy that you can look back on and be proud of is the ultimate measure of a successful career! OP