Chances are you’re looking to improve the patient experience at your retina clinic and, by extension, your online reputation.
“When we started our practice 15 years ago, no one was talking about patient satisfaction,” recalls Joanne Mansour, practice administrator at The Virginia Retina Center. That’s changing as the more discerning Baby Boomer generation begins to age into retina conditions, as aggregated patient satisfaction levels with your practice become transparent on sites like Medicare’s Physician Compare, and as online review destinations like Yelp! and HealthGrades amplifies opinions that used to be confined to word-of-mouth.
How to Increase Patient Satisfaction at Your Retina Practice
Everyone works in health care has learned to focus more intensely on patient experience, but retina practices face unique challenges, Mansour told attendees at an AAO 2017 panel on retina practice management. Retina patients might:
Wonder why the doctor can’t “fix” everything that’s wrong with their vision. Many of your patients have friends who’ve had cataract procedures—whose cloudy vision cleared when the surgeon laid hands on them. But retina doctors treat problems that are more difficult to manage, and your clinicians must help patients manage their expectations.
Wonder why a visit to your practice takes much longer than a ‘normal’ visit to their other doctors. Coming to a retina practice is a new experience, and staff can help patients be less disoriented if they tell them what’s going to happen as each visit begins. Outline the steps as the visit begins, briefly explaining what each step is for, Mansour suggests.
Wonder why your practice doesn’t do all the things eye doctors are ‘supposed’ to do. Some patients don’t understand why they can’t get refractions or buy their glasses at your retina clinic. After all, if they’re spending so much time there anyway, why can’t your practice be a one-stop shop for all things eye-related?
Train all your staff to explain to patients that your practice specializes in the “back of the eye,” Mansour suggests. And make sure that all staffers can be as helpful as possible by providing patients with information about doctors in their area who specialize in the “front of the eye.”
Be grappling with several chronic conditions and juggling several treatment plans. Waiting at the doctor’s office is boring, and retina patients often bring friends and family to wait with them, Mansour observes. And they often bring more of them. Waiting areas in retina practices should be larger than waiting areas in other specialties so they can comfortably accomodate the various folks who are helping your patients pass the time.
Train your entry-level staffers to make sure that the waiting areas in your practice are pleasant, orderly places. Don’t forget practical touches like convenient trash cans. “If your waiting room has leftover dilation tissues lying around—that’s gross,” Mansour says.
Have hefty out-of-pocket costs to budget for. Your RCM staff should do all they can to help patients avoid sticker shock. Tricia Packer, CPC, CPMA, COPC, OCS, who serves on ECL’s practice optimization team and who previously administered a retina practice in North Carolina. For example, if the doctor is changing the treatment plan from Avastin to the more expensive Eylea, make sure you verify coverage under the plan and nortify the patient of any difference in co-pay amount.
Want to feel like the doctor knows them. During most visits, retina clinic patients spend much less time with the doctor than they do with staff, so they time they do have with the doctor is what Mansour calls “magic time.” A doctor’s effort to engage patients in personal, memorable ways can immeasurably improve how they feel about your clinic. Mansour knows one retina doctor who always jokes “Hand me the rusty needle,” when performing injections on the particular sorts of patients who relish humor and appreciate the ritual of the joke that never gets old.
Savvy staffers, who have more time to with patients to get to know them better, should do all they can to help doctors shine in these interactions.
Want to feel like everyone in the practice knows them. Yeah, the doctor is your main ingredient, but your staff is the secret sauce simply because your patients spend so much time with them. If it’s important to the patient, your staffers should ask about their grandchildren, a recent trip, or a hobby. Staff should also be aware if a spouse has recently died, observes Mansour.
Tip: Got an intern with a little extra time on her hands. Send her out into the waiting areas to straighten up and chit-chat briefly with patients who seem like they would appreciate a little visiting time. Again, waiting at the retina doctor’s office is tedious, so pleasant interactions can help make the experience better.
Be more interested in filling out surveys than you think. Mansour told AAO 2017 attendees that she used to think that retina patients were too old to want to participate, but she’s since discovered that many elderly folks love to tell you what they think. A survey is a strong signal that your clinic cares about their opinions.