December is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. As ours is a dynamic field, filled with constant innovations, it is easy to overlook the patient-centric focus that we all strive for – to shorten procedure times, decrease the drop burden, improve comfort, diagnose with better accuracy and, most of all, help enhance vision.
We need a village to achieve these goals. Let’s review 2017 to improve 2018.
We know it starts with the patient. How were our efforts this year to ensure patients got through our office doors for their needed eye exams? Let’s consider better communication with primary-care providers to emphasize the importance of annual exams, especially for diabetics. We should have flexible and expanded office hours for our busy patients, and the not-so-busy, those who depend on others to drive them.
Without a trained staff, the patient journey will not be positive. The burden of staff training squarely sits on the shoulders of physicians and administrators. Did we stress in 2017 that customer service must be emphasized to all staff, whether front desk receptionists, billers or technicians? The importance of a smile, of properly answering the phone, of making eye contact, and of “seeing” the patient to make the patient feel special are skills that must be taught. If we didn’t in 2017, let’s make time in 2018 to highlight customer service on a daily basis.
But training should not stop here; with the increased diagnostic equipment we rely on, staff has to be trained to perform tests accurately and speedily since we are making treatment decisions based on diagnostic outcomes. It is vital for technicians to perform diagnostic tests confidently and accurately while explaining the procedure and purpose to patients. An educated patient feels empowered to make better decisions for him or herself.
Industry is the next resident in our ophthalmic village. The money invested for R&D for improved technology creates a positive ripple effect in the ophthalmic community. Innovations in drug delivery methods, in medications, in imaging technologies or in existing surgical procedures, help patients achieve better outcomes. Honest and open communication between industry and physicians fosters a win-win relationship as long as the patient remains the central focus.
Physicians play a crucial role in the ophthalmic village. We tend to be an innovative, curious and entrepreneurial bunch. We have a responsibility to stay current with technology through enhanced diagnostic equipment and new procedures. We must make time to attend meetings, stay current with the literature, and update equipment to provide patients with the best available technology. If we didn’t do it last year, let’s do it next year.
Lastly, we need the threads to hold our ophthalmic village together. Those interwoven threads are respect, kindness and honesty.
Wishing all of you a healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year. OM