Identify a Center of Excellence. Look for one about 75 miles away – far enough away that they won’t worry you’ll become competition, but close enough that you can get there, observe them, and get home the same day.
Ask to Study Them. A little flattery won’t hurt – let them know you chose them because of their excellent reputation. Remember, you’ll be slowing them down considerably, and preventing them from attending to other business. So thank them by ordering lunch for the office.
Road Trip. Take your chief tech and your office manager, head to that center of excellence, and spend the day carefully observing their practices. Shadow their techs and office manager, and take notes. Some practices won’t mind sharing financial data, but others will, so be sensitive, and respect their decision. Afterward, send a bottle of wine, or other gift with a thank-you note.
Team Meeting. Back at your office, gather your staff, let them know your plan, and why becoming a dry eye center of excellence is important to you, to your patients, and to them. Explain that becoming a center of excellence will provide financial benefit the entire practice.
Simple Marketing. Start with inexpensive – but effective – marketing tools you can deploy in your office. Your staff can wear “Ask Me about Dry Eye” lapel buttons. You can hang informational posters in dilating areas, exam areas, any place where patients can see them whenever they look up from their phones. Industry representatives have marketing tools they would love to share with you. Take advantage of their offers!
Complete Some Paperwork. Create a questionnaire that allows your staff to proceed with osmolarity testing before you see the patients. Osmolarity is a good first step because it is objective, and easy to implement with a relatively small investment.
Osmolarity Dos and Don’ts:Do have an osmolarity unit in each exam lane. If they’re handy, you’ll use them more. Don’t have your tech or staff interpret results. Ask them to tell patients “The doctor will be here soon to explain.”
Add Meibography. When everyone is comfortable with osmolarity, meibography is a good next diagnostic step, because it is a powerful tool to convince patients to take preventive action. When you implement meibography, look for duct dilation, gland constipation, curling and shortening, and hazy appearance.
Add Therapeutics. When everyone is comfortable with diagnostics, that’s the time to implement treatments such as professional lid cleaning, microblepharoexfoliation, and thermal pulsation therapy.
Realize the Benefits. Once you have the basics in place, you can add new technologies and therapies as you wish. And, as your reputation for excellence grows, dry eye patients will seek you out.
Keep Learning. There will be a regional conference somewhere in your area where you can pick up additional tips, make new connections, and bring home new ideas for expanding your dry eye practice.
It’s Worth the Effort. Developing a Dry Eye Center of Excellence in your practice is good medicine, and good business. It’s low-risk, both medically and legally. It creates loyal patients who are likely to be elderly, and therefore likely to need treatment for additional conditions. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your patients.
Marguerite McDonald, MD, FACS, with OCLI on Long Island, NY, is clinical professor of Ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center, NY, and clinical professor of Ophthalmology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana.