Have you ever heard of lean theory? It’s the concept of keeping a business super lean by employing tools and software. Keep a low overhead of products and staff labor to create profitability within a business. The optometry profession has blessed us with so much technology (at affordable prices) to really operate with fewer people and make more profits. I know it’s exhausting to constantly buy more software tools and equipment, but I’m going to give you the top one’s to make your optometry practice lean.
If you are afraid to buy something because of price, remember that not making a decision to change is making a decision. Your competitors will always take the risk and surpass you.
Text message your patients
How many times have you called your patients to tell them their glasses or contacts are ready and it goes straight to voicemail? Many times I’m sure. Patients want you to text them. I know it sounds weird because we’re just used to texting friends and family, but it’s the most convenient way to send a quick reminder.
You can even send custom text messages to patients if your schedule is running behind and you want to be courteous by notifying them ahead of time that there may be a wait. Other instances of texting are telling a patient there is a delay in their glasses and to please expect a few more days. The reason you text rather than call is for non-urgent matters. Patients will learn to utilize the text message tool to communicate with your office about anything and everything!
The best part about texting is your staff won’t have to spend time on the phone. The phone is a waste of time. It’s a disturbance. Giving updates through writing is quick and to-the-point. You can handle the messages in importance rather than doing it the moment someone calls.
Nearly every EHR has text messaging built in or you can use integrated tools.
Our recommendation: WEAVE
In-office communication platform
If you have more than 3 employees, you need a different way to communicate rather than just emails and flagging a person down in the hallway. Placing sticky notes on someone’s desk is not wise either.
Email is a complete waste of time. It shows no urgency and it’s hard to have a conversation with somebody. Also, the searchability of emails can be hard many times when you need to re-jog your memory of something.
You need an instant messaging platform with the following features:
- Private messages
- Group messaging
- Share pictures
- Share videos
- Share files
- Send GIFs
- Send audio messages
- Tag employees in messages
- Create topic threads
- Video calling in-office
- Mobile, tablet, desktop friendly
- Get quick answers
Just think about how many times you get up from your workstation to go find a staff member in the office. That’s all wasted time. Just shoot your co-worker a message from any device (mobile or desktop) and get quick answers to your questions. Let’s say a staff member has a day off. You can send them a message and they’ll see it first thing when they arrive the next morning.
You may think email is really easy, but that’s just because you are used to it. It’s frankly a disorganized mess. You have to always check it every hour and scroll constantly to find what you need. With a message application for the office, you can organize each department of your office under headings.
I like to organize as:
- Front desk
When you want to talk about a certain topic, you find the appropriate department channel so you can always keep your conversations organized. Don’t message the whole team and bother everybody.
Lastly, only some messaging apps are HIPAA secure. Do your research. Again, forget about the costs. Your office can be efficient without proper communication.
Our recommendation:Microsoft Teams
Access your work computer remotely from home or anywhere
If you are like me, I only want to be at the office during normal business hours. However, I really do enjoy working and growing my business, I just like to be comfy at home.
The good news is you can access your work computers from home by logging in remotely. There’s always going to be a time when you need to pull up a patient or want to get some charting or billing done.
Our recommendation: Google Remote Desktop (it’s free!)
One-click ordering of spectacle lenses
Ordering lenses for glasses is a tedious process. You have to do a lot of data entry and pay close attention that every seg height and lens coating is selected correctly.
Many times, opticians have to input their glasses order in their practice management system, then proceed to go to a labs website and have to re-enter the same information all over again. It’s really a waste of time doing this double entry.
Every EHR has software integrations with lens laboratories to directly send them your order with one click. However, insurance orders still need the double entry, sorry, no trick around this yet.
Use a softphone
I’m not actually talking about a softphone to the touch that feels great on the ear. I’m talking about using your current mobile phone as an office phone. You simply download your phone carriers mobile app and can receive office calls from anywhere.
This is really nice for when you want to talk to a patient from your office number from any location. You can do inbound and outbound calls. You can also listen to voicemails directly on your phone.
Our recommendation: Zoom Phone
Use a scribe in the exam room
The use of a scribe should not be solely to cut down your exam time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. The real benefit of a scribe is using valuable patient time for one-on-one face time. No, I’m not talking about iPhone video calls, I’m talking about chatting about your plan of action to take care of their medical and vision needs. It’s not a very warm exam feeling when you’re juggling typing, staring at the computer screen EHR and trying to recommend vision products.
I know some doctors say they are fast typists and they don’t need help. That’s not the point. A scribe allows you to spend quality time together. Any successful optometry practice begins with non-interrupted patient bonding.
Teaching scribing to a technician will take 1 week. For tech to become proficient at it, it will take 3 months. It’s really a learning phase for the doctor and techs to become comfortable calling out commands to each other and getting in sync with timing. Remember, tech can do more than just type your notes. They can assist in grabbing trials, putting on contacts, putting in drops, doing sales of contacts in the exam room, and a lot more.
Refill your contact lens trials with a scanner
If you want to “wow” your patients, you will fit them with contact lenses in one visit. The only way to do this is to always keep your trial lens supply near 85% stocked. You know it’s frustrating going to the shoe store and they are out of your size. Having to get something special-ordered, then come back to try it on is a pain.
Inventory management doesn’t need to be a major chore. Please, don’t waste time writing down each power that’s out-of-stock and clicking-in to order online.
Every contact lens distributor should give you a handheld USB scanner. It’s about the size of a Tic-Tac case. Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly take 30 minutes to scan all the empty trials spots in the contact lens towers. It will record the data on the USB device. Then, plug it into the computer and it will upload into your shopping cart. Ask your contact lens distributor for help, if needed.
Some people complain about paying for shipping on trials. It’s just a cost of doing business. What costs you more is not having things in stock and making a person come for 2 visits because you were not prepared for them.
Track credit memos on returned frames
Returning frames and keeping track if you got credit for them is a pain in the rear. Some vendors are quick to issue credits while others take months. Plus, they always come via email or mail and you have to constantly track them down.
The best way to track credit is to use what I developed called a “Credit Tracker.” It’s simply a spreadsheet that tells you all the important data of the return. It’s a simple tool to keep you organized and not lose money if a vendor forgets to credit you. Simply check this tracker every few weeks and call vendors who are being slow to issue credits.
Edge your own spectacle lenses in house
Edging is easy. Anyone can be trained and your life will be easier when you’re not constantly checking with your outsourced labs to see where a job is.
In-office-edging is something we have talked about extensively over the years. Most of us take vision plans in our offices. We can’t control our lab chargebacks here. However, with private pay patients, you have the freedom of choice on which lab you choose. Be smart where you order lenses! You can really cut your costs of goods on lab bills by 50% if you order from a “non-insurance lab” like SmartOD. They don’t mark the prices up just to give you a fake discount.
You can really make a ton of money on single vision patients too. A CR-39 lens with premium anti-reflective costs about $5.00. Don’t give into the philosophy that a lens needs to be super expensive to be super good. They are all made in the same factories across the world.
Your opticians should be spending less time ordering lenses and waiting to receive them. Instead, you can stock lenses and just pull them from your back room.
Mobile friendly patient online forms
We buy groceries online, we book restaurant reservations online and we buy airline tickets online. Our patients should be filling out paperwork online before their visit. It speeds things up when they arrive at your office!
There’s a lot of online form systems out there, but their main downfall is that patients fill them out and then your receptionist has to retype all the data back into the EHR. This is a waste of time. There are programs out there that work with ANY EHR to write the patient data directly back into your system. You can even include pictures of insurance cards and driver licenses.
The main bottleneck at any practice is always patient information. It just takes that one patient who’s filling the information out like a turtle to slow the whole day down.
Insurance verification tools
It really bugs me to see insurance clerks and front-desk members looking up each individual patient to see if a patient’s vision or medical benefits are active. Imagine if you had to pop each popcorn kernel at once. It would be painful.
Software tools exist out there that allow you to type a patient’s DOB, first name and last name into 1 website and it will search these 4 vision plans with one click: VSP, Eyemed, Spectera, Davis. No more hopping around each website to find patients. Stick on one page and make your life easy. This tool will also tell you the dependents who are eligible too so you can book exams for the whole family.
Medical plans can be much harder to look up since there are way more of them and can be state-specific. The easiest way to lookup medical benefits is using a service where you hire a company to either go online or call each company to get benefit info.
They will record the deductible info, make sure you are in-network and figure out if they cover certain diagnosis codes, etc.
You pay per inquiry for each patient…usually between $3-$5 per patient. This may seem like a lot of money if you are spending $50 per day on lookups, but just imagine taking these dreadful tasks away from staff so they can focus on patient care. We waste too much office time on the phone doing data collection. Let someone else do this who’s faster and has the tools to get it done.
Dual computer monitors
This sounds like a silly recommendation, but you can easily waste 1 hour a day by constantly flip-flopping windows back and forth on the computer. If you have optical ordering information on 1 window and insurance info on the other window, you constantly have to move back and forth to submit a claim. The same thing goes for the front desk; they are usually on lots of different tabs or windows.
Connect a second screen to your computer so you can view two windows at once. It’s heavenly not having to click all the time! Your IT person should be able to help you or do a quick Google search on how to connect. The computer monitors do not have to be the same.
Some people love their old-school manual lensometers, but you should at least have 1 auto in the practice. It takes 2 seconds and you can read a pair of lenses super easily. The lensometers are very accurate and there are even more advanced ones that can even give you lens maps to show the progressive lens design. It may seem like a wasted expense, but when you want to run an efficient practice, speed and automation is key. The printouts after analyzing are helpful when you are trying to troubleshoot a glasses issue. You don’t have to write down the data.
Make your office easily accessible. Many people don’t like calling businesses anymore. It’s just easier to book appointments late at night or when they are on-the-go on mobile devices.
Your online scheduler for appointments should sync with your EHR. Don’t just use a form-fill on a website that “requests” appointments. You want patients to book their appointment into a live spot. This makes it easy on the patient so you don’t have to reach back out to them to confirm the time works.
The patients will be automatically routed to fill out their patient paperwork once they book online. I don’t suggest putting every single appointment type possible that you offer online as this can mess up the office flow if people just book glaucoma workups in random places. However, simply offering eye exams is a good start.
Technology is your friend
I know after reading this you will be in a race to implement everything! Remember, the fees you pay to make you more efficient will pay off right away. Let people do people jobs (like interacting with humans) and let technology do data-entry jobs. Operating lean is really important. Don’t give a staff member $20/hour when a piece of software could do it for $3/hour.
Have tech questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org