Imagine you are a brand new employee and you answer the phone in the office. After a rehearsed, professional, and pleasant greeting, you ask, "how may I help you this morning?" 

A young man answers, "I have to get in to see someone today!" His voice is shaky and he sounds like he is in pain. As a new employee, you can feel your heart rate going up and you are sitting up straighter, questioning what do I do now? 

  1. Be calm– Think emergency dispatcher. No matter how dire the situation, your job requires clearheaded thinking and compassionate communication. 
  2. Initiate your triage strategy - Pull up the form and begin asking the questions. Start with their name and the best contact number, then work your way methodically down the question list. 
  3. Offer just in time care - What if it turns out that the dire situation is that the young man is leaving on a weeklong heli-skiing trip tomorrow and he just realized he is out of daily contact lenses? In our opinion, the best way to ensure that your optometric business continues to succeed is to always accommodate a patients request just in time. Sure, the young man might need to be strategically scheduled later in the day if his prescription has expired, since this is hardly a medical emergency. Still, it's a valid emergency to him. Honor that feeling and work him in. Make him feel like he is a priority to you. If you don’t, he'll likely take his business elsewhere.

Triage is one of the most stressful responsibilities in medical reception. Make sure all of your employees, new and established, are clear on your scheduling philosophy (just in time or otherwise), and have the most effective tools at their fingertips to handle those calls. This will go a long way in helping your team feel confident in how they handle the patient on the other end of the line. 

Plan of action:  

  • In your next staff meeting, review your phone triage procedures and tools (10 minutes) 
  • Divide up into pairs and role play triage calls (15 minutes) 
  • Debrief as a team to answer any questions and consider any ideas that arise during the role play  

Get help with implementing a just in time philosophy in your office today! Join our Executive Management Program.

Bess Ogden

Director of Education and Training
Email Bess


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One of my favorite songs is “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. A lovely day in optometry is one in which every templated appointment on your schedule has been used by a well-cared for patient. In this world of pandemics, traffic, homeschooling, after-school activities, meetings, services, and at times overwhelming busy-ness, your patients will no-show, cancel, and reschedule. It’s always been a challenge to the practice and Covid-19 has made it harder than ever to control. Don’t blame your patients! You know exactly how they feel on those not so lovely days.

If there were ever a time to have a carefully crafted, consistently kept Patient Courtesy List, THIS IS THAT TIME. You are providing a courtesy to your patients, and this strategic tool can make or break your business. Your entire team must know how to professionally gather the relevant information while scheduling. It’s not hard, but it takes intent: ”At times Dr. Jo has a change in her schedule. If this happens may we contact you to offer you an earlier appointment? About how much notice would you need to get to the office? 20 minutes? An hour?” This information must be logged accurately and made available to everyone on the team at a minute’s notice.

When an opening in the schedule occurs, the whole crew must be poised to leap into action, implementing your sliding schedule strategies to fill that opening as soon as possible. Your primary receptionist or Patient Care Facilitator will lead the charge and will call in the rest of the troops, if assistance is needed. Be ready.

Give yourself a safety net that you can employ if you just can’t fill those open slots before they pass by. The safety net can take many forms, from opening up lunch slots, to later night slots, to unblocking an admin Friday afternoon. Keep in mind the purpose of a safety net: It’s only there in case you fall/fail. If you are all using your Courtesy Lists and Sliding Schedule procedures well, you’ll rarely need to use it. You’ll be glad you have it, though, when you need to use it!

Here’s to fewer lost days, and more lovely days ahead.

Let us help you implement a carefully crafted, consistent Patient Courtesy List within your practice. 

Join our Executive Management Program today!

Bess Ogden

Director of Education and Training
Email Bess


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