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In private practice optometry, it's more important than ever that we are elevating the patient experience and excelling in providing 5 Star patient care. This is due to a number of reasons, including the ease and cost of purchasing eyewear from online vendors, and the convenience and hours that retail practices can offer. Now, this isn't to say that some of these other vendors or retail practices don't have great customer service, but it is still a different experience than we speak to our clients about.  

With the help of the Executive Management Program and the Optometric Success Center Online Leanring, we can help you understand ways that your team can begin elevating the patient experience and how to build the foundation for Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care. Let's take a look at a few of the learning moments that come directly from the program Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care. 

Within this program, we are going to discuss how you can excel at providing 5 STAR care as well as how your practice can elevate the patient experience. We will discuss effective communication and how we can keep our patients informed, and how to calm upset patients. We'll also review how employee engagement and a positive culture plays its part in the overall patient experience and leads to the patient feeling like they’ve received the 5 STAR care. 

We must remember the following rules when it comes to providing excellent patient care. 

  1. We must remember to smile. Be genuine, but smile. Have you ever called a company and you can just sense that the representative isn’t happy about what they are doing. Maybe you just get a bad vibe, and call the next option on your list?  
    Always be friendly and kind. You have to remember that your patients are not in the same business as you. Although you may receive the same question time and time again, it's most likely the first time the patient has asked you this question. Don’t brush it off or act like your patient should know the answer. No question is a dumb one. We must be courteous and kind with our responses.  
  2. We must grow our knowledge and remain positive. Knowledge and positivity will always beat speed when it comes to providing great patient care. Have you ever called a company to ask a question and you're transferred two or three times, but your one question could really take only two or three minutes? Next, you’re on hold for 20 minutes waiting to speak to a representative.  
    If a patient asks you a question that you are not sure the answer to, but you know you can easily get the answer, rather than leaving them on hold or waiting for another team member, kindly let them know that you’ll be happy to find the answer for them. Ask them if it's okay for you to give them a call back when you’ve gotten the answer. Be sure to call them back that day, and nine times out of 10, your patient will be appreciative that you took the extra effort for them. 
  3. We need to remember that we (the team) are responsible for the growth of the practice. Each and every one of you are the face of your practice, and ultimately, you are the influencer when it comes to the patient making a decision. 
  4. We must listen. We must make things easy. We must provide the patient with the information they need in a timely manner. We know that patients that wait more than 10 minutes at any point of interaction with the practice are two times more likely to leave a negative review.  
  5. We must understand that upset customers are not an outcome. Upset customers are an opportunity for us to evolve and grow and learn what to do next time something comes up. Look at upsets from a strategic point of view, analyze what the cause is and find solutions.  
  6. We need to give our patients the benefit of the doubt. Understanding our patient’s behavior is huge. We must understand the need to continue to provide positive patient care. Perhaps your patient is having a terrible day, and the slight attitude they have with you isn't because of you at all. In fact, they are just having a rough day or they just received an upsetting phone call. We all have our days, but in your position, while you’re at that practice, you must find a way to work past that and to keep a smile on your face. Don't take it personally.  
  7. We need to continue providing excellent patient care and communication as your practice grows. As companies grow, things change. The number one thing that must remain the same is the way that we treat our patients. This leads to the next rule.  
  8. We must focus on the value of retention vs. a value of a simple transaction. We are in the business of providing long-term care. We can only do that if we remain consistent and compassionate for our patients. Remember, it costs us five to 25x more to gain a new patient than it does to retain one.  
  9. Last, we must remember that every single interaction matters. Did you know it takes 12 positive interactions to make up for one negative experience. Let’s aim high and make every interaction a positive one.

This is just the beginning. Let Williams Group Executive Management Program and the Optometric Success Center Learning Library help your team learn and help your practice elevate your patient experience. 

Want to know more about Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care? Join our Executive Management Program.

Already a member? Access our course, Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care, to learn more.

Michelle Bogeart

Executive Management Coach
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Recently I was working on revisions to one of our popular courses in the Optometric Success Center online learning library, Building the Patient Schedule Templates.  This course teaches learners about patient schedules and the staffing levels necessary to efficiently make the patient schedule flow properly, along with the ability to accomplish other tasks. This has also been a common discussion with clients.  

There are times that practices seem to forget how staffing levels and patient schedules go hand in hand. I like to describe this as a balance. If you load one side of a scale with patients, hence your patient schedule, don’t forget to load the opposite side of the scale with the appropriate staffing to help balance your practice out. Given today’s climate of staff shortages and the challenges with retention and hiring, it's even more imperative that this balance is not forgotten. Staffing and schedules should be referred to when planning and preparing for the month ahead. If this is slighted, you have the potential to have an overworked and stressed team, and you could lose team members easily. Even worse, your patient care will not be at the level that your patients have come to love and trust.    

We refer to this as strategic staffing. Monitor your clinic hours versus your operational hours, and staff the team properly. As a best practice tip, consider not allowing more than one team member off per day. You can never predict who may feel ill and not be able to work on a given day. If you have approved multiple team members the same day off, you now leave the practice even more short staffed, and unlikely able to handle the patient schedule for the day.  

ECP’s and administrators, this is a conversation that is presented during a team meeting as a group so that they all receive the same message. This message can read something like this:  

"Due to the necessity of being able to service our patients and support each other, effective on any future PTO/Vacation Requests, only one team member will be approved for PTO per day unless we are down an Eye Care Provider. Approvals are on a first come first serve basis, so the earlier you are able to request time off, the better."  

Practices that have worked with Williams Group and utilize the Optometric Success Center Learning Library have been able to increase staff productivity because of an emphasis on training, communication and organization. We are here to help you stay balanced, prioritize and focus on the success and long-term goals of your practice. 

  

Want to know more about Building the Patient Schedule Templates? Join our Executive Management Program.

Already a member? Access our course, Building the Patient Schedule Templates, to learn more.

Ellie Rogers

Practice Management Director
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“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” – Doris Lessing  

There is always a reason to not do what you are meant to do. There are good reasons in your head why it’s not the perfect time to (fill in the blank).  

If you try to account for all of the eventualities or try to anticipate every problem, you might miss opportunities. The conditions will never be perfect. The conditions will never be ideal to start your own practice; take control of your schedule; implement team meetings or daily huddles; set daily production goals; lessen the dependence on insurance plans, or have a tough conversation with an employee.  

Yes, there are many hurdles or problems in any new opportunity or project, but you don’t need to have all of them solved before you get started. It’s important to have a well-thought plan, but the mindset that, “I need to get all of the details locked up before I move forward,” prevents people from moving forward 

Doris Lessing’s words speak to me. The conditions are always impossible, aren’t they? Don’t wait for a better time. What are you ready to get going in your practice or your life?     

Looking for help with the next step? Williams Group can help you! Contact us.

Sheila Hayes

New Business Advisor
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It's important to discuss the fundamentals of excellent patient communication with your team; to help them understand how they can develop effective communication styles, and help them to understand how body language and non-verbal communication can negatively affect the outcome of the conversations they have with their patients. It's also important to review with your team, the fundamentals of how we can provide value to our patients through this communication. 

Once you have built the foundation of the patient relationship and welcomed them into your office, then you must communicate your brand, your products, and your services effectively. Strong communication is an integral part of private practice. When done well, your communication helps to build trust in the care that your practice is providing, and in your recommendations. The manner in which your brand and the information is communicated is just as important as the information that is being communicated. Patients who value your image and understand what is being discussed, are more likely to acknowledge and better understand their treatment options. You will find it easier to retain a patient when it comes to asking them to return for an office visit, or you will see a higher recall rate when it comes to scheduling the annual comprehensive exam. 

Within developing effective communication, your brand and your employees must maintain a professional image. Appearance, cleanliness, body language, verbal and written communication; all of these factors need to be considered when it comes to maintaining that professional image. The appearance of your office will need to be clean, organized, and free of clutter and chaos. Your team will also need to be capable of working well together. This needs to be relayed in the frontline care that we’re giving our patients. The atmosphere and the environment will need to be comforting, welcoming, and calming. Your body language when communicating with patients will need to show compassion and kindness. You must appear knowledgeable and confident in the information you are providing.  

As we dig down deeper into the fundamentals of effective communication, we need to discuss body language and non-verbal communication. These are two important factors when it comes to relaying the message you are trying to tell your patient. As far as body language, it is not always what you say, it's how you say it, and the body language that's associated with your communication. When you are not smiling, or when you seem concerned or have weird eyebrows while trying to tell your patient something, they may not fully grasp what it is you're trying to tell them. The gestures we make, the positions in which we hold our bodies, the expressions we wear on our faces, and the qualities of our speech – all contribute to how others receive the message.   

You need to create value with the communication you are having with your patients. As you begin to create value, you'll need to reference terms and fundamental elements of value that address four kinds of needs. These needs include functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact. You want to consider your patients’ perspective, consistently work to improve patient satisfaction and create a memorable patient experience. 

Help your team to understand some of the fundamentals behind providing excellent patient communication by reaching out to Williams Group and joining the Executive Management Program today! With access to the Optometric Success Center Learning library, you will be providing your team with a vast amount of information to help them understand the many ways that lead to providing excellent 5 STAR patient care.  

Want to know more about Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care? Join our Executive Management Program.

Already a member? Access our course, Excelling in 5 STAR Patient Care, to learn more.

Michelle Bogeart

Executive Management Coach
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The line between patient and consumer blurs a bit in the optical. But a proper handoff - one that reinforces the eye health education that the patient receives in the exam room - is helpful in ensuring that patients purchase quality eyewear that will best meet their vision and lifestyle needs, satisfying them as both patient and consumer.

There are five points in the patient journey during which information is passed from one team member to another: check-in, pretesting, exam, optical, and check-out. Have you ever played the telephone game? The first person whispers a phrase to the next, and with each interpretation and handoff, the original becomes more muddied. That can happen easily in a busy eye care practice. If doctors and staff members are not extremely clear about the transfer of patient information, each passing of the information baton can present a problem. Think of the information that is being transmitted here: the doctor's evaluation, the treatment plan, and the products that will help the patient comply. That's too much and too important to leave to chance.

CLINICAL OPTICIANS HOLD THE KEY

Those independent eye care professionals (IECPs) who employ scribes already know the value that a scribe brings - not only in terms of exam room efficiency but also in the patient's transition to the optical. In this case, we consider the scribe to be a clinical optician, an individual who both scribes for the doctor and fulfills the ophthalmic treatment plan in the optical. The clinical optician listens as the doctor educates the patient about the diagnosis and treatment plan. The clinical optician then accompanies the patient into the optical. This demonstrates a link between the exam and the optical. Rather than being two distinct experiences in one location, the presence of a skilled team member who stays with the patient throughout amplifies the opportunities to have clinical conversations and maintain the transition from health experience to the retail experience. 

We believe that clinical opticians can become an IECP's most impactful time and efficiency generator. A clinical optician allows the doctor to focus solely on patient education, without the distraction of documenting in the patient record. 

However, for a practice that doesn't use clinical opticians, the next best handoff occurs in the exam room. An optician should enter the exam room, where both optician and the patient hear the doctor's summary of his or her recommendations. A handoff in the optical cannot match the experience of a handoff in the exam room.

DOCTORS MAKE IT RELATABLE

It's not enough for a doctor to say, "I'm prescribing a progressive lens for you today." It's critical to add the "why" behind the recommendation and prescribe the exact lens design and treatment options when possible. "I'm prescribing a [brand] progressive lens for you today because this lens best addresses your specific needs and will provide you with the best resolution to the problem that brought you in today."

A presentation like this empowers the patient to select the option with confidence. Compare that to a presentation that identifies one lens as good, one as better, and one as best. Even there, patients are left guessing as to whether there are true distinctions and which one they actually need.

WHY HANDOFFS IN THE OPTICAL ARE INEFFECTIVE

Handoffs made hurriedly in the optical - or even worse, simply directing the patient to the optical to shop for eyewear - are rarely effective. First, there's no reinforcement of the treatment plan. Ideally, the patient will hear a treatment plan described at least two times: once during the exam itself and once before the patient transitions to the optical, in the presence of an optician or scribe/clinical optician. 

Without that, the patient bears the responsibility for remembering what the treatment plan and specific recommendations are. When that happens, it's like the child's game of telephone. The message gets garbled, and the sale - as well as the patient's compliance and ultimate satisfaction - are at risk.

Did you miss the Lunch & Learn? If you and your team were unable to join the July HEA PracticeAdvantage Lunch & Learn on the importance of the doctor-to-optician baton pass, you can listen here.

Ready to improve the baton pass in your practice? Contact Williams Group today.

Learn more about PracticeAdvantage with Healthy Eyes Advantage.

Healthy Eyes Advantage is the next-generation marketplace for independent ECPs, delivering the most competitive vendor pricing and unique benefits to more than 10,000 independent eye care professionals nationwide. Williams Group Consulting is the eye care industry’s premier consulting firm, delivering innovative, relationship-based consulting, practice transition consulting, and accounting/payroll processing, to thousands of clients across the U.S. and Canada.

Considering you're in healthcare, there is no doubt that you know what the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is. When was the last time you reviewed it with your team? We are here to remind you about the importance of educating and reviewing the rules and regulations with your team on an annual basis. We can help you do this with the help of the Optometric Success Center Learning Library at www.optometricsuccess.com. Here is a recap from the Focusing on HIPAA Compliance program that many providers and learners have reviewed from their access with the OSCL.  

HIPAA is the federal law that required the government to create nation-wide standards to protect Patient Health Information (PHI) from being disclosed unless the patient gave direct consent. Although HIPAA was signed into law in 1996, details of HIPAA were yet to be determined by Congress and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. It has certainly come a long way from where it was at the beginning. The objectives of Focusing on HIPAA Compliance is to provide you (the learner) with the fundamentals of the HIPAA, educate you on the importance, discuss the consequences, and provide you with the initial knowledge to educate your team about protecting your patient's health information. As stated above, it's important to understand that an annual review of HIPAA is required by every healthcare employee, and the fundamentals and safeguards set within the law are crucial to protecting your practice and patient information.  

One of the main objectives of HIPAA was to allow for the electronic flow of full health care information while still providing a secure and confidential atmosphere to minimize threats and risks of a breach. 

Under the Privacy Rule, we may use and disclose PHI without patient written authorization for the purposes of treatment, payment, and health care operations.  

  • Treatment is the provision, coordination, and/or management of a patient's condition through diagnostic testing, referral for services in another specialty, and consultations between providers.  
  • Payment refers to the activities of reimbursement for services, communication with insurers, or others involved in the reimbursement process. This area also includes eligibility verification, billing, and collections.  
  • Health care operations pertain to all other areas including quality assurance activities, competency activities, residency, and medical school programs, conducting audit programs for compliance, training programs for allied health as well as business planning and development to define a few. 

Following the program, your learner will join me for a live training session to ensure they understand the information within the courses and to review several different scenarios that we often come across in the optical industry. We refer to the U.S. Department of Health &Human Services website, at www.hhs.gov, to support the information provided within this program, which is available on the Optometric Success Center Learning website at www.optometricsuccess.com 

At Williams Group, we believe in the importance of keeping your team educated and enjoy helping providers along the path of creating success. Register for the Executive Management Program to begin working with an Executive Management Coach and to gain access to Focusing on HIPAA Compliance, and many other valuable programs, available in the OSCL today!

Want to know more about Focusing on HIPAA Compliance? Join our Executive Management Program.

Already a member? Access our course, Focusing on HIPAA Compliance, to learn more.

 

Michelle Bogeart

Executive Management Coach
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If you've been a Williams Group consulting client, then you know we have a best practice called a Quarterly Walk-Through. It's pretty simple and fun! During one weekly team meeting (another best practice that we stand by) each quarter, take 30 minutes to walk, as a team, from the parking area through the entire patient path in-office, through checkout, and finally, exit the building just as your patients do every day. Have one person take notes. Everyone can contribute their thoughts about this experience. Think about sights, sounds, smells, and touch: 

  • What signage greets you and how does it look?
  • What is the message and feel of the message? 
  • Is the parking lot clean and pleasant?
  • How about the landscaping? 
  • Is the glass on the front door clear and spotless?
  • Is the handle sticky?
  • Are there bells or buzzers upon entry and, if so, how does this make you feel? 
  • Are the carpets worn or do they look fresh? 

Really get into the details! Once you've walked the whole path, make an agreement to go through that list of experiences at the next meeting, and sort them into positives and negatives. Then take the negatives and sort that pile into things you can improve and things you can't control or change. Now divvy up the ones that are within your power to change and get to it! 

Next, do an online walk-through! Same steps. At each point in a patient or potential patient journey through your digital space, make notes as a team of all the same qualities you paid attention to during the physical walk-through: 

  • Is your website easy to find, updated, and full of useful information? 
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Is it clean or cluttered? 
  • Can you find the practice Facebook page and other social media pages that you use?
  • How does the content make you feel? 
  • How about reviews?
  • Are they mostly positive or have some negative ones snuck in there recently?  

Review this list at your next meeting and go through the same sorting and action plan process as you did for your physical walk-through. 

You'll be amazed how small tweaks here and there can make all the difference in how your patients perceive your business, whether visiting in person or online. 

Looking for help with the Quarterly Walk-Through? The Executive Management Program can help you! Learn more here.

 

Bess Ogden

Director of Education and Training
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Have you ever found yourself desperate to build and maintain a positive culture? It's been proven that a strong company culture helps your employees to engage more effectively with your patients and boosts productivity within your practice. It all starts with building the foundation for your practice, identifying your core values, and hiring the right people to work for your practice. So, what are the key ingredients to building a phenomenal foundation?  

MISSION - To set the foundation of your practice for building a 5 STAR Team, you must understand what your mission is. Your vision of the practice and the care you provide for your patients - you must understand what this is and then you must live by it.  

Not sure how to develop a mission statement? Start by brainstorming with your group, words that define the value and issues that are important to you as a patient care team. Then assign someone on your team to create the first draft of your statement utilizing the defined values.  

CORE VALUES - You need to identify the core values that will help guide you and your practice in the direction to success. Set expectations, set guidelines, and understand your role in leading your team to be able to meet these expectations.  

By developing a mission, you have already set the core values that you and your team are focusing on within your practice. From here, set your expectations and guidelines based on those core values.  

PEOPLE - Evaluate your people. Are your people able to exceed your expectations? Do they understand the mission of your practice and the vision you hold? To maintain a positive culture, you certainly need people that are going to be contributors to your practice and to your team.  

If there is someone on your team who is underperforming or who may be considered "the bad egg" of the group, it may be time to part ways. Focus on your people who bring something to the table and who enlighten the atmosphere while adhering to your core values.  

ENCOURAGE - You must encourage positivity and growth. Help guide your team members to be successful by supporting them and by providing them with the encouragement, tools, and resources necessary to succeed. When we encourage growth and invest in our teams, the return on investment is substantial.  

Other ideas for building encouragement and maintaining a positive culture: team retreats and team-building activities; educational opportunities; staff compensation models that provide an incentive for reaching production goals and maintaining staff expenses.  

COMMUNICATE - Effective communication is key when it comes to setting the foundational components of an excellent team. It is about more than just telling your employees what to do. It's also about the intention behind the message and actively listening to what your team has to say. Learning how to effectively communicate and teaching your employees the keys to effectively communicating, will speak volumes and prove beneficial.  

Great opportunities for creating an environment with effective communication include the implementation of team huddles and weekly team meetings. 

ACCOUNTABILITY - When we begin creating accountability within the workplace, we see positive changes and growth. Accountability not only holds you and your team accountable for actions, but it also helps to encourage us to do bigger and better things for our organization.   

Creating accountability through leadership is something that all doctors and leaders could use training on. Even myself as a practice administrator and the provider I worked alongside would have benefitted greatly from additional insight on this. Reach out to Williams Group to review how to create accountability through leadership. 

As a Practice Management Director and Executive Management Coach with Williams Group, I am passionate about discussing the endless opportunities available for owner doctors and practice administrators to build and maintain a positive culture within their organization. Setting the foundation is the key to begin building your 5 STAR team and to building and maintaining a positive culture. It's never too late to reset your foundations.  

Let the Executive Management Program help you! Learn more here.

Michelle Bogeart

Executive Management Coach
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Back in the day, us consultants would instruct our clients to create Procedure Manuals for every duty in the office. This was a daunting assignment, and we'd often allow three to six months of diligent effort to get the first draft done. The problem was, even if it did get done, the procedures would oftentimes have changed before the proverbial ink had even dried! 

So, am I saying that documented procedures are no longer recommended here at Williams Group Consulting? No! But, for goodness sakes, use all this technology we have at our fingertips! 

Tip #1  - Create a good place to keep all your procedures, not on paper! You must have a digital information center. A free Google Drive is okay, but there are issues with access and permissions unless you build a Google Workplace ($6 to $20+ per month). Office 365 is another great business option, also a paid service. You can save procedures on a shared local drive if that is an option in your practice. As an owner or manager, you must have control over who has the right to add, change, and delete stuff from your information center or chaos can ensue. 

Tip #2 – Use screen captures and video whenever possible to document procedures. We all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just show how you do something. Don't write a novel that no one will read. Don't worry if it isn't pretty and professional. Chances are you'll be redoing it next month, anyway! We all know how quickly things can change in this industry. 

Tip #3 – Commit to regular use, review, and updates of your procedures. Delete them when they are outdated. Organize them according to a system that makes sense to your team (By role? By department?) There is no perfect organization, so just pick one and stick to it. Set a goal to add one new procedure a week and report on it during your weekly team meeting. 

Tell us what the current state of your procedures resources are right now. Do you struggle with this best practices or do you have it dialed? Any tips you can share? 

Need help getting your procedures created? Contact Williams Group today.

 

Bess Ogden

Director of Education and Training
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While out shopping the other day, I came across a t-shirt that said optometry. Actually, that’s what my optician brain thought it said. What is actually said was optimist. Because my first reaction was a disappointment, I left without buying the shirt, but I’ve since been thinking about the word optimist and how it still applies to the eye care professionals I get the opportunity to work with. Those that have remained optimistic continue to succeed. It’s a major component to being able to deal with the challenges they’ve had and the obstacles optometry practices continue to face. As a Practice Management Director for Williams Group, I am here to remind doctors of their successes, so they can remain optimistic. Although we are also here for the regular doses of reality too. The right combination of optimistic and realistic allows you to balance and put the right things in motion, at the right time.

I encourage you to take the time to meet with your team and reflect on the last year. During a crisis is when we are able to see strong points and weak ones with more clarity. Write down what worked really well and what didn’t. For instance, financial and payroll reporting due to the PPP loans was either very easy to attain or it was difficult. Working with the right accounting platforms or the relationships you have with your accountant or bank was critical. Take the time to think through your experience and make the decision to make things better moving forward, so the next time, it's easier and less stressful. It can be much easier for you to remain optimistic.

Want to get optimistic about your practice again? Contact us today.

Ellie Rogers

Practice Management Director
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