Today marks two weeks since we reopened to patient care—what a relief it has been to be back at it again! I have reflected on a number of things over these past weeks and observed some interesting things about the practice that I have been able to learn from. First off, thank you for understanding my decision to close for two months while the COVID-19 pandemic was at its highest concern. Mind you, I state, “at its highest concern,” not necessarily at its most dangerous. I truly still believe that COVID-19 is dangerous and it may be more dangerous now as the public lets down its guard. Just because “COVID-19” has become a household name does not change that it still exists, and people are still affected with it as we continue to learn more about it. Rest assured we do not fear the virus in our office, but we are keeping to our protocols in place through the month of June and will reassess the next steps to move forward in July.
What have I learned?
- Masks are not so bad! While we are wearing them all day long we are also asking patrons to wear them as well. We inform and warn patients to come to our office wearing one and it has been universally accepted. Thank you for understanding and thank you for helping us protect each other.
- Our phone interviews have made us more efficient and thorough! Once again, to help minimize the time a patient is in the office (to help minimize any exposure to COVID-19) my team has been conducting the patient history, asking the same questions and having the same conversation, over the phone prior to each patients’ visit. They are recorded and I listen to them. Just when we thought we couldn’t get any more efficient—we are always learning better ways.
- This phone conversation allows patients to access their medications (strength and dosage) as well as their contact lens information at home when they may not have brought it with them to their visit.
- Having the patients’ information ahead of time helps streamline the visit where there is no check-in and you are brought right back to the examination room to start your visit immediately.
- My review ahead of time has helped me get a better grasp on how my team is doing with their conversation skills, charting and also help in my understanding of each patients’ needs and wants for the examination. This is quickly revisited by me with the patient in person.
I chose this route because many of my colleagues were doing the same. I did not really think it would be 1. accepted and 2. as helpful as it has been. I truly believe it may be something we stick with moving forward. It only takes 5 minutes and it is so valuable for me to have prior to your visit.
- We really have an awesome team! I conducted a team orientation on May 18th that lasted two hours. We went over our new protocols and the steps to reopen. Everyone was in attendance and attentive. This participation has really helped aid in the reopening smoothly and successfully over the past two weeks. I have always been thankful for my team but they really are shining through during these times. Thank you all for being patient with these stars as we navigate through all this together—it is all new to us.
- Our technology really rocks! We have always taken pride in the technology we utilize but, to be honest, looking back we weren’t using it to its fullest potential until now—when we are forced to do so. Eyecare is a different than other medical professions in certain ways. Specifically, it requires a lot of close contact. Social distancing of 6 feet is almost impossible with traditional means and equipment. The slit lamp where I examine your eyes is no more than 4 inches from your mouth and nose to mine. Extended times at that instrument cause my oculars to fog up and sometimes my diagnostic lenses I utilize. I usually spend, in total, at least 5-6 minutes using that instrument with each patient. That has changed. We have universally utilized our Clarus UltraWideField imaging on all patients and that is reviewed with me on a computer monitor where patients are able to see the back of their eye at a safe distance for both of us. The photoptor, which determines your prescription (you know the “click machine,” the ‘which is better 1 or 2’ black thing that you look through) would normally require me to be within arms length of you but our automated system allows me to safe distance from you as well. Finally, to minimize touches and exchange, we have a stout HIPAA compliant/certified email server that allows us to eliminate interaction by utilizing online forms, patients are able to upload a copy of their insurance card and driver’s license securely and encrypted. Our credit card processing system is able to accept NFC/Apple Pay and we always can send an invoice to you as well.
- Change is good! It may have been daunting at first but so far it has worked out. While I’ve been known to have extended hours for years to accommodate patients these times have called for some changes. In order to “slowly open” back the office we have limited hours and spaced our appointment times apart. This is in an effort to minimize body count in the building and allow us to sanitize our examination rooms, surfaces in the optical gallery, frames and continue to keep a safe environment for everyone. This is taxing because we have 2 months of backlogged patients, new patients requesting appointments and additional protocols in place. For now, please continue to be patient with us as we have altered the hours in June to safely proceed forward with more of “our regular” hours in the future. Thank you for understanding that we may have a week or two wait for an appointment when this is not usually the case.
Once again, thank you for all your patience and understanding as we navigate through this new “normal.” Our efforts are to keep you safe and continue to serve you with diligence with minimal disruption and this is what I have learned so far, I look forward to continuing to learn through the process as well.