Involving practice staff in the management of patients with myopia is becoming increasingly important, according to Dr Sally Dillehay, president and chief medical officer at ClinTrial Solutions in the United States and consultant to Brien Holden Vision Institute.
While acknowledging that this is a new approach for many eye care practices, Dr Dillehay says it will be key to every practice’s fundamental shift in treating the underlying risk factors for myopic progression.
“It is no longer enough to prescribe thicker glasses or stronger contact lenses to progressive young myopes. Practitioners must use available information and intervention strategies to proactively manage myopia with the aim of decreasing potential factors associated with increased risk of cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and myopic macular degeneration,”1 she said.
She said clinical excellence in managing myopia must include strong communications with patients and parents, and this is where practice staff can really come into play.
IMPORTANCE OF STAFF
Dr Dillehay says training staff and involving them in the management of patients with myopia is an excellent way to build patient loyalty.
“Van Vuuren et al3 investigated the factors that contributed to patient loyalty within an optometric practice and determined that interactions with practice staff were critical to maintain patient loyalty. Additionally, training and engaging staff is an effective staff retention strategy.
“As in any health care practice, staff members report that professional development is important to them in order to remain engaged and avoid burnout.2 Practitioners must be prepared to provide initial and on-going training to continually develop their staff and ensure high quality communications that address patients’ needs and exceed their expectations,” Dr Dillehay said.
PROCESS AND PROCEDURE VITAL
Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs), in collaboration with staff, will ensure practice efficiencies are maximised, quality of care is optimised and staff are engaged, trained and able to take ownership in myopia management.
“As discussed in the BHVI Myopia Education Program, The Business of Myopia, SOPs allow a practice to be consistent and accurate, which can lead to increased efficiency and patient communication. SOPs also assist with coverage due to staff time off or turn over,” said Dr Dillehay.
“As your practice moves into proactively managing myopia, you will need to create new procedures, and perhaps acquire new equipment; and with that you may need to delegate new tasks to staff, so as to spend more time in consultation with the patient and parents/caregivers. SOPs will help to ensure your entire practice, including all staff and practitioners, are presenting a uniform approach on the benefits of proactively managing myopia, the available treatment options, the procedures, billing and follow up schedules.”
MANAGING PATIENT ENQUIRIES
Practices that actively manage myopia tend to receive more questions from patients, parents, and caregivers than they would for other conditions. These questions can take up valuable consultation time and disrupt patient flow.
While more complex questions about treatment recommendations or mechanisms of treatment to slow myopia progression are best handled by the optometrist, Dr Dillehay recommends practices prepare pre-printed brochures or information packs to answer more common questions.
Training your staff to handle as many questions as possible, and providing scripts to cover common topics of patient / caregiver / parent discussion will also ensure consistency in the information communicated.
These topics may include:
- Reasons why ‘regular’ glasses and contact lenses do not help with progression of myopia,
- Benefits of myopia management, • Myopia as a risk factor for potential long term changes in vision,
- Examination procedures and equipment,
- Available treatment options,
- Scheduling appointment times and length,
- Billing for myopia management consultation and products,
- Insurance coverage (if any),
- Follow up schedules, and
- Information included in patient packs.
A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE
Dr Dillehay emphasised that surveys of patients have shown that patient satisfaction is increased when staff are able to engage with them in an authentic manner.3
“Staff who can demonstrate the proper knowledge, skills and attitudes around myopia management will build patient confidence in the practice and its expertise in managing myopia, leading to increased patient, staff and practitioner satisfaction,” she concluded.
- Gifford KL, Richdale K, Kang P, Aller TA, Lam CS, Liu YM, Michaud L, Mulder J, Orr JB, Rose KA, Saunders KJ, Seidel D, Tideman WL, Sankaridurg P. IMI – Clinical Management Guidelines Report. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. February 2019; 60: M184-M203. doi:10.1167/iovs.18-25977
- Teel P. Five top challenges affecting healthcare leaders in the future. Beckers Hospital Review. February 13, 2018. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/five-top-challenges-affecting-healthcare-leaders-in-the-future.html
- van Vuuren T, Roberts-Lombard M, van Tonder E. Customer Satisfaction, Trust and Commitment as Predictors of Customer Loyalty within an Optometric Practice. South African Business Review. 2012;16(3):81-96.