An Ophthalmic Technician: The Crucial Link Between Exam Room and Optical
WHEN YOU STOP and really consider your ophthalmic technician, you quickly realize the crucial link they create between the exam room and optical. The tech’s questions “frame” the patient outcome and set the stage for doctor and optical success.
I often note the separation and miscommunication between departments when on site evaluating a practice for opportunities prior to one of my Masterclass Retreats. The tighter the interoffice communication about — and with — the patient, the better the outcome for all.
What does your technician do and say to patients now and — with guidance — what could they improve?
Let’s imagine some opportunities to maximize the value of your technicians…
- Do your techs truly understand the importance of what they bring to the office and the patient?
- Following check-in, the tech confirms the patient’s preferred name, so doctor can greet them the way they prefer.
- In our office the tech introduces themselves and sets the stage like this: “Pat, I’m Sam, Dr. Wise’s ‘assistant.’ Come with me and I’ll start your exam.”
- The tech tells the patient what to expect: “Pat, I’ll start a checklist for Dr. Wise, so we don’t miss anything important for you today. We want to be sure you see your very best out of both eyes and that your glasses and sunglasses have the treatments and filters necessary to eliminate sun damage.”
- Techs are detectives: The exam/lifestyle/history questions must be open-ended to gain the best feedback, not “Yes” or “No” answers. As an example of what not to ask the patient: “Do your eyes ever feel dry, itchy, scratchy, irritated?” It makes more sense to ask: “Do you find your eyes feel irritated, dry, watery, scratchy daily or weekly?” This helps the patient understand that other people experience what they experience.
- Techs set up the opportunities for doctors to prescribe far more efficiently. When the patient tells the tech what they’d like to improve, the doctor can dig a little deeper, prescribe with why, gain buy-in from the patient, then make it easy for opticians to simply fill the prescriptions.
- Patients buy their doctor, which is why it’s important for the tech to tell the patient: “I have the notes of what’s important for you, I’ll pass them to Dr. Wise, and she will address these for your best advantage. Sound good?”
- Techs determine what glasses the patient has with them, and whether their existing lenses are clear or darken outdoors.
- Techs provide the patient with specific bullet points to read, prior to the exam.
- Techs ask the eyeglass wearing patient, who could be a candidate for occasional wear contacts: “Pat, what activities are you involved in where eyeglasses can seem annoying?”
- Many techs handoff to opticians and this is where the transfer is often lost! More often the tech hands the patient off and says: “Ms. Smith, this is our optician Tina. She will help you with your glasses!” ouch! Game over. The tech must absolutely explain to the optician — with patient always present — specifically what the doctor prescribed and why it was prescribed.
Plan a meeting. Review all questions techs ask patients to understand where they can be refined to gain more information for the doctor. Many doctors don’t read the patient answers as scribed during the pre-exam because “Yes” and “No” provide little to no information, so the doctor asks them one of these typical, often ineffective questions: “What brings you in today?” Or “How have your eyes been doing?” For which I recently heard a patient say: “Still in my head, Doc!”