Opening the doors to an optometry practice means having various processes in place. If your experience was anything like ours, we had some processes that we were proud of and some that we didn’t get to spend as much time on as we’d like. From eye exams to patient intake, setting up each step to ensure a smooth patient takes a lot of work. And going back and updating these processes can get pushed to the back burner as the clinic grows and the daily routine takes over.
Patient intake is one of those processes that need to evolve over time. When new legislation passes, it’s obvious that you need to update your intake process. But there are other signs that it’s time to update intake. For example, are your appointment wait times getting longer? Are patients asking repeat questions about paperwork or becoming impatient with filling it out? These are just some of the signs indicating it’s time for a refresh on your intake processes. Later, we’ll share more tips on knowing if it’s time to update intake.
We needed to figure out where to start when we first realized we needed to streamline our intake process. Talking with other optometrists and ophthalmologists, not knowing where to start can be a big enough hurdle that some practices avoid doing it altogether. So we’re sharing our breakdown of streamlining tips, ranging from the easy fixes to bigger effort and bigger impact opportunities.
Starting the optimization of your patient intake processes is like any other task; the first step is often the hardest. Bear in mind that your patients are expecting a smooth experience. Making intake more efficient not only elevates their satisfaction but also reduces staff stress and might even make room for more daily appointments. What’s not to like about happier patients and potentially more revenue for your practice?
Signs That It’s Time to Streamline Intake
Running an optometry clinic comes with its fair share of challenges. There are many moving parts, and striking the right balance can be a juggling act. When should you consider tweaking your patient intake process?
Listening to Patient Satisfaction Surveys
Your patients often provide the clearest indicators of how things are going. Sending patient satisfaction surveys can reveal hiccups in the intake process. They might share that other clinics with specific eyecare specialties handle things more smoothly. It’s wise to take note. Their experiences, from the initial wait to the eye exam, can offer invaluable insights.
Issues with the Medical History Form
If patients often return their medical history form with gaps or mention they didn’t know how to fill in some parts, that’s a clear sign. We found it helpful to learn more from our patients who had issues filling in their medical history. We used those insights to create an FAQ that we include with our forms. For us, that was easier than updating the form.
Handling Insurance Details
Insurance can be confusing for many. If patients need clarification when presenting their insurance card or have questions about their coverage, it might be time to make this aspect more user-friendly. Offering clarity on insurance details can significantly smooth out their visit. Sometimes the answers to our patient’s questions require verification of their plan details. Just letting them know how the process works put their mind at ease and reduced questions.
All eye clinics should be tracking missed visits or last-minute reschedules. A daily count of them over the last month or quarter makes it easy to see if they are spiking. An updated appointment reminder system can keep things on track if they are. A timely nudge often helps in ensuring patients remember their schedules.
Feedback from the Eye Doctor and Team
Remember the experts within your walls. ODs and supporting staff interact directly with the intake process and its outcomes. Their feedback can shed light on areas that might benefit from a little fine-tuning.
Streamlining Intake Opportunities by Impact and Effort
With the right modifications, you can significantly boost patient satisfaction, enhance eye health outcomes, and streamline your clinic’s operations. To help with prioritization, we’ve broken down the process updates based on their impact on the process and how much work they are to implement.
Low Effort, High Impact (Quick Wins)
- Automated Appointment Reminders: We all get caught up in our daily lives. A gentle nudge, reminding patients of their upcoming eye exam or contact lens appointment, ensures a consistent flow and fewer last-minute cancellations.
- Queue Management Systems: Informing patients about their expected wait times, especially when they’re there for specific procedures like dry eye treatment or vision therapy, can reduce anxiety and set clear expectations.
- Clear Signage: Just like the importance of clear vision, clear signage within your clinic can alleviate patient confusion and guide them from one point to the next.
- Contactless Payment and Digital Invoices: In today’s digital age, most patients, especially those updating their glasses or old eyewear, appreciate a swift, contactless payment system. Providing digital invoices further enhances this experience.
High Effort, High Impact (Strategic Projects)
- Digital Pre-registration: By allowing patients, especially new patients, to fill out their patient information forms and medical history online, you’re not only reducing their in-clinic time but also ensuring that they can spend the time they need on details, such as any eye disease or diabetic retinopathy history.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) Integration: An integrated EHR system ensures that patient data, ranging from dry eyes conditions to diabetic eye exams results, is centralized, easily accessible, and updated.
- Kiosk Check-in: Instead of the traditional reception desk, having a kiosk system for patients to check-in can drastically reduce intake time and make the process more streamlined.
- Digital Imaging: Employing advanced digital imaging techniques for procedures like fundus examinations ensures precision, speed, and better patient care.
- Centralized Database: For those patients visiting for repeated procedures, a centralized database ensures their previous vision care details are easily accessible, reducing redundant data input.
- Health Insurance Automation: Make the insurance process smoother by automating health insurance verifications. This ensures patients are informed of their coverage, especially if they’re availing of treatments that might not be commonly covered.
Low Effort, Low Impact (Fill-ins)
- Educational Materials: A patient’s waiting time can be transformed into a productive session. Equip your waiting rooms with informative materials about eye health, the latest in contact lenses technology, or even insurance benefits associated with vision care.
- Feedback Loop: Constructive feedback is invaluable. You’re continuously evolving your services by creating a straightforward way for patients to share their experiences.
- Dedicated Personnel: During peak hours, having dedicated personnel to guide patients through different stages, be it selecting new frames for their glasses or understanding their health savings accounts benefits, can make all the difference.
The bottom line is that streamlining intake in eye care clinics is about mapping your patient’s experience. Then you can identify potential bottlenecks. While you should implement some quick wins, also pick strategic projects that can significantly impact intake. Your goal is that patients leave with better vision and a good impression of your practice’s top-notch service.
Factors to Consider When Getting Started
When improving your patient intake process, consider the following practical factors for a smooth and efficient update.
- Assess Your Current System: Before making any changes, document what’s currently in place. Which parts of your process do patients often get stuck on? Is it the medical history form or perhaps understanding their insurance details? Identifying these bottlenecks is the first step in making meaningful improvements.
- Prioritize Digital Solutions: We live in an increasingly digital world, and patients expect the same from their healthcare providers. Consider which paper-based processes, like the patient intake form, can be transitioned online. Similarly, consider implementing systems that combine scheduling, medical records, and patient data.
- Engage Your Team: Your staff members are on the frontline and can offer invaluable insights. Schedule a brainstorming session to discuss pain points in the current intake process. Their feedback can identify areas of improvement you might have overlooked.
- Emergency Preparedness: While streamlining is about improving day-to-day operations, ensuring the new process recognizes emergency eye care needs is vital. Patients should still have a clear and fast route for urgent situations.
- Educate Patients on Financial Options: It’s not uncommon for patients to be unaware of financial vehicles, like medical savings accounts, that can assist with their eye care expenses. Introducing this information as part of the intake process can prevent billing confusion later.
- Pilot and Feedback: Before rolling out changes clinic-wide, consider piloting the new process with a subset of patients. Gather feedback, identify teething problems, and refine accordingly.
- Continuous Monitoring and Iteration: Even after you’ve made the desired changes, you still need to revisit the intake process regularly. Patient needs, technology, and healthcare guidelines evolve, and your process should, too.
Optimizing your intake process requires a mix of introspection, innovation, and ongoing dedication. Hopefully, this article has given you a clear understanding of what to consider and some tips on what to do. Your commitment to achieving the end goal sets you on your way to making an intake process that both patients and staff will like.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Streamlining processes can be tricky and time-consuming. If you want guidance on your clinic’s unique challenges, My Business Care Team is here to help. With expertise in increased revenues, efficiency improvements, and ensuring top-quality care for optometry clinics, our team can support you to make a seamless transformation.