Nikki Iravani, OD, of EyeXam in Santa Clara, California, has found that her website announcement that she is available for virtual visits has generated a significant number of new in-person patients. “Simply saying that I am available for virtual visits has made people contact the office. Once we have the patient on the call, we can explain those services that we can do virtually. In addition, the receptionist will explain why a comprehensive eye exam is something that needs to happen in person,” she says. Those conversations nearly always convert to an appointment. “It gets the conversation started, and patients like knowing that once we’ve established a relationship, the opportunity for a virtual visit for other needs is possible.”
While a number of ODs got onboard with offering virtual visits during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, that interest seems to have waned. However, Dr. Iravani says it’s important to keep that platform open. It can be an effective way to determine if the patient must be seen or if the doctor can extend the contact lens prescription for a short period or outline a red eye regimen before the patient must be seen. Patients who are still juggling children at home or work-from-home situations appreciate the additional flexibility.
ALLEVIATE STAFFING PRESSURES
Dr. Iravani also uses virtual visits as a way to release some of the pressure on the daily schedule. Many practices have found it challenging to maintain their full complement of employees or are faced with employees calling in sick because they or a member of their family may have had a coronavirus exposure. By carving out a half a day one day per week for virtual visits, that allows the doctor to take care of selected patients without adding to the patient flow in the office. Either Dr. Iravani manages these visits alone or a tech can help keep the process flowing smoothly. But the rest of the staff has a chance to take a breather and finish up paperwork or other tasks without worrying about when the next patient is coming in. A great example is a myopia management consultation, where ideally both parents and the child should be present. A virtual visit can be very effective while minimizing the number of people in and out of the office, she says.
“The virtual visit button on my website has brought many patients who may not have called otherwise.”