Samantha Hornberger, OD, of Bright Family Eye Care in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, has been back at her writing desk. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because earlier in 2020, at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, WO featured Dr. Hornberger and her guide to temporarily closing a practice. The 17-page manual, entitled Hope is Not a Strategy, covered everything from deciding when and if to furlough staff to scheduling and touched briefly on best practices to expedite reopening. However, with some of her time during the quarantine, she was able to expand those thoughts more fully into their own manual, Return to Routine. Weighing in at 13 pages of advice, Dr. Hornberger has made her manuals free, downloadable documents on her website, themoderneyesite.com.
MAKING IT WORK
As for her own practice, WO spoke to Dr. Hornberger on day one of her third week of being open. She was using a limited schedule—open for three or three-and-a-half days a week with one patient every hour, which led to seeing about seven patients per day. At this time, Dr. Hornberger, her optician and her front office manager were the only ones back in the office.
Like many ODs have found, some practices that have been borne from necessity during this pandemic made all the difference and will stick around. For Dr. Hornberger, that has been online intake forms. “It really streamlined the process with new patients and getting them back into the exam chair,” she says.
She also recognizes the benefits of dispensing using curbside pickup. “It has lessened the level of chaos in the office,” she laughs, noting her cozy optical area. The opticians have also started performing adjustments and scheduling dispensing time by appointment only, which she predicts will last. “We do get outside prescriptions from customers who want to choose our frames,” she says. “It has worked really well and directs the flow of patients better.” Part of the script her staff uses to schedule asks about the patient’s immediate need for eyeglasses. If patients need new eyewear to function, the patient is scheduled for time in the optical while they’re in the office. The optician asks about style preferences and what the patient likes. They then choose six to eight frames to get started– asking what the patient likes or doesn’t like. Anything the patient tries on is then set aside for sanitizing.
TIME TO STEP UP
When it comes to helping, Dr. Hornberger is at the top of her game. Not only has she spent her own time writing the manuals for her fellow ODs, but she is ready to be the medical professional voice of reason to any patients who may have questions during this crisis. “The biggest thing is to make sure anyone with questions gets clear direction,” she says. “If they’re not concerned we educate them to protect themselves. She notes the importance of speaking with the patient humbly and honestly, avoiding sounding like a “know-it-all.” “If patients have an incorrect view of the risk, in a gentle way we correct their inconsistencies.”
She has three main pieces of advice for other ODs. First, “I would tell them before you open is the perfect time to figure out anything that wasn’t working before,” she says. “If there was anything about your practice you weren’t in love with, now is the time.”
Second, she urges practice owners to be flexible. “Have a plan for opening, and then be okay that it is probably not going to follow your plan. You will have to make decisions on the fly.”
Finally, she says, “be patient with yourself, with your staff and your patients. Everyone will be stressed out. As much patience and grace you can give everyone will make you feel better.”
Dr. Hornberger’s manuals can be downloaded here.