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Patients Want to Feel Connected

Rural practice increases its outreach beyond the patient visit

Jaclyn Munson, OD, joined the Weatherford Eyecare Center, a Vision Source® practice in Weatherford, Oklahoma, two years ago. One of her first initiatives was to increase the amount of communication between the practice, its patients and the community. “We’re in rural America, and rural America wants this kind of connection,” she says.

The practice connected with Solutionreach and has had an excellent experience, she says. “I did not get a degree in web design or social marketing. The company’s support team has helped me with all kinds of issues, from how to post survey responses on our website to how to create newsletters,” she says.

It has also proved to be handy for instant communications. “One day we announced a change to the office hours and sent an email to our family of patients. We had five people show up within 10 minutes of that email going out to pick up their eyeglasses and contact lenses. Being able to communicate like that with our patients extends an arm of care outside of the structure of the building. Inside, we know we provide an intimate approach. Now we can extend that beyond our walls,” she says.

Patients have multiple interactions with the service. At the time that patients schedule their appointment, they receive a confirmation text or email or both. Patients can customize which delivery method they want. And if they prefer to get a phone call from the staff, that’s fine. But the number of reminder phone calls that the staff now has to make has dropped dramatically. Patients can synch these reminders with their Google calendar, if they choose. They’re also sent a confirmation notice two days before the exam, and they receive a reminder on the day of the exam. “Rave reviews come from busy moms, college professors and even our savvy geriatric crowd, who have complimented us on the ease of confirmation. It has lightened the load here so that we can focus on the demands and immediate needs of patients who are here in the office.”

Solutionreach, which offers a robust menu of services as part of a standard package, has teamed with Eyemaginations. So now the practice can send quick videos through text or posted on the website. “Early in the spring, we had a lot of sunglasses in inventory. We did an eblast on the importance of sunwear and UV protection, and by the end of the month, we had very few pairs of sunglasses left,” Dr. Munson says. “It’s a great way to promote an event or a new service.”

The practice is introducing the portal system to send patients secure billing reminders. Most fees and co-pays are collected at the time of service, but those patients who have a balance after the insurance has been processed can get friendly billing reminders at 30,60 or 90 days. Patients can also pay their bills on the office app. “It’s very effective. It’s a way to keep us above and past the technology curve. Patients appreciate it,” she says.

The surveys that are sent to patients two days after their exam or after new prescription eyewear has been picked up have helped the practice build on its reputation for excellence. “We have a lot of happy patients, thankfully, and they’re willing to share their experiences so that others can read about it on our website,” she says. Dr. Munson makes sure that she responds to any patient who voices a com- plaint on one of these surveys. She’ll add the comment and/or apology for a lapse of service just below the posted complaint. That way, others can see that the office is responsive to these patients.

The comments from these reviews help the practice address these situations and improve patients’ experiences. “It has increased our overall accountability,” she says. “Hearing from patients on a regular basis helps us keep our service real, relevant and exceeding patient expectations.”

This fall, the practice will add iPads for registration for patients in the reception area and instant eyewear notifications. Patient forms can be downloaded to the two iPads, and patients can review and sign them. “It will streamline the process, and patients will be impressed that HIPAA information is even more protected,” she adds. “We anticipate that patients will also appreciate the more frequent communication about their orders for eyeglasses and contact lenses, for example. Our practice works with higher-quality labs, and that sometimes adds a day or two onto the process. We’re not competing with the 60-minute, one-stop bargain eyeglasses, so being able to tell patients that their eyeglasses order has been received or is leaving the lab or has arrived in our office is a nice courtesy that helps emphasize the value.”

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