Article

Inside the Front Lines

Two veteran eyecare pros share their uniquely successful paths to reopening their businesses after the Covid-19 shutdown.

Eyecare professionals tell us they’re wary of patient contact, and are putting face masks, shields, and sneeze guards in play.

But the bottom line is that many patients feel the same way...about you and your business’s staff.

According to The Vision Council’s April VisionWatch Covid-19 Consumer Study, 36% of consumers surveyed said they were postponing a trip to the eye doctor, and an additional 15% said they were altogether canceling their trip/exam.

It doesn’t help that a quarter of respondents have either lost their jobs or had hours cut.

While some eyecare businesses remain closed except to emergencies, most others are slowly reopening. These statistics underscore some challenges with patients’ comfort levels regarding a return to standard eye care.

The good news? For one, over 30% of respondents say they will prioritize their eyecare needs as a high or highest priority relative to other health concerns once the current crisis is over. Additionally, many eyecare professionals have already shown how incredibly resourceful they can be—and continue to be as practices slowly reopen across the country.

Exactly what have those who have successfully reopened done? That’s what we asked two veteran eyecare pros:

Optician Jim Mulligan, O.T., co-owner at Bouquet Mulligan DeMaio Eye Professionals with three locations in the Lebanon, PA, area

Adam Ramsey, O.D., who owns Socialite Vision in Palm Beach Gardens, FL

JIM MULLIGAN, O.T.

BOUQUET MULLIGAN DEMAIO EYE PROFESSIONALS

STATE STATUS (AT PRESS TIME):
PA’s stay-at-home order went into effect on April 1. A phased reopening began on May 8, with remaining red-phase counties expected to enter yellow phase by June 5.

PRACTICE

“I am the founding member and part owner of the practice, which started in 1985. We have two 6,000-square-foot offices and one satellite location.”

POSITION

“I manage day-to-day operations such as seeing sales reps, updating staff on products, doing promotions, and managing safety eyewear contracts.”

STATUS

“We have been seeing only emergencies since the shelter-in-place announcement and started seeing medical-only patients on May 4. We are waiting to hear from the governor about routine vision care.”

STAFFING

“We are staggering the schedule with two shifts per day. Two doctors see three patients per hour in the morning, and the second shift starts at 12:30 p.m. We have one lab optician doing surfacing and finishing and one or two opticians on the floor. Most staff members work four-hour shifts two to four days a week.”

FLOW

“No walk-ins are permitted. All services are by appointment only. We allow one guest for a patient who needs assistance. Otherwise we ask patients to come alone and wear a mask. We provide one if they don’t have it.”

PROTOCOLS

STAFF STANDARDS. “Staff is checked each day upon entering with a scan thermometer. All floor opticians are masked and use full-face shields with patients. Our hands are raw from washing and sanitizing!”

WAITING. “The waiting room and front desk have been modified so all chairs are 6 feet apart. Patients check themselves in using the zero-contact Clearwave kiosk.”

OPTICAL. “After being touched, all frames are washed and put through the Opticwash machine, which sanitizes the complete frame and lenses. Those procedures will remain in place.”

“Plexiglass screens are at the front desk, checkout, and surgical scheduling locations. That, along with patient separation, will probably remain in place.”

PATIENTS

“Our patients are cautious but very compliant. They are looking to us to make the right decisions for their eye care and health care. Most people are yearning for professionals like us to offer reassurance, hope, and confidence. We are committed to keeping patients safe while providing the best eye care possible.”

ADAM RAMSEY, O.D.

SOCIALITE VISION

STATE STATUS (AT PRESS TIME):
Florida’s stay-at-home order went into effect on April 1. A phased reopening began on May 4.

PRACTICE

“I opened Socialite Vision in 2016 to offer eyewear selected for style and craftsmanship rather than the industry favorites.”

STATUS

“We reopened in early May with one-hour appointments. I’d been doing just telehealth and seeing emergency patients prior to that.”

STAFFING

“I currently have half the staff in the office with some employees still working from home. I plan to have a full staff back by June 30.

“We all wear N95 masks and have shields and gloves. We keep track of our own temperatures in writing. In fact, we’ve also taken this time to write down almost everything we do.”

FLOW

“Everyone makes an appointment—for frame styling, dispensing, etcetera. We have no more than one person in the optical and one in the exam area at any time.”

PROTOCOLS

SCREENING. “We text patients to prescreen the day before.”

ON ARRIVAL. “We check temperatures and also oxygen levels. We added touchless soap dispensers, and patients must sanitize or wash their hands.”

EXAM. “We have a Zeiss shield for the slit lamp, and I added one on the phoropter. We’ve mostly eliminated tests that require face touching.”

WAITING. “We keep the door locked but have a bench out in front. Patients can wait there or in their car.”

OPTICAL

“Each patient gets a frame tray. They sit down and we bring frames to them.”

INITIATIVES

“I used this time to rework the business. We’ll continue with telehealth...you can’t take something away just because you’re back open.

“We’re also adding an online optical and will also be selling contacts, vitamins, and eye drops online. I just put in an edger, and we’ll continue doing virtual frame styling.

“This time we were all taken by surprise. If it happens again, shame on us if we’re not prepared.”

TRENDING VIDEO READY TO REOPEN

EB Editor-in-Chief Erinn Morgan takes a virtual tour with Adam Ramsey, O.D., as his Florida practice, Socialite Vision, reopens for standard vision care. Watch the video here.