Article

Staff Training

Pandemic Patient Care

We reveal how to train staff to handle fearful patients and manage the myriad new office processes

Consumers have seen their world turned upside down. And, business as usual will definitely not be part of the new normal for eyecare practices across the country.

So, how do you need to train staff to negotiate this new reality? That’s what we asked Bess Ogden, practice management director at Williams Group in Lincoln, NE.

Here she addresses many of the “new norms”—and how training will have to be part of adapting to them.

NEW SERVICES.

The Covid-19 crisis has actually brought about some practice innovations that Ogden sees as likely to stick, but will require training. “Reserving early morning times for seniors or those at higher risk may be worth continuing, as is providing telehealth services when possible,” she says.

Training Step: Inform all staff of your practice’s new services, hours, telehealth policy, etc., and write it all down on an information sheet for easy reference to avoid any confusion or miscommunication with patients in this time of constant change.

NEW PROTOCOLS.

“Staff needs to be trained on new cleaning protocols,” she shares. “For example, most offices have been cleaning twice with each patient—once right after the patient leaves and then again in front of the new patient.

“Also, most everyone is learning to verbally review safety and sanitization protocols multiple times—including in confirmation messages, during check-in, and in the clinic.”

Training Step: Cross-training is related to this. If your team had cross-training on a list of projects for “when there is time,” it is now a priority.

NEW NEEDS.

In today’s new normal, offices must provide affordable non-insurance eye care and materials options, ranging from budget packages to direct care programs (one fee for an exam and materials per year), Ogden suggests.

“Even patients who are working will be more frugal in the next 12 months,” she says, “and some employers may cut expenses by dropping vision benefits, leading more patients to consider money-saving eye care and eyewear options,” she says. [See EB’s True Value feature on price point presentation on page 30.]

Training Step: Medicaid is exploding, “and if a clinic accepts it, there will need to be careful planning and communication with the state about limiting or increasing volume”—and this information needs to be clearly communicated with staff as a training measure.

» A NEW MODEL.

Another need for training?

“The clinical optician model, where one staff member does everything from pretest through optical and checkout, is more compelling as it limits interactions and allows patients to minimize ‘touches,’” says Ogden.

When possible, larger teams should create staff rotations to limit the chance of everyone getting sick at once or having to all quarantine at once.

For practices big and small, “training will be critical to succeeding in this new normal, where everyone needs to do a little of everything.”

BESS OGDEN, PRACTICE MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR AT WILLIAMS GROUP

NEW VIRTUAL REALITY.

Training Step: A contactless experience will flow through every part of the practice, and you’ll need to train the staff on new protocols and procedures to ensure consistency for patients.

Reception: “Virtual or phone reception is the norm right now and could be helpful in the future, especially with less mobile or higher-risk patients,” says Ogden. She suggests a “reception-less office” during the current situation, and shares that many offices will continue some version of this.

Processes: Medical histories can be done virtually. “Some opticians are holding virtual frame and lens selects to limit physical proximity, and I think this will carry forward,” says Ogden.

Ordering: If you do not already have contact lens ordering available on your website, now is the time to make that available and streamlined. “This has been slow to catch on,” Ogden shares. “But [it] will probably continue, since it is more convenient for offices and patients.”

Delivery: Curbside pickup or drive-up services have become a necessity and may continue to be valuable for patients.

—STEPHANIE K. DE LONG

+ BIG IDEA

Williams Group has launched a new online learning platform for members, designed to “fill the need for high-quality optometric training,” explains Ogden, “that can be done online at the learner’s schedule via a mobile app, with live support and coaching.” thewilliamsway.com