Each of us has almost certainly been in our patients' shoes at one time or another and, unfortunately, has likely endured negative medical encounters.
In the world of elective medicine, particularly when it comes to cataract and LASIK eye surgery
, delivering a premium patient experience becomes paramount.
No detail of our patient interactions should be overlooked. I believe the overarching aspect of ensuring patients are treated with exemplary care lies in identifying and eliminating the most common pain points.
1. Eliminate wait time.
In survey after survey, the number one pain point for patients is wait time. How often are patients told to show up 15 minutes early only to be kept waiting well beyond the scheduled appointment time? We can all relate to how frustrating this is.
To eliminate this potential aggravation for patients, we have done away with the waiting room concept. Having a waiting room clearly communicates to patients that they are supposed to wait for doctors. But in reality, it should be just the opposite: the doctors wait on the patients, similar to how we would expect to be “waited on” during a dining or hospitality experience.
Optimizing the waiting room experience
Instead of a waiting room, we have lobbies and a digital check-in. The seamless process begins with a warm welcome at our first impressions desk, and then patients are whisked back to see the technicians and the doctors promptly.
Patients are meant to spend only a few minutes in our lobbies, which feature a hospitality feel with art and digital displays that contain informative and visually stimulating imagery. No doctor's office should feel like the Department of Motor Vehicles with 100 other people and a ticket machine where you pull a number and know you will not be called for an hour and a half.
Eliminating the waiting room challenges us to deliver on the promise of minimal wait time
. The way we achieve this is by making sure we have enough staff and sufficient square footage in our physical infrastructure to remove bottlenecks, allowing us to begin the patient encounter right away.
2. Provide quality time with the doctor.
Another aspect of the patient experience that is often disappointing for people is the amount of time they spend face-to-face with the doctor. They may have waited and waited, and then the doctor zooms in and out of the room, and they barely catch a word that was said before someone else comes in and wraps up the appointment.
Consequently, patients are left feeling like they have to decipher the instructions, and that they may not have had adequate personalized attention from their doctor. We prioritize our doctors spending as much time as necessary with patients, answering every last question.
We want to ensure they fully understand their condition and the next steps for their care
, with multiple people proactively asking if there is any other information we can provide or any further questions. From a practice perspective, this requires an investment of doctor time that recognizes patients are worth the 20 or 30 minutes if they need it every time. This is a direct consequence of adhering to our mantra: insurance is not the boss.
3. Establish that insurance is not the boss.
We have a sign posted in our billing offices that speaks to one of the fundamental core philosophies of our practice. Insurance reimbursement or coverage does not dictate the level of healthcare our patients may need.
We believe in presenting all options to our patients, regardless of what insurance covers or does not cover, and then allowing them to make the choice of what they feel is best for them and what they want to pay for.
That mindset creates a revenue stream that not only allows our doctors to spend as much one-on-one time with the patients as is necessary, but also ensures that we can continue to invest in up-to-date technology.
No ophthalmology practice would be able to allow doctors to spend 30 minutes with every patient relying on insurance reimbursements alone. Nor would they be able to afford the best new laser, the latest diagnostic device
, or advanced intraocular lenses
(IOLs) needed to deliver the visual outcomes our patients deserve.
4. Communicate value.
We are a refractive surgery practice
, first and foremost. As it relates to cost, the magic of refractive surgery is that it is a fantastic value. Strictly looking at the economics, patients can hardly afford not
to have refractive surgery compared to the cost of the alternative.
In fact, we even send T-shirts to our patients after they have had a refractive procedure that communicates this point—a cartoon of a head with the brain visible that says, "LASIK is a no-brainer. Do the math."
Figure 1 highlights the LASIK T-shirt from Dr. Parkhurst's practice.
Figure 1: Courtesy of Gregory Parkhurst, MD, FACS.
If a person has the surgery as soon as their refraction is clinically stable enough to be eligible, they will save tens of thousands of dollars over the ensuing decades compared to the cost of potentially risky contact lenses and expensive glasses. Often, people look at cost in a vacuum, focusing on the upfront expense today.
One of the ways we communicate value is by simply explaining the financial value proposition
using calculations spread out over the period of time that patients will experience the benefits (visual AND financial) of their procedure.
5. Adopt intentional scripting.
We achieve a consistency of messaging by relying on seamless information transfer from the practice to the patient. This starts with the initial touchpoint—before the patient even comes in—and continues throughout the check-in, the technician workup, the doctor encounter, the surgery scheduler, and after the appointment.
The communication must be consistent
, eliminating any chance of disjointed or contradictory messages from one member of the team to the next. We carefully consider the words we use and do not use.
This means we are very intentional about scripting every part of the experience, including:
- Content and information patients receive before they arrive. This can be in the form of video text messages, reminders, and emails.
- What the first impressions team member says to patients upon their arrival.
- The message transfer to the technician and then on to the patient during the diagnostic tests.
- The doctor's presentation.
- The hand-off to the surgery scheduler.
6. Provide a seamless patient payment method.
We explain to patients the charges associated with our fee for refractive surgery
and the separate fee for post-operative care, whether done in our office or if the patient chooses to be co-managed by their own doctor. In the case of LASIK
, there is no facility fee, whereas with cataract surgery
, the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) also has a corresponding charge.
We use the CoFi multi-party payments system for processing these payments, allowing patients the convenience of making separate payments to the two parties (or three in the case of cataract surgery) at one convenient time.
They do not have to swipe or sign more than once, yet separate charges are separately collected by each provider, and funds are directly sent from the patient to the co-managing doctor (and ASC, if applicable). Patients will see these individual charges itemized on their credit card statement, yet the patient will only have had one payment event or “swipe” of their card.
Reducing patient confusion with the payment process
Nearly every co-managing doctor we collaborate with is on the CoFi platform
. If they were not, the patient would have another payment event at that office. Because the patient will have already paid us at our office, they might forget that they still owe the post-op refractive services fee or be frustrated that they owe more money. There is much less room for confusion when the entire amount is collected at one time.
In addition to the ease and comfortable patient experience, the CoFi platform helps facilitate a compliant payment process by maintaining payment separation—the patient pays each party directly and separately. It gives me confidence as a compliance vehicle, and it is a seamless, efficient, and convenient benefit for patients.
A premium experience is paramount in elective medicine. Every touchpoint throughout the patient journey should communicate thoughtfulness, care, and concern.