Empowering Staff to Elevate Dry Eye Practice

Jul 21, 2022
7 min read
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I believe every one of my patients deserves to be screened for dry eye disease. It’s one of the most commonly underdiagnosed and undertreated conditions that we as ECPs encounter. Dry eye disease affects every single part of our practices: refractions, optical, contact lens patients, co-management of surgical cases. The list goes on and on.

As eyecare practitioners, we have the opportunity to enhance our patients’ lives, health, and sight in so many ways, but day-to-day practice management can often overwhelm us. If you want to set yourself and your patient care apart from the competition, start by empowering your staff and yourself. Start with why.

Empowering your staff to empower your patients

Time is the one resource that we can’t make more of—technically. But investing in your staff and your colleagues has the potential to make small changes that will add up to large rewards over time—what author Darren Hardy calls The Compound Effect. These large rewards—practice efficiency, patient happiness, and more—can effectively create more time or at least the illusion of it.

Start with why you do the things you do. Until you and the people around know why you do something, it’s hard to truly empower your team and your patients.

Reading recommendation: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

We all know what we do: we provide comprehensive eye exams. A lot of us know how we do that: we train our team on systems and the specifics of how to deliver comprehensive eyecare. Our patients are the beneficiaries of this; they know they are coming to our offices to receive an eye exam. Maybe they even know if it’s going to be more of a transaction or an experience based on the interactions of the “how” you have implemented.

The patients have experienced the “how” before they arrive for their exam based on what we have taught our teams: how they answer the phone, what our website portrays, and what our reviews look like.

The why of eyecare practices

The “why” is what creates relationships between patients and practices. It’s what drives your decision-making. It’s the space created for teams to think outside the box. The “why” is what brings patients back to our offices, what keeps the right people on our teams. It’s the heartbeat of any organization. If there is no intention of giving that heartbeat the correct rhythm and lifeblood, it will beat erratically and give you plenty of heartburn and heartbreak along the way.

Be intentional. Do the work to discover your why and weave it into every part of your decision-making process.

Once you know your why, create the core values of your organization. Utilize those core values in branding, hiring, team meetings, coaching & development, key performance indicators, and systems-like patient recall, pre-appointments, and out-of-pocket patient expenses. They are the foundation and backbone of why you exist.

Doing so will create an environment where you, your team, and your patients have an alignment in beliefs. Reinforce them every opportunity you get so that you and your team are empowered to make decisions when things get tough. Understanding the why helps provide clarity.

What might that look like on a day-to-day basis? I’ll give you my example in my dry eye clinic and then you can reframe and run with it. Use your unique authenticity, individuality, and specialty to make it your own.

Bringing it back to the dry eye center

As an optometrist and practice owner, I want to do everything I can to help prevent, treat, and manage dry eye disease. I’ve seen the devastating effects it has on patients’ quality of life and I always wonder—could this have been prevented 10, 15, or 20 years ago?

This philosophy has helped me build a dry eye center of excellence. I’m so grateful for the doctors who screen their patients for DED, may not have the passion for treating it, but trust me to co-manage their patients.

My personal why: To Be an Inspired Leader Empowering Others: Collaborate. Educate. Elevate.

Practice why: Vision is Everything.

Practice brand and mantra: BeSpoke Vision. See. Be Seen.

Core values at BeSpoke Vision: Excellence, Growth-Oriented Self-Improvement, Integrity, Outward Mindset, Autonomy, and Team-Centricity.

I chose the word BeSpoke because it means “customized.” It invites my patients to ask what it means and why I chose that word. I love this! It gives me the opportunity to share our practice philosophy and what we believe with each patient.

In essence, it helps us tell their story: We believe that every person who crosses our threshold deserves to see their very best for life. They will be also be seen for the awesomely unique human they are, and we will have customized solutions for their needs. (By the way, it’s not just me who can tell this story; it’s every person inside our organization because patients ask them too!)

We have our core values listed with a brief description of what it means, how it looks on a normal day, and maybe most important—what it doesn’t look like on a typical day. We reinforce these through team meetings by asking people to share a moment they recognized a teammate living a core value. We have an all-day retreat with games that represent each core value. Quarterly conversations occur with leadership and each team member discussing embodiment of the core values and where there are gaps and room for growth.

We also hire and fire based on core values. Do the team member’s core values align with the BeSpoke experience? If they align the team member stays; if not, they go. This takes the emotion out of the decision and simplifies the process.

Core values in clinical practice

My team screens every patient with a questionnaire, and they have standing orders to perform osmolarity and MMP-9 on the patients who meet certain criteria. My team also does meibography to assess the structure of the meibomian glands.

I have all of that information before I even walk into the room. I utilize NaFl dye and a Wratten filter to look for staining and then I press on the meibomian glands to evaluate function.

This is done consistently with every patient and has become our standard of care. We evaluate quarterly what’s working and not working in this process, and we’re not afraid to change it.

Once a patient is diagnosed with dry eye disease and I prescribe their treatment plan, I rely heavily on my team to educate and empower the patient. The team member will review the plan, give the patient written instructions, demonstrate how to do the treatment effectively, and schedule the next appointment. They will also educate the patient about expectations for in-office procedures like intense pulsed light therapy (IPL), heat, and expression, and my ocular hygienist schedules deep clean eyelid procedures. This allows me to be more effective to a broader range of patients.

The dry eye journey

I’ve given you a glimpse into my thought process in the hopes that you can apply the same principles in your practice!

“Empowerment isn’t built overnight. It’s a journey, not a destination: you’re never finished.”

For me, it’s being intentional, consistent, and done in small steps. The compound effect of empowering those around you is priceless. It is time well spent and will pay dividends for years to come.

I challenge you to be brave. Share your why, be intentional about your core values, implement new specialties, and elevate your practice!

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About Selina McGee, OD, FAAO

Dr. McGee is the visionary founder of Precision Vision of Edmond, a boutique-style eyecare practice that specializes in dry eye disease, specialty contact lenses, and aesthetics. She is also the co-founder of Precision Vision of Midwest City, an MD-OD practice …

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