Team work makes the dream work: a highly applicable expression when it comes to implementing a new Dry Eye Center of Excellence! Your office staff plays a vital role in recruiting and encouraging patients to participate in their dry eye treatment plans. Follow this 7-step plan to educate and engage your staff.
Step 1: Congregate
At the beginning, hold monthly meetings: to educate the staff and all providers on the science behind dry eye, your treatment protocols, definitions of terms, and language used to establish consistency amongst all staff. Use this time to review the interpretation of imaging and testing such as tear osmolarity and meibography. During the education phase, enlist your reps to facilitate educating your staff. Hold a lunch where you and your rep can present to your office staff how certain procedures and medications work as treatment options for dry eye. Clarify the process of medication approval as it applies to your office. Use powerpoints, eye models and interactive learning to hone in on the importance of treating dry eye. I would recommend scheduling these meetings monthly to establish consistent exposure to the topic for your staff.
As the clinic progresses, utilize this meeting to review the progress of the dry eye clinic. Discuss any patient feedback and scheduling concerns. Consider having a staff member demonstrate their knowledge by leading the education portion of the meeting. You might progress to quarterly once the staff shows progress. Regular meetings are encouraged as dry eye research and treatments are dynamic and staying abreast of new technology will only invest your staff further in developing your Dry Eye Center of Excellence.
Step 2: Demonstrate
Demonstrate a dry eye evaluation from start to finish on a couple of staff members. Use this exercise to have staff perform all testing and imaging that would be performed on a patient presenting for a dry eye evaluation. Synthesize a treatment plan for each model “patient”, have your staff explain all results to the “patient” and perform any in-office treatments recommended. At subsequent meetings, have the “patient” report back on improvement in symptoms and repeat any testing to demonstrate the efficacy of treatments. Your staff will believe in the treatments when they see and/or feel results. Encourage your staff to speak to patients about their own experiences during the work-ups to reassure patients that custom treatment plans are available to aid in relieving their symptoms.
Step 3: Educate
Involve staff in the process of treating and managing dry eye at every step of the exam. Evey staff member, regardless of whether they have direct patient contact, can participate and benefit from education and training on dry eye. Ensure that all providers in the office are also involved to ensure consistency with language used and standard of care protocols.
- Staff who answer phones might ask patients, “are you interested in scheduling a dry eye evaluation with our dry eye specialist, Dr. X?”
- Have the staff distribute dry eye questionnaires to every patient presenting for a dry eye evaluation/dry eye symptoms, and interpret the results. Ensure that work up technicians are briefly explaining any dry eye findings during testing to the patient. For example, your staff might say, “ Mrs X, your tear osmolarity results are positive for dry eye. Dr. X will be discussing the significance of your results during your visit.”
- Have staff briefly explain meibography/imaging results before you see the patient. At the beginning, you may consider being present in the room to “train” your staff member. Eventually, you can have staff prepare each patient for their dry eye visit with you by providing a brief overview of the testing before you see the patient. This will also aid in clinic flow and efficiency.
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Step 4: Delegate
If you have the option, I would highly recommend designating a “dry eye patient counselor” to assist with financial discussions and provide a point of contact for the patient should questions inevitably arise after the visit. The designated staff member may also facilitate your in-office treatment schedule by confirming appointments, performing certain in-office treatments and addressing any post-treatment concerns.
Step 5: Organize
Once staff members are fully trained, organize the patient visit into three sections: pre-visit, visit and post-visit. A staff member might enter the exam room to prepare the patient by briefly reviewing the findings with the patient and showing them a short video of their condition. Once the doctor has completed her visit, the patient is “handed off” to a staff member to complete the remainder of the visit, i.e. answer questions, review treatment plan and financing options.
Step 6: Participate
Enlist help of each staff member to assist with making education materials, i.e. patient education videos, handouts, product bags. Keep each staff member involved.
Step 7: Engage
Designate highly trained staff members to train newer staff members. Each staff member should gain basic knowledge of dry eye and your protocols.
Dry eye success is a team effort
Encourage your staff to engage with patients at every visit regarding their dry eye symptoms. A message of consistency should resonate throughout the office, ranging from explaining the importance of treatment compliance to interpreting imaging. Focus on patient education at the very beginning and ensure each staff member is participating. Incentivize your staff members for in-office treatments performed and motivate them to promote education to patients.
Investing in staff education is a vital component of enlisting the trust of your patients in participating in their treatment plans!