A Roadmap to Reopening
As restrictions on routine eye care lifted in Nevada, the idea of opening our six practices made us both excited and anxious. We were relieved and happy to see our patients again, but nervous about the safety of staff and patients in this new patient care world. To help ease some of those fears, we put together a comprehensive roadmap for reopening safely.
The planning process was undoubtedly daunting. Our brand took years, really decades to build, and we knew we needed to make some drastic changes to accommodate this new normal—from our entrance policies to our lobby atmosphere, even our team-building culture. As we developed the roadmap, we vowed that the changes made would not sacrifice the parts of our practice that made us successful. We would continue to deliver the highest level of care, the most trusted eye exams, and the best selection of eyewear.
The first step was preparing the office. After a comprehensive deep cleaning and sanitization of all practice locations, we started by walking around each office, identifying all the touch points, and removing non-essential items—things like magazine racks and snack stations. We removed chairs and tables in the lobby and optical area to ensure social distancing, and installed plexiglass shields at check-in and check-out areas. We stocked up on cleaning and sanitation supplies and set up sanitation stations at the entrance and around the office. We produced “This area disinfected” signage for staff to display after cleaning. We implemented “used” bins for frames needing disinfection after being worn, as well as signage instructing patients to ask for assistance before trying on frames. In the exam rooms, we removed visitor chairs and made plans to encourage patients to come in alone or with necessary companions only, and installed slit lamp shields (a plastic divider from an office supply store will suffice temporarily) and plastic keyboard skins for easy cleaning.
We connected with our staff early to include them in the reopen plan and to discuss sanitization protocols, procedural changes, new workflows, and added duties. Doctors understand infection control and microbial transmission, but staff members might not. So, we trained staff on handwashing, proper use of personal protective equipment, and sanitizing effectively. We put a rigid cleaning schedule in place and assigned roles to ensure every area remains sanitary. We role-played patient scenarios with staff to prepare them for potential patient reactions to the new environment.
Next, we figured out how to adjust our patient schedule to facilitate social distancing. In the past, we’d have 10 to 15 patients in the office at one time. Now, our max capacity is five, ensuring a safe, spaced out flow throughout the two-doctor practice. We are scheduling patients accordingly, so they are all at different phases or locations of their appointment when all five are in the office. To help reduce traffic, we’re offering to mail eyewear to patients or provide curbside dispensing and adjustment.
Now that we’re open, patients complete a modified check-in over the phone prior to arrival. They are instructed to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer upon entering the practice. We screen patients for symptoms upon their arrival and take their temperature before beginning pretest procedures. We assess the health of our staff daily and are vigilant about sanitizing and wiping down pens, clipboards, anything touched. As I see it, there are a lot of extra steps for both patients and staff as we acclimate to this new normal, but we are committed to completing every single one to ensure the safety of us all.