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Lights, Camera, Action: Our Journey to Reopening
During COVID-19, I've paid close attention to what my peers are doing in their practices. It has been very informative to hear how doctors are modifying their patient care during the pandemic, and my practice has benefited from those learnings. I’m sharing my experiences now in hope that I too might help someone embarking on this journey.
When my practice closed for routine care, I took advantage of the downtime to educate myself via numerous webinars from VSP® and other companies in our industry. We wanted to treat our patients remotely, so telemedicine training got us quickly up to speed. Webinars on finance showed us how to manage the different grants and programs available during the pandemic.
Preparing for Reopening
As we got close to reopening, we wanted to be sure we had all the necessary protocols in place so our patients would be comfortable and safe. The Practice Reopening Guide from VSP was very helpful. It basically organizes into a physical list all the tasks and items required to safely reopen. It was easy to go through the list and ensure our practice was set up to safely see patients.
During the process, we made several changes to the practice to facilitate social distancing and increased sanitation—and we found that many of the changes are improvements that we plan to keep indefinitely. For one, we trained our optical staff on frame and lens selection to minimize the number of frames patients try on that then need to be sterilized. Now, our optical staff is much more involved in interviewing patients and asking them specific questions to narrow down their choice. As a result, the frame selection is much more efficient, and the role of our staff is elevated as we highlight their expertise.
We also implemented a touch-free check-in. Patients prefill their check-in forms online prior to their appointment and call us from the car when they arrive. This facilitates social distancing while at the same time creating an enhanced, more streamlined experience for the patient.
This short video illustrates the steps we took to prepare for reopening—it may be helpful to other doctors preparing to reopen, or to patients who want reassurance that they will be safe coming into the practice.
When we reopened for routine eye care, patients were clamoring to make appointments. We made it a priority to stay in touch with them through the closure, sending weekly emails with our status and the efforts we were taking to make the office safer. Sharing the video about the specific protocols in place reassured them that it was safe to come in, and several of our patients have shared how appreciative they are that we took the extra time and effort to make these changes.
I believe that the future of our profession is bright. As I see it, this pandemic has highlighted the essential role we play in our patients’ health. And, although we have made tremendous strides with telemedicine over these past couple of months, nothing can replace an in-person patient-doctor experience. It might take some time for us to get back to normal, but we are a resilient group and we’ll get there—probably even stronger than before.