August 2017 - Dr. Palmer Lee

Keep Up with Technology or Watch Your Practice Fall Behind

By Palmer Lee, OD August 23, 2017

I recently was asked to participate in a focus group with VSP Global. We took a deeper dive into the smart eyewear space, and it led me to think about technology overall—why it’s important for doctors to know more about smart eyewear and how it might directly affect my practice’s success.

Technology is changing our lives in so many ways. It’s making life easier and more convenient in terms of how we address patients, communicate, gather medical data, present choices in the retail part of our practices, and more. If we don’t keep on top of this thing, we will be left behind.

We are getting to a point where patients want an experience, not just an eye exam. For example, if I wanted to buy a shirt, I could do so online while sitting at home and have it delivered to my doorstep. But there are a couple of stores I just really like going into. I like the people who work there, and they always have new merchandise. Because going is a fun thing to do, I keep going. It’s the same in our industry. If it’s the same old, same old, patients are going to move to a more engaging experience ... perhaps even online.

To keep up with technology and to provide a good experience to our patients, we are constantly trying new things in our practice. We recently test-drove a product that allows you to take pictures of the patient on an iPad, showcasing what kind of frames to get. I had patients talking to other patients about it without us even encouraging them to. 

We use technology that digitally measures pupilary distance, seg heights, etc. One of our doctors had a couple who drove nearly two hours to our practice. After their exam, both patients, who were in their 60s, went into our optical retail space. They each worked with a different optician. After they choose their eyewear, the opticians measured their PD, seg heights, etc. One optician took these measurements electronically and one used the felt pen and PD ruler. We found out later that while the wife was talking about how cool the new process was with her husband, he said, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t get that. Should I drive back up?” He dedicated nearly four hours into his day—round trip—because he viewed the tech as more accurate. We don’t always understand how that impacts patients and their experience. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s very direct.

We’ve built our practice around a yearly comprehensive eye exam. If you come in and every year it’s exactly the same, it becomes routine and boring. But when we introduce new tech diagnostics testing, patients notice it. They love that we are cutting edge and stay on top of things. We’ve gotten so many compliments since moving all of our doctors to iPads. We keep eye contact with our patients instead of turning our backs to them. We can educate them from the exam room.

My practice is driven and inspired by new technology that enhances the patient experience, and helps maximize our time in the practice. We use something that scans your eyelids, which is a big thing with computer users, and patients are extremely impressed. You can show them pictures of their glands and they understand better what causes dry eyes and what can be done about them. With retinal scans, we upgrade to the newest ones. We have seen how technology can improve not only the patient experience, but also how we run the practice more seamlessly.

For instance, I can see on my Apple Watch while in Room 1 that another patient is ready in Room 2, or that my second patient didn’t show and I can spend more time with this patient. And the patient I’m with has no idea that I checked on that. Or I may get a call or voice message and I can see that on my watch, and assess whether I need to step out of the room to address it or not. It’s a huge advantage because patients don’t even really sense you are checking on these things while I’m talking to them.

As I see it, we need to give patients reasons to come to us and technology does that. Every patient that comes into my practice most likely passed four or five other offices on their way, and they still chose mine. We want to take care of those patients and make sure the moment they come in that they are being addressed until the minute they leave, just like a guest in our home. 

What technological advancements are you excited to implement in your practice?

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