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The field of eye care is strong and will continue to grow—with an aging population comes an increase in conditions that affect the eyes. Make sure your practice is ready to seize the opportunity to provide high-quality ophthalmic care, serve more patients, and achieve greater success.

Improving efficiency enables you see more people each day—both first-time care-seekers as well as established patients. However, it shouldn't mean rushing the visit. Instead, consider each aspect of the patient experience and how to make it as thorough and effective as possible.

Look at the office layout

Begin by making sure the layout of the office makes sense, with the pre-testing room near the front and the dilation room close to the exam room. In ophthalmology, instruments take up valuable space—make sure equipment is located in a way that does not interfere with the movements of staff and patients. Human traffic should flow in an orderly way. 

Make patient check-in go faster

When a patient checks in, does completing paperwork or obtaining their health plan member ID number take more time than necessary? There are many ways to help smooth out this process. Practice management software, such as NextGen® Enterprise PM, allows you to automate the check-in workflow. If your practice already configured its workflow for check-in, take a second look. Consider whether anything is missing from the workflow that makes it necessary for staff to perform additional clicks. Is a section of the workflow consistently ignored because it’s no longer in use? 

Consider implementing technology to decrease need for face-to-face interaction in routine check-in procedures. For example, NextGen Healthcare offers:

  • NextGen® Enterprise Patient Portal—enables patients to access forms ahead of the visit
  • Instant Medical History—provides each patient a symptom-specific, digital questionnaire that uses branching logic, allowing the patient to enter their health history while in the waiting room
  • NextPen®—captures discrete data electronically as the patient fills out intake forms; this smart digital pen syncs data up directly with the patient's EHR 

Assess and enhance efficiency at exam-time

Consider breaking down the exam step-by-step. Provide staff with a script for each step so the patient is educated throughout the process. Assess the time spent by patients in each phase of the exam.

When the patient is called, consider how much time it takes for them to move into the first testing room. What’s said to the patient during this time?

Assess the amount of time patients spend in the testing room. This step-by-step approach helps to schedule patients more efficiently. It also alerts you if one technician takes much longer to complete a portion of the exam compared to others.

Suppose, for example, the average time a technician spends in an exam room after testing is 12 minutes, but a technician named Mary usually spends 18 minutes. Mary may need help with her refraction technique, or she may just enjoy talking to patients and need a gentle reminder to move more quickly through the exam. 

You can use the Patient Tracking feature in NextGen® Enterprise EHR to monitor the amount of time patients spend during each phase of the visit and run reports with aggregated information. This helps alert administrative staff to any bottlenecks that need to be addressed.

Implement time-saving technology

NextGen® Enterprise EHR offers features such as:

  • Template Defaults—preloaded favorites for content in workflow templates
  • My Phrases—a tool for accessing preloaded content

These tools are invaluable for saving time when documenting care.

NextGen® Mobile saves even more time. The doctor can dictate his notes by clicking a button on his cellphone or tablet. Documentation can be completed according to preference—through front-end speech recognition software, back-end transcription software, or a remote scribe—eliminating the need for a scribe in the exam room. Key EHR tasks can be performed via cellphone.

Imagine an ophthalmologist tapping on his phone, putting it down by the slit lamp, and dictating findings while examining the patient, as was done traditionally by having a scribe in the room. When the exam is finished, he or she can send the recording off to be entered into the patient’s chart via the remote scribe. NextGen Mobile can make documenting diagnoses and entering charges faster as well. 

You can take slit lamp photos by placing the lens of a smartphone flush with the slit lamp ocular. Using an adapter allows you to obtain higher quality photographs. With NextGen Mobile, you can upload these photos onto your cell phone and:

  • Share them with colleagues
  • Have them entered into the patient's chart
  • Annotate them directly on your cellphone using talk-to-text functionality 

All of these features save valuable time.

Combine technology with training

With the proper training of staff and available technology, your practice can be more efficient than ever. By making sure each technician understands their role during the exam, configuring your practice management and EHR systems more precisely, and implementing mobile technology, you can help ensure each patient has a thorough, efficient exam and receives optimal care.

Please reach out with any questions. My colleagues at NextGen Healthcare and I are happy to help you seize opportunities for greater success in the practice of eye care. 

Meet NextGen Ambient Assist, your new AI ally that generates a structured SOAP note in seconds from listening to the natural patient/provider conversation.

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Kristi Bolinger

Director, Specialty Solutions