Successful ODs focus on communication
By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcelTM Business & Career Coach
Optometry school students must master many things, including the often overlooked skill of interacting with others. A successful eye doctor must not only have the necessary clinical skills, but also the ability to communicate effectively.
Patients who leave an office or switch optometrists most often do so because of a breakdown in communication. Breakdowns in communication can occur all at once or over a period of time. As optometrists and business owners, we can teach our staffs to communicate effectively by modeling good communication throughout the work day. After all, communication skills are many times caught—not taught. Here some examples every staff member should be "catching" in your office.
1. Follow-up phone calls to patients. When was the last time you called a patient to further explain his or her case? My partner makes numerous calls daily to patients, and staff observe his leadership. This personal follow up with patients has become an important part of our culture. As this culture trickles down the hierarchy of leadership, loyalty is built between the patient and the office, resulting in sustainable practice growth. Just think: It started with a phone call.
2. Doctor-to-staff patient handoff. Patients are led around the office by staff and doctors all day long. Patients observe the communication that occurs and subconsciously put it away to reflect upon later. As the doctor, you have the opportunity to communicate to your patients how important they are to the practice. When you hand the patient off to the next staff member, repeat one or two of the most important take-home points about their care. You can control what patients remember about the visit when you use repetition to your advantage.
3. Owner to employees. Communicating with employees is often missed in the day-to-day operations of a practice. I know I have made mistakes in not effectively communicating to my staff. Staff need to feel they are an important part of the team. Taking the time to communicate to staff will pay dividends in staff buy-in, so when change occurs they are leading instead of resisting.
If your practice is struggling to grow or you are working harder and harder but taking home less money, consider reflecting on the culture that you have created as the practice leader. Is it a culture built on effective communication?