3 ways to optimize your office staff

3 ways to optimize your office staff

Paraoptometric Recognition Week, Sept. 14-20, is the perfect time to note that how ODs hire and train staff matters more than ever. As optometry moves toward a more comprehensive medical care model, juggles new quality reporting requirements and takes on additional patients who have recently gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), staff has been taking on more complex duties.

As highlighted on page 32 of the September edition of AOA Focus, ODs can take a number of actions to optimize their office staff.

Upgrade your technology. Many ODs say the addition of digital and online technology has led to many improvements in office efficiency, in turn driving a shift in office roles. Chad Fleming, O.D., who practices in Wichita, Kansas, and is the business and career coach for AOAExcelTM, shifted from a traditional phone patient-reminder system to an automated, digital system to improve efficiency. "Where we once had staff calling patients to remind them of their appointments or that glasses and contacts were ready to be picked up, we now have an automated system with text messaging, emailing or phone calls that does all of that," Dr. Fleming says.

Keep it user friendly. Even with excellent software, meeting requirements for programs such as meaningful use and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) requires careful planning. "PQRS was a real challenge for my staff to adopt," says Carey A. Patrick, O.D., a therapeutic optometrist and optometric glaucoma specialist who practices in Allen, Texas. Because Medicare patients didn't factor heavily into her patient base, her staff struggled to figure out when to include the PQRS codes. She resolved this issue by changing the way the exam templates were set up in her office's EHR, making the process more seamless. With a different protocol and better tools to meet their goals, Dr. Patrick says her staff is finding it easier to add PQRS codes to exam records these days.

Expand their duties. Improvements in efficiency mean office staff have been called upon to do other, more complex jobs. That may include taking a patient's blood pressure, gathering information on patient medications and understanding a patient's social history as well as counseling patients on tobacco use, says Rebecca Wartman, O.D., a member of the AOA Third Party Center Coding Committee. They are also taking on insurance claims and bookkeeping work. The AOA has responded to these changes, offering associate membership to paraoptometrics beginning in January of this year.

ODs have the opportunity to celebrate their staff's work during Paraoptometric Recognition Week Sept. 14-20. For tips and resources for recognizing your staff, order a promotional kit from the AOA by emailing ParaRecognition@aoa.org.

September 8, 2014

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