Create a space for kids in your office

September 25, 2015
Doctors share their tips for keeping kids comfortable during visits.
Little Eyes optometric office

Katherine Schuetz, O.D., owner of Little Eyes, a pediatric eye care practice in Indiana, optimized her waiting room for maximum client satisfaction.

Excerpted from page 50 of the September 2015 edition of AOA Focus

When running an optometric practice, patient satisfaction is of the utmost importance. But how can doctors keep even the youngest patients comfortable and content when visiting the office?

Katherine Schuetz, O.D., owner of a pediatric eye care practice in Indiana that serves children from infancy through age 13, keeps little ones at ease by adding some fun to her office.

The waiting room of her Little Eyes practice has kid-friendly furniture, toys and an old-school arcade game. After an exam is complete, each child gets a token for the "Treasure Tower" where they can choose a prize for a job well done. Aside from these kid-friendly perks, Dr. Schuetz notes that good staffing is crucial.

"The most important thing is to have staff that likes and is good at working with kids. It seems obvious, but we've had staff who genuinely like kids, but have had a hard time doing the actual testing in a fun, quick manner. The right team has been the greatest part of our success," says Dr. Schuetz.

Glenda Brown, O.D., who sees a lot of children at the Thomas Eye Group in Atlanta, wants to make her patients comfortable before they even enter the exam room, which starts with a seamless check in. Because pediatric patients often come in with at least one parent or other caregiver, and often siblings, a well-trained staff and electronic health records help make checking in organized, orchestrated and fast.

But the real kid-friendly highlight of the Atlanta practice is a pediatric movie theater.

"The hardest part of the exam is the dilation, so to make it easier for the child, we have combined our drops together so that just one or two drops are instilled. Staff lets the child know that as soon as the drops go in, they get to go to the movie theater. The parent can sit with the child in the theater or sit right beside—where there is a window they can see in to their child," says Dr. Brown.

She extends the experience by giving each child her full attention and often singing to toddlers. The appointment is topped off with stickers and kid-sized dilating glasses.

Although these kid-friendly amenities and perks may seem just-for-fun, there's a real benefit to putting kids at ease when they visit the doctor's office.

As Dr. Brown states, "Our overall goal is to make the family's experience the least stressful as possible by being quick, efficient, caring, knowledgeable and fun!"

For Dr. Schuetz, it's not enough to ensure that kids are content when they visit her practice; she also wants to make sure each child receives quality eye care.

"When kids are comfortable, we get excellent retinal pictures from 2- and 3-year-olds, along with autorefractions. If they're scared and uncomfortable, the doctor gets nothing to start with, which means more time in the exam chair. Having the kids feel excited and comfortable gets us good data" says Dr. Schuetz.

Learn how AOA efforts have ensured regular access to eye care for children, and helped to change the public's perception about when to see a doctor of optometry, in the September 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

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