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May 2010

More than a Mission Statement When first conceptualizing my practice, I had an idea of the feel of the practice and level of service I wanted to provide, well before I even knew I was going to start a brand new office. I believe most optometrists have an inspired image of what they want their practice to be, and some are probably excellent at making sure everyone (staff, patients, the community, etc.) knows what that is. However, I know that I, like many other ODs, could probably improve how consistently I communicate the mantra of my business.

No Better Place to Start...
If you are reading this and are at the beginning stages of your practice, or even just thinking about one day owning your own practice, there is no better time than the present to begin defining what you want your practice to represent. Are you going to be focused on superior customer service? Will you have the latest in technology and be a very medically-based office? Perhaps you will cater to the geriatric population or focus on pediatrics. Maybe your product quality will set you apart from the competition.

For experienced practitioners and practice owners, I invite you to examine what is already defining you. What do patients love about your office? Dislike? Wish could be improved? If you don't know, invite patients to fill out a short, several question survey over the course of a month. This should give you a good sample of responses to help answer these questions. When you know what you are working with, you can either continue on that same path or decide to make a change based on what you envision for your practice. Remember, if you are confused about what message your practice sends, chances are your patients are confused as well.

Constant Reminders
The first place to effectively communicate what defines your


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practice is with your staff. In my practice, we have mini weekly meetings as well as longer, more detailed monthly staff meetings. At the weekly meeting, I always have a customer satisfaction "pointer" and try to base it on a patient experience within the past week so it is fresh in everyone's mind. This pointer could be a suggestion on how to improve that experience or an affirmation of how well we handled the patient's office visit.

The monthly meetings consist of a practice strategy "tip," which usually focuses on selling techniques with our various products. I also include a section in the monthly agenda called, "What does Dr. Wesley do in the exam room?" This area highlights the multitude of tests or actions performed during the exam and an explanation of what this test tells me. I came up with this idea when I realized my staff was asking me about various notes in the assessment and plan section of my electronic medical records. I needed them to understand some of those plan items and recognized that they are not in the room with me (although it sometimes feels as though they are when we efficiently transfer patients from one office area to the other). By covering simple tests like retinoscopy, binocular cross cyl, and dilated fundus exam, my staff has a better understanding of what I do with patients.

Message Complete and Ongoing
Once your staff is educated and continually reminded of what defines your office and the message you want to send to patients, everyone should feel much more at ease in the daily functions of the practice. For instance, if one of my staffers is in doubt of how to handle a situation and there are no policy guidelines, they know that customer service is of highest priority. The staffer can now make a sound decision based on what is going to be best for the patient and the practice, all while maintaining excellent quality of care and service.

I can't stress enough how important it is to repeat your practice mantra to your staff, patients, advertisers, website creators, or anyone who projects your practice in some manner. I'm not only referring to telling people, but acting the part as well. If you hold what defines your practice in high regard, others will as well.

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