Biography/Disclosures
Biography: Johnston is the clinical and residency director at Georgia Eye Partners in Atlanta.
Disclosures: Johnston reports he is a consultant to Alcon, Allergan, Bio-Tissue, Johnson & Johnson Vision and Novartis.
July 24, 2020
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BLOG: COVID-19 induces practices to explore new efficiencies

Biography/Disclosures
Biography: Johnston is the clinical and residency director at Georgia Eye Partners in Atlanta.
Disclosures: Johnston reports he is a consultant to Alcon, Allergan, Bio-Tissue, Johnson & Johnson Vision and Novartis.
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Our practice was shuttered at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to all but emergent patients.

We found ourselves in uncharted waters, but our administration and executive team sprang into action and began whiteboarding our game plan in the face of this unprecedented challenge.

Rush to adopt technology

At first, we pushed ourselves at warp speed to adopt new technology; the most important and urgent was telemedicine. This was very successful for our practice, as we were conducting 90 virtual appointments a day during the shutdown.

Looking ahead to the immediate future, we considered how to incorporate new technology that we believed would be indispensable for reopening. This included touchless pay systems and “curbside” check-ins.

Josh Johnston, OD, FAAO
Josh Johnston

Now several weeks into the reopening phase, we have found there has not been such an urgent need to roll out new processes. Of course, we are diligently following the CDC guidelines regarding sterilization, masking and social distancing, and we have seen our patients returning in large numbers with our schedules full again.

Our demographic includes many older patients with a high demand for eye care services. Although I believed this population would not come back in large numbers until a vaccine was available, that has not been the case. The success of our website campaign reassuring patients of our safety and hygiene protocol as well as quarantine are contributing factors.

Dry eye

I am pleased to report that dry eye care has also bounced back, and I find myself even busier than before lockdown. These patients have a pent-up demand for services and procedures after quarantine, and many come in with a “give me all you got” attitude.

Performing more in-office procedures like LipiFlow (Johnson & Johnson Vision) and TearCare (Sight Sciences) also allows patients to space out their appointments. By increasing the number of device-based treatments, patients can reduce other types of office visits and use telemedicine in between.

While previously I may have been seeing patients every 4 to 8 weeks, now it can be 12-week intervals with virtual appointments in between. When patients do come in, I ensure the exam and my procedures have a significant impact, thereby optimizing office time and enhancing results and satisfaction.

Looking ahead

Our practice continues to invest in new technologies and will roll them out in a controlled and thoughtful manner. We know adopting these advances are important to our success going forward in the “new normal” of eye care practice. The pandemic and forced shutdown have allowed us to focus on our first principles, looking for ways to rebuild, and reevaluate the way we run our practice seeking new efficiencies. This is a time for all practices to reexamine their systems and innovate.

Practice culture, starting with leadership, plays a key role during this challenging time. We have ensured we retain the most committed and motivated staff, all stars who are ready to be more focused and aligned with the practice’s core values.

There are economic challenges still to come; however, indicators reveal that consumers’ investment in wellness has increased. Ultimately, people prioritize their health — and their vision.