How to get your staff on board with new technology
It is not enough for doctors to believe in what new instrumentation can do for patients. To ensure your investments pay off and are incorporated into your practice, your staff must be willing to embrace them.
Here, two doctors share their individual approaches to getting associate doctors and technicians excited and involved.
Encourage participation, offer incentives
Agnes Palys, OD, is a firm believer in preventive care. “I’d much rather catch disease early, educate the patient, and then let the patient decide how far they want to go to protect themselves,” she said.
This philosophy has led to a few new purchases in the past several years, including an Optomap (Optos), a ClearPath DS-120 biomicroscope (Freedom Meditech) and an AdaptDx (Maculogix). But with each new purchase, convincing staff to take the necessary steps to test patients became more challenging. Committed to the cause of helping patients help themselves, Palys knew she had to do something to increase device use to ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Like many doctors, she started with a basic incentive program in which a modest bonus was attached to each test that the technician performed. The numbers increased a bit, but they did not reflect the doctor’s belief in the importance and value of all three tests, so she tried something new — she bundled the tests together.
“This saved the staff a significant amount of time and several steps because it now required one explanation vs. three,” Palys said in an interview. “Things were looking up.”
With the holidays approaching, Palys thought it might be nice to temporarily double the incentive so staff could earn a little extra. This was a game changer.
“The numbers soared,” she said, noting that the increased volume far surpassed the expense of the added bonuses. “Financially, our practice benefited significantly when we bundled these three important tests,” Palys said. “But our patients are the real winners because we’ve given them the knowledge and tools they need to protect their vision, rather than wait until it’s too late.”
When it comes to implementing new technology, there are many ways to lead change and encourage buy-in from staff, but ultimately success begins with the doctor’s genuine belief in the science and how it can help the practice provide better care. The right mindset is contagious — in a good way — and helps organically encourage staff enthusiasm.
Lead with passion, education
Everyone who works at Kirman Eye learns early on that fighting avoidable vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration is a top priority for Gary Kirman, OD, and, by extension, everyone else in the practice. This is a core value that never takes a back seat. Due to the impact of AMD on several of his family members, Kirman has been a staunch advocate of dark adaptation testing in optometric practice since the introduction of the technology in 2014.
“AMD is not the only focus in our comprehensive practice, but we know that it is three times more prevalent than glaucoma in our patient population, so our charts should reflect this basic truth,” Kirman said. “If they don’t, we have to ask ourselves what we’re missing.”
Kirman’s technicians are empowered to conduct the many necessary diagnostics test on all of the early AMD patients in the practice on a regularly scheduled basis. Additionally, the practice performs a dark adaptation AMD screening for every patient 55 years old and older. This important, patient-centered approach has long been a source of pride for the staff, but when Kirman announced that he was purchasing three new AdaptDx Pro headsets (one for each doctor), which use an artificial intelligence-driven onboard technician named Theia, the human technicians were a bit alarmed and somewhat resistant.
“They were worried that Theia would replace them,” Kirman said. But, in fact, the opposite has happened. “With Theia as their assistant, they are free to spend more time on other patient-related tasks.”
Optometry is a practice that improves with time and experience. Just as the doctor must learn and adapt to advances in technology, so must staff members. Whether you practice a wellness model or a medical model, saving sight is the most salient feature of practice to which optometrists must hold true.
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Amy Hellem, MLA, is a social and behavioral communication scientist and president of Hellem Consulting. She has published more than 200 articles and scientific papers and is currently completing her PhD research on how properly designed, persuasive nudges and improved choice architecture can be used to ethically influence behavior change in health care. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.