John A. Hovanesian, MD, FACS, focuses his blog on new technologies and innovations and how ophthalmic practices can best incorporate them to benefit patients.

BLOG: If you could clone yourself

Doctors, what is your most valuable resource and the one thing every patient wants more of? Your time. Being an excellent doctor requires lots of listening and educating, and that takes time. Studies show that patients will forgive many faults in their journey through your practice, including long wait times, if they feel they got enough of your attention. Surgical patients in particular have many concerns and questions, and understanding proper expectations is so crucial for a happy outcome.

But giving more of the doctor’s time is not the only way to understand a patient’s needs and teach what he or she needs to know. Now, smart software can help. For several years, my practice and many others across the country have used an automated software called MDbackline. It automates conversations with patients. It’s not a chatbot like Siri but an automated web application that interfaces with EHR, detecting diagnoses, appointment types and medications. Driven by sophisticated branching logic, it contacts patients by text message and/or email, asking them questions securely and delivering situation-specific educational material at times they most need it. Naturally, it’s no substitute for a doctor, nor does it give medical advice. Instead it gives the type of learning material that might be provided by a technician or staff member by phone. It then sends designated staff members a report on each patient interaction with a visual green, yellow or red flag to alert them to trouble patients vs. the majority who are doing well. Fewer patient phone calls come in asking questions about routine matters because the system answers them proactively, saving staff members much time and meeting MACRA/MIPS criteria for a practice portal.

With smart software, the possibilities for enhancing patient care are limited only to your imagination, but one good example is the patient referred for a cataract consultation. MDbackline contacts the patient before the visit to learn about their visual habits and complaints. It gives broad information about the appointed doctor’s qualifications, what to expect and the practice’s refractive solutions in a brand agnostic way. In a single page report to the practice, it summarizes the patient’s background and suggests how likely the patient is to be interested in refractive upgrades and which ones might be a good fit for his or her visual desires and personality.

Once the patient is scheduled for surgery, it contacts him or her regularly on how to use eye drops and to remind him when to take out contact lenses before biometry and start his drops before surgery. After surgery, it coaches him through what to expect and what possible complications to report. It gives patients peace of mind much in the same way the doctor would if she or he had unlimited time.

MDbackline is now in use in a number of practices across the country where it has increased premium lens adoption by 22% to 46% and driven positive online reviews. It has modules for glaucoma and dry eye, automating many of the necessary but time-consuming conversations that would otherwise take our time in the office.

If you could clone yourself, you could spend your weekend going for a hike, tackling a “honey do” list, finishing that book you have been meaning to read and kicking up your feet while watching football, all at the same time. At work, every email would be read, every phone call returned, and you would always be current with your journals stacking up in the corner. More importantly for your patients, every question would be answered and every outcome would be followed up. As we ponder the possibilities — and the question of which clone would get to watch football — isn’t it nice to know that smart software can at least solve some of our patients’ problems?

 

Disclosure: Hovanesian reports he is the founder of MDbackline Inc.