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: Relieve your colleagues’ stress, build your practice

Being a primary care physician must be one of the toughest jobs in the world, taking responsibility for the monitoring and maintenance of thousands of sick patients. One of the hardest parts must be coordinating the care between different specialists. Getting patients in with the right provider, overcoming insurance obstacles, retrieving and following up on consultation letters, and making sure patients follow the advice given are each time-consuming. To make this more stressful, PCP groups are now paid based on documented follow-up care from referred specialists, especially for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases.

As ophthalmologists, we can help our colleagues relieve this stress while building our own practices by promoting ourselves as offering coordinated services for specific diseases. For patients with diabetes, our practice created a “Diabetic Care Program” marketed to endocrinologists and PCPs who treat this condition. Patients referred into this program receive an annual eye exam (or more frequent if needed), and a regular follow-up document is generated to the referrer.

Does that sound like what you do already? It probably is, but PCPs may not know that. And you can go a step further by formalizing your follow-up by doing quarterly reports on your EHR system to make sure all patients with diabetes are seen when their appointment is due. You might also standardize the consultation form going back to the PCP to make sure it is concise and readable. All of these services give assurance to the referring provider that he/she need not worry about referred patients with diabetes. That relieves stress for PCPs and boosts their income when they can show the consultation documents you have sent. In other words, by making a small change in your practice and promoting it to PCPs, you can build their loyalty and likelihood of referring all their patients to you.

As I have written before, Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine, Sanofi-Aventis) is another medication that causes stress to rheumatologists and other prescribers. Its well-recognized ocular toxicity puts eyes — and doctors — at risk. By creating and touting a Plaquenil Center of Excellence in Orange County, California, our practice solves an important problem for area physicians while building the volume of our newer doctors.

As the cover story in this issue of Ocular Surgery News relates, oncologists are now creating their own type of ocular risk with immune therapies, and this too represents an opportunity for better care and coordination. Savvy ophthalmologists will help solve this problem.

How do you promote these services? Your primary “customer” here is the PCP, but remember he or she has no spare time to review elaborate marketing materials. A simple email from your practice with the subject line “Jones Eye Care Launches Diabetic Care Program” and a short explanation in the email body is enough to make them think of you on their next referral. The same could be done in a one-page paper promotional document left at their office. When communicating, remember to convey how you are solving their problem, and make it clear that all they have to do is refer.

Even if your practice is not trying to grow, adding and promoting these services is still worthwhile because it elevates your reputation and the service you provide to patients and colleagues. And it’s the way people deserve to be cared for.

Disclosure: Hovanesian reports no relevant financial disclosures.