You may have noticed an influx in patients at your ophthalmology practice over the course of the last year; wait times may have increased in length, more surgeries may be scheduled, and new patients are likely arriving at a faster pace. That's because the number of individuals seeking ophthalmology services is increasing nationwide.
The growing popularity of corrective eye procedures is one reason for this increase. Eye procedures once considered to be major operations, like the LASIK or PRK eye surgeries, are now seen as safe and viable options for individuals with poor vision. More than 12 million people have had LASIK eye surgery alone since 2002. Ophthalmologists are also witnessing an increase in younger cataract patients, which is likely the result of better detection methods and a host of environmental factors that contribute to overall poor health.
Additionally, as the baby boomer population ages, more will be in need of procedures to treat cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and other eye conditions common among the elderly. In fact, for the next 20 years, 3 million baby boomers will enter the Medicare system each year; this will undoubtedly mean more patients for eye care professionals. The introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already resulted in significant increases in Medicaid procedures performed in 2014 and 2015.
So as your ophthalmology practice prepares to treat an increasing number of patients, how can you ensure quality service continues?
As your practice expands, you'll need to ensure that your staff is prepared to meet new demands. Focus staff meetings on new strategies for scheduling, patient accommodation and staffing, and actively listen to what your team has to say about how they're managing increased levels of patients. Be sure to hire more staff as needed to avoid stretching your current staff too thin.
It's important to maintain the latest technologies and instruments in a practice to ensure that procedures are conducted as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Investment in these items will yield valuable pay-offs to both patients and ophthalmologists. Regularly assess your inventory of tenotomy scissors, vitreoretinal forceps, toric markers and other surgical tools to ensure that they're in top condition, and consider if newer models would make your surgeries more effective. Keeping an eye out for advanced technologies will also help increase the efficiency of your practice, and in turn, help you treat more patients.
Regularly ask patients to conduct a satisfaction survey to provide feedback of their experience at your office. Are wait times too long? Are doctors and staff as attentive, organized, and accommodating as they've always been? Were there any issues with scheduling or payment processing? How your patients feel about their experience in the coming years can be an indication that it's time to expand your practice, hold off on accepting new patients, or continue in the same manner.