Two Tested Tactics for Patient Experience from a Winning Ophthalmology Practice

By Sal Casillas

Pacific Eye Associates, San Francisco’s largest independent multi-specialty ophthalmology practice, is redefining the patient experience. With 14 doctors (including 11 board-certified) on staff, Pacific Eye Associates sees a very high volume of patients daily. The practices has created a new standard for effective care by constantly testing new patient workflows and implementing technology to improve the quality of healthcare and reduce costs at the same time. In our interview, their executive director shared two of their most impactful ideas.

The success of their medical practice is rooted in a commitment to making the encounter the best possible for the patient that often translates into testing out-of-the-box ideas. According to Scott Neilson, Executive Director of Pacific Eye Associates, “Every day is somewhat different and requires a commitment to the outcome. We don’t rely on a single game plan but credit our ability to reach our growth benchmarks in our capacity to recognize that moving toward a better care continuum is more closely defined as a juggling act rather than a foot race.”

One way Pacific Eye Associates has set a new standard for care is creating a “Greeter” position to support the front desk. Rather than having requests queued in a line at the front desk, the medical practice enables free-roaming Greeters with iPads to answer basic questions, check in patients, and direct patients to their designated areas.

“Our Greeter position has been an exceptional help in relieving work from the front desk while providing a personal touch to our patients. Any good system starts with something that didn’t quite work out as well, and the same applies to the Greeter position.”

For Pacific Eye Associates, the experience brought to light that finding the right person for the right position is more important than having the position filled.

“Although the Greeter position is strong, we quickly found that the wrong hire can be detrimental to the position itself. Having an effective people person in the Greeter position enabled patients to provide more genuine feedback and make the experience more personal for them rather than having a Greeter who was following a more robotic question-answer sequence.”

In an effort to be readily available for the patient during a visit, Pacific Eye Associates’ commitment to the patient experience has led them to redesign the layout of the medical practice facility and positioning staff members physically closer to patients.

“We found the physical position of staff members matters in the ability of our patients to communicate concerns. The farther away staff members were positioned from patients and the longer the patient had to walk around the practice, the harder it was for us in creating a proactive environment.”

Although the healthcare sector grows increasingly dependent on technology to deliver efficient and affordable care, patients still want to be cared for rather than fed into a structured system. Successful medical organizations recognize that the relationship between a patient and their doctor greatly determines both treatment outcomes and a patient’s satisfaction with their care. By incorporating a holistic commitment to improving the experience for patients, Pacific Eye Associates is creating a delivery of care mix that balances personal human touch with technological innovation.