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Onboarding New Technology Takes Planning … This California Practice Has It Down to a Science

New gear gives their eyecare an edge, but careful attention is paid to the impact on staff, marketing, patient flow and their budget.

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The Biophotonic Scanner from Pharmanex.

WHEN IT COMES to deciding what new technologies to bring into your practice, and how to market and optimize that investment for your patient base, no detail should be left to chance. Dr. Margie Recalde, owner of Lifetime Optometric in Fresno, CA, has developed a highly systematized approach that ensures the practice stays current on innovations that will provide the best care for patients within its dry eye and myopia control specialties, while also providing current technologies for patients being seen for comprehensive eye exams and for ocular diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes.

THE IDEA

A key initial step in Recalde’s acquisition process is having every doctor, technician and optician at Lifetime complete an annual SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). “This has helped identify problems early on so we can start researching new technology before the old equipment stops working,” she says.

This allows Recalde to develop a wish list of possible items to consider for the year, “but the finances to support the purchase and the demand for that technology must be in alignment before I consider purchasing,” she says.

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THE EXECUTION

The process of selection begins by researching online to check which companies sell the technology Recalde is interested in. Typically she will then visit conferences to test equipment and meet reps — and hopefully take advantage of any deals — while talking to colleagues that have purchased the equipment. She also uses this time to size up customer service. “Some companies just want to sell you the product, but lack good [post-purchase] customer service.”

A quick run-through of Lifetime’s recent upgrades and acquisitions illustrates their commitment to staying current. Upgrades include switching from Daytona to California Optomap; an improved autolensometer; moving from Visioffice to the Optikam opticians’ fitting tool; upgrading from NCT to iCare; and an upgraded topographer (to Oculus’ Keratograph), OCT machines and slit lamp. Additions include OptiLight by Lumenis; antioxidant screening; LipiFlow; portable autorefractor; and IOL Master to measure axial length.

Recalde says her staff are excited to introduce new technology so long as they are properly trained on it. “Make sure … that training is provided,” she cautions.

Another thing to stay on top of is how new gear affects patient flow. One technology Recalde introduced made the work-up too long, causing her schedule to run behind. “I decided to decrease the amount of tests to the absolute necessary for the initial work-up. I save the extensive work-up for Lipiflow and/or Optilight to gather data before and after the Optilight sessions. This helps provide objective measurements to further emphasize improvement with the procedure,” she says.

Any time new tech is brought in, Lifetime promotes it on their website, and they plan to do more of this type of promotion across all social media platforms next year. Some suppliers will help with this, and Recalde says this can make a huge difference in launching tech that is new to an area. “Lumenis provided complimentary marketing services for the first few months. This included social media and internal marketing. They also helped me feature Optilight on a local news station. Within minutes we received phone calls to schedule a dry eye consult.”

THE REWARDS

For Recalde, the ultimate reward comes in those moments when new tech allows her to defy patients’ expectations. “Seeing patients’ faces after telling them that there is still hope in managing their dry eyes. Many of them have lost hope after failing on OTC and Rx eye medications.” Being able to provide multiple dry eye treatment options for patients is important, she says, because there isn’t a “magic treatment” that will work for everyone. New technologies like Optilight and Lipiflow have helped many such patients get the relief they needed to manage their dry eyes.

“Financially, dry eye has helped boost our revenue so we can continue staying current with the best technology.”

Do It Yourself: Source and Onboard New Tech Efficiently and Profitably

FINANCIALS. Discuss your plans with your CPA and whether they fit your budget. And meet with them towards the end of the year to determine if purchases are needed to offset paying high taxes.

ROI. Consider how many procedures will be needed to pay off the equipment and how it will affect patient flow.

MARKETING. Find out if the vendor offers support. “Connect them to your marketing company to help launch the product and definitely reach out to news stations!”

SELECTION. Annually, analyze your wish list and prioritize it based on need versus want, Recalde says.

PEER SOURCING. “Check with other doctors or social media to confirm ratings for customer support and staff training,” says Recalde.

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