Melissa Teaches Me a Lesson About Data

So much data In today's word, the most successful organizations are the ones who best collect, sort, analyze and react to data - right?  The amount of data we can collect about our practices is endless. Percentage booked, income per exam, optical capture rate, and satisfaction survey results. The list can go on and on.

It's all in our patient care too. We have worked hard for years to become better and better at collecting patient care data. And I must say, we are good at it. We use computer programs and images from advanced diagnostic equipment. We can measure microns of nerve fiber thickness, microvolts (or something) of optic nerve signal and catch the tiniest changes in macular thickness. We display all of this data on a big screen to analyze it and expertly explain it all to the patient.

We have instant access to countless pieces of data regarding any patient at any moment. Insurance coverage, co-pays, deductibles and balance. Age of current glasses, time since last exam, replacement schedule of contacts. I know VA's, CD's, EOM's and IOP's. I can record your ICD-9 and my CPT. Clickity, clickity, click.

This data is instantly available for the rest of the team to proficiently continue the process.  (Just like we wanted.)

But.....there's a twist.

This week, for reasons I won't bore you with, we were experiencing problems. Our normal system is for the technicians to enter the room near the end of our exam.  As I transfer care to the tech, they escort the patient to the next area, usually the optical. Right on schedule, the door opens and Melissa walks in. I am disappointed to see it's Melissa and begin wondering what's wrong.

It's not that Melissa isn't capable or even good, she's great. Melissa invented our technician system. She is a part of the original Leadership Team, the founder of our Orientation Program  and still who we all turn to in stressful times. Currently she is working on improving the front of the house. She hasn't been in an exam room in years. So my question was, "Where is everybody?"

A little distracted, I continue with my dissertation about the images on the big screen t.v. Pointing to the screen, I continue to explain how the OCT findings relate to the photos and fields. This new test blah, blah, blah.

Then I hear Melissa, "Mrs. Riggs, do you understand what he is saying?"

I turned and saw instantly what sparked Melissa's question. In my exam chair sat a confused, overwhelmed little old lady who was trying to decide what to name her seeing eye dog.

While in the exam room, Melissa also showed genuine compassion for the patient in more subtle ways too. She moved the big monitor away from the patient's side so she could guide her into the slit lamp. That helped me and the patient.  And when the patient started asking questions about unrelated issues, obviously more relaxed, Melissa took over. She said, "I have a nice video up front that explains that very well." As they disappeared down the hall, I knew the patient was in good hands.

The way we used to be.

Melissa's unexpected entry into the exam room showed me how far we have drifted from who we are striving to be. By having a visit from "The Technician of the Past" I can see that we sometimes let data take too much of a prominent role. And because of that, we can take our eyes off of what matters to the person right in front of us.

Same is true for the staff, the team members that bring that care to those people. As you advance your practice with new technology, new efficiencies and new advances stop to look at it from the patient's view and the staff's view. And schedule a time to look at it again with an open mind.

What was she thinking?

I talked to Melissa about our "experience" and asked her to share what she was thinking while in the room.  Look for that side of the story next week.

Until next time,

p.s. While writing this, an old song kept popping in my head.  Think you know what it is?  Click here to find out.  Just the part up to "Ba da da da da da da".