By Samantha Ramcharran, L.O.
I get calls all day at work asking what our “new normal” is. Patients inquire about the length of exams, how to proceed when they arrive, anything that might have changed since COVID hit. Given our capacity limitations, while our doctors used to have the freedom to double-book patients and take walk-ins, that’s nearly impossible after reopening in June with lists of patients who needed to be seen. They are always filled to their new capacity and are booked almost a month in advance.
I’ve been curious and asking my customers about their experience in the exam during this pandemic. Most folks seem to be more content with their exams than ever before, especially the returning patients. They expressed how clean the employees are, sanitizing machines after each use, changing their gloves promptly, and keeping appropriate distances. While it seems that we have fewer exams, those procedures have us busier than ever. Feedback about the time spent with the doctor was that it was personable, and they had enough time to address concerns with less pressure to get through the exam. Since they are booking by appointment only, every patient gets extra personal attention. It isn’t only my location where the doctor’s office has satisfied patients with their hygiene regarding COVID-19. We have customers who shop with us and have prescriptions from elsewhere, who shared similar experiences. Despite having to wear a mask and maintain social distancing, I’m thrilled that people are coming to get their routine exams and are trusting that we are proud to do our jobs ensuring their safety and reinforcing good hygiene.
As far as buying eyeglasses, some people were afraid to come to the shop and began buying glasses online. I’ve noticed it’s a terrible option for progressives and higher prescriptions, especially myopes. It’s much better to sit with an optician for measurements so lenses can be precise, and custom made. We sanitize all our tools and measuring devices in front of patients before use, so patients feel more comfortable. But those who are afraid of coming out to get an eye exam should have no fear. EVERYONE throughout this pandemic has felt apprehensive about coming outdoors (whether they admit it or not), and it’s okay to have reservations about being around crowds. There are alternatives to going to a large optical; there are locations where opticians will service only by appointment, which is advantageous given the need to limit exposure.
For those who are hesitant about returning to pick up their new glasses, offer shipment to the patient’s home. Because progressives are a challenge to dispense at home, it’s more beneficial to have a licensed optician look at the fit and make proper adjustments. Those patients may be more comfortable with a curbside pickup. Always keep patients aware of policies to enable them to plan ahead with eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions. Patients need to know that once prescriptions expire, they will need a new exam to place an order. Because this is all going to be the new normal for the foreseeable future, encourage patients to take advantage of the time to have an annual eye exam. COVID-19 has affected everyone and it’s our responsibility to help patients plan accordingly for their health.
Learn about UVC technology for frame disinfection with our CE, Eyeglass Disinfection – Safe, Effective and Fast at 2020mag.com/ce. This course is free, supported by an educational grant from ZEISS.