COVID-19 changed this practice’s appointment model and patient education—for the better
Like most eye care practices, Kugler Vision in Omaha, Nebraska, faced major disruptions to their business in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit. State-mandated shutdowns closed practices for elective procedures such as laser vision correction—Kugler Vision’s core offering.
The practice was set up to offer telemedicine before the pandemic, but didn’t do much with it. The same was true for Rendia: Kugler Vision was using it occasionally in the exam room, but it wasn’t integrated into their appointment model. That all changed last spring.
Switching to virtual visits and digital patient education
After seven weeks, Kugler Vision reopened in April 2020. Virtual visits became their primary method of seeing patients, and the practice deployed Rendia’s Exam Mode for use during telemedicine appointments.
Lance Kugler, M.D., medical director and one of two refractive surgeons at the practice, typically used a plastic eye model for in-person exams, which didn’t translate well to virtual visits. Exam Mode is a much better solution, he said. “In a telemedicine situation, a 2D physical eye model is not very valuable. It’s more effective to use a tool like Rendia’s Exam Mode that’s optimized for a screen.”
Kugler Vision has seen about a 10% increase in conversion rates for elective surgery since switching primarily to telemedicine appointments using Exam Mode
Exam Mode shows realistic, interactive, 3D views of the eye’s anatomy and lets providers fly through the eye to explain anatomy, show condition progression and demonstrate the benefits of various treatment options. With the click of a button you can show patients what myopia does to the eye, for example, and animate a Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) procedure. This can clear up misconceptions and move the conversation forward.
Since switching primarily to telemedicine and integrating Exam Mode into patient consults, Kugler Vision has seen about a 10% increase in overall conversions to LASIK, SMILE, PRK, corneal inlays, and RLE.
Embracing a new hybrid appointment model
Even after routine office visits resumed, Kugler Vision continued using telemedicine, implementing a hybrid appointment model that many medical practices have adopted for its efficiency and reduced risk of COVID-19 exposure. Patients come into the office for their diagnostic exams, and then schedule a short telehealth consultation at a later date to review the results with their surgeon.
This model saves significant time for the practice, according to Kugler Vision. The diagnostic visit is more efficient, since there is no scheduling around or waiting for the doctor. And it benefits patients, too—they are typically in and out in less than an hour.
The telemedicine portion is more streamlined as well. Dr. Kugler can log on promptly at the appointment time from anywhere and see seven or eight patients in a two-hour period, he said. “No time is being wasted—not my time or their time.”
Telemedicine was especially helpful during the winter months when inclement weather kept people at home. Virtual visits allowed Dr. Kugler to keep his appointments without cancellations or rescheduling.
Engaging and educating patients remotely with Rendia
A perhaps unforeseen benefit to the new appointment model is that patients are more relaxed and receptive during a telehealth visit, noted Dr. Kugler. Previously, when he would see patients in the office, they might be nervous or uncomfortable, either due to the medical environment or because they might be dilated. Under these conditions, many patients are not able to process information well.
In comparison, when they are at home on their computer, they are more able to concentrate. Dr. Kugler will share his screen to show the patient Exam Mode animations and scans of their own eye. “I actually find it to be a more engaging and personalized experience than being live in an exam room with a patient,” he said.
“I actually find [telemedicine appointments] to be a more engaging and personalized experience than being live in an exam room with a patient.” – Lance Kugler, M.D.
Dr. Kugler also uses Rendia’s Outcome Simulator during telemedicine consultations. This advanced vision simulator can be customized to patients to show them what their current vision looks like, and what it could look like after various treatment options. “That’s been very valuable in terms of explaining the side effects of lenses, like halo and glare. The visual is important for people,” he said. “It’s easier to use in telemedicine because I’m already on the computer.”
By showing them customized views of their current vision, Outcome Simulator has the added benefit of helping build trust with patients, said Dr. Kugler. “If you can prove to patients that you understand what they’re seeing, then they’re going to trust you to fix it.”
Helping to train practice staff
In addition to helping the practice increase its patient conversion rate, Rendia has been a valuable tool for Kugler Vision to train their business development staff, some of whom come from other industries.
“There’s no way we would be where we are without Rendia.” – Bret Martin, Kugler Vision
As with patients, employees unfamiliar with modern eye surgery may have fears or misconceptions about it, and Rendia videos combat those fears with clear, simple animations. Rendia is an informative and effective way to increase staff members’ knowledge of the various techniques and procedures they may discuss with patients. This is important, since your own practice staff can be a great source of referrals.
“There’s no way we would be where we are without Rendia,” said Kugler Vision business development manager Bret Martin. “Rendia really shows how easy it is.”
Rendia: A key component of doctors’ telemedicine offerings
While at the beginning of the pandemic it may have seemed that telemedicine was a stopgap measure during an unprecedented health crisis, it has become clear that virtual care offers significant benefits for doctors and patients alike and is here to stay.
According to Medical Economics, telemedicine is here to stay and “it will largely dictate the future of healthcare.” A study found that 83% of patients expect to use telemedicine after the pandemic resolves.
Now that Kugler Vision has seen the benefits, the practice will continue offering virtual visits wherever possible. While a common concern is that patient education is more difficult or impersonal during telemedicine appointments, Dr. Kugler said, “I would argue with Rendia, it can even be better.”
To find out more about how Kugler Vision leveraged Rendia to achieve 10% higher patient conversion rates, download our case study.