Heather Starling, OD, believes in the power of the doctor-patient connection. For years, her practice sent out birthday greetings to patients, penning cards by hand and sending them via regular mail. She also sent surveys through the mail in order to assess patient satisfaction with the quality of care they received in her practice. Finally, like most practices, she dedicated a staff member to manage appointment reminder calls. She gradually moved many of these functions to email, but they were still labor intensive.
“We kept lists of patients and had to actually send out the emails using Excel spreadsheets,” recalls Dr. Starling, owner of the Starling Eye Group in Gainesville, Florida. “Reminders were done by a staff person a few days prior to the patient’s appointment. We sent out surveys weekly to all the patients that had been seen that week—again manually. It was starting to take up quite a bit of our time.”
The optometrist strives to keep her practice “modern and up-to-date,” so it was natural for her to take the step to use technology to enhance her patient outreach and communications efforts. She did just that in July 2011 when she decided to use the Solutionreach patient relationship management platform. The company offers an all-inclusive suite of customized patient communication tools—including email, text messaging and customizable landline phone calls—for a flat monthly fee, and now Starling Eye Group uses the service to perform many of the functions it did manually in the past.
“Solutionreach made everything seamless,” Dr. Starling says now. “It is just one more tool that we use. Patients love it and comment about it all the time.”
Specifically, Starling Eye Group has integrated the Solutionreach SR Engage bundle of services into its marketing and communications efforts. The practice uses the platform, which is designed to promote patient care, retention, loyalty and advocacy, to send out appointment reminders (via text, email and voicemail—depending on what median patients prefer) as well as post-appointment surveys (usually by email) and other patient messaging, including birthday greetings, eye health tips and special offers. The practice also uses the platform to send out practice newsletters, which include eye health information, practice news (new products and services and/or staff announcements) and special offers, and email announcements about special events, such as trunk shows. All of these initiatives, Dr. Starling says, build upon the connection between the practice and its patients.
“Most patients, we as eye doctors, only see once a year,” she explains. “Solutionreach allows us to be in closer contact with the patient throughout the year. Patients identify themselves as part of our practice. They love the birthday greetings—all patients get a text message on their birthday from the practice. It is much harder for patients to slip through the cracks as they get multiple messages when they are overdue for the exam.”
Dr. Starling adds that it is important to note that in the age of the computerized practice, Solutionreach integrates with the majority of practice management, EMR or EHR systems and automatically performs any necessary upgrades or updates. The system comes with a secure socket layer (SSL) connection—using 256-bit encryption—that keeps all the data transmissions safe.
In addition, Solutionreach only reads data from the practice management system, eliminating the possibility of data corruption or virus transmission, and the system is HIPAA ready. Perhaps most importantly, the fact that the system is fully integrated with practice management software means staff members don’t need to enter patient contact information into it separately, saving additional time.
“Solutionreach has freed up my staff and I am able to see more patients,” notes Dr. Starling. “We also have fewer no-shows due to the automatic text and email reminders my patients receive. We get a fantastic return rate on the post appointment surveys, which are invaluable in our practice and enable us to keep improving the patient care experience. Things that were taking up a lot of staff time to do manually are now done automatically. We have had a great return on our investment.”
Dr. Heather Moose Starling is a Board-Certified Optometric Physician. She specializes in primary family care optometry as well as specialty contact lens fittings. She received her B.S. in biology from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY and her B.S. in visual optics from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.
In addition, she received her Doctor of Optometry degree in 1995 from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Starling completed a residency in primary care optometry and ocular disease at The Eye Institute in Philadelphia, PA. In her leisure time, Dr. Starling enjoys horsebackriding and wakeboarding. She and her family reside in the Gainesville, Florida area.