Quality Improvements Ideas to Kick Off 2021

February 8, 2021
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Throughout 2020, ABO Diplomates shared their quality improvement activities (QIAs) with their colleagues through ABO’s On Board newsletter and on the ABO website. Based on the positive feedback we’ve received, we decided to continue this newsletter feature in 2021.

The focus of 2020 was, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and it continues to dominate the health care conversation as we begin this new year. Optometrists responded to the pandemic in a multitude of ways: instituting mask wearing, handwashing protocol and social distancing in the office; reducing patient scheduling and eliminating walk-ins; implementing cleaning and disinfecting regimens for exam rooms and optical departments; and asking patients about exposure risks and COVID symptoms. With the recent rollout of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, many optometrists are adding questions to their intake forms about whether patients have received or plan to receive a vaccination. ABO Diplomate Dr. Steven Holbrook of Bloomington, Indiana, received his first vaccine on January 3rd and was motivated to educate his patients and encourage them to also become vaccinated against COVID-19. He began discussing the vaccine with all of his patients and made notes about his discussions in the patients’ charts. At the end of January he pulled charts for 100 continuous patients and calculated that he had discussed the vaccine with 74% of them. Dr. Holbrook plans to continue this practice until the vast majority of his patients are vaccinated.

Over the past year, many optometrists turned to telemedicine either for the first time or more frequently than in the past. As ABO Diplomate Melanie Erickson of Alpharetta, Georgia discovered, the pandemic threatened patients’ access to care. Some of her patients were uncomfortable coming into the office due to health concerns, while other patients were limited by lack of transportation or work schedules. Having the ability to diagnose and manage minor eye issues via video chat relieved stress for many of her patients, and she plans to continue to utilize this option in the future.  Dr. Erickson found the Telemedicine module in the AMA STEPS Forward program useful in establishing her practice’s program. She found a few of the other STEPS Forward modules helpful in boosting staff morale and maintaining a cohesive team culture during this stressful time.

Despite the added stress of the pandemic, optometrists have recognized that some aspects of patient care and practice management never change, including the challenge of new CPT codes. The new CPT codes that went into effect on January 1, 2021 promise to make office encounter coding easier and more straightforward, easing the administrative burden on most practices. ABO Diplomate Kyle Dotson of Topeka, Kansas developed a flow sheet for CPT coding based on a recent CE webinar “Understanding New CPT Codes for 2021.” He incorporated the flow sheet into his HER, which guides him to select the most appropriate and precise code for each patient encounter. Dr. Dotson plans to review 20 random patient charts every 4 months to ensure that he is adhering to his template and using the new codes appropriately.

If you decide to implement one of these ideas or if you have a QIA that you’d like to share with your colleagues, we’d love to share your experience in an upcoming newsletter.

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