Informed Consent
Episode 32

Educating Your Referral Network About Advanced Technology

Neda Shamie, MD, and Mark Kontos, MD, join Marguerite McDonald, MD, FACS, to discuss how to build a strong referral network and update these ODs on the advanced technology that your practice is offering.

MARGUERITE: Welcome to Informed Consent: Getting to Yes. I’m Marguerite McDonald of Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island in Oceanside, New York. On this episode of the podcast, we’ll be talking about educating your referral network. Joining me are Dr. Neda Shamie, a cornea, cataract, and refractive surgeon with Maloney Shamie Vision Institute in Los Angeles …

NEDA: Thank you so much for having me.

MARGUERITE: … and Dr. Mark Kontos, a senior partner with Empire Eye Physicians, with locations in Spokane, Washington, and nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

MARK: Thanks, Marguerite. It's a pleasure to be here with you as always.

MARGUERITE: Today our topic is how to educate your referral network on advanced technology. So, how do you go about keeping them up on the latest?

NEDA: It's a very good question and a very relevant question, especially since recently we started the Light Adjustable Lens in our practice. We started the process by really working through every step. A side note would be just educating our own staff and our own practice, but really all the material that would go out to our referring doctors had to be updated.

That included from marketing material to postoperative plans and postoperative instructions. We updated that internally and then communicated that with the referring doctors so that they knew what their patients are getting when we implant this new lens implant.

Then we did a news blast to the referring doctors first announcing, creating an excitement and hype about the fact that this new technology is about to be offered to their patients.


NEDA: By email, yeah. The initial news blast was just announcing Light Adjustable Lens being added to our surgical armamentarium and options that will be provided to your patients.

And here are quick bullets as to why this is potentially not better or an additional benefit to your patients, followed by a link to a video that would describe it. So that was an email blast that went out.

MARK: There's a few different ways in which we do it, because there's always things we need to educate the ODs about in our network. We've got probably about over a hundred ODs that we work with at some point or another. Some of them are very close to our practice in Spokane or in Coeur d'Alene, and others are quite a ways away. And so there has to be a few different ways in which to get information to them.

One is, as we do every year, a CME event where we try and really cover the big things that are going on in our practice. Do we have a new physician or a new technology that we may be using? We do focus on specialty lenses for our patients as much as we can, and we try and get the optometrists involved in that as much as we possibly can as well. That requires them to have a certain fund of knowledge to be able to talk to the patients about.

So, that's one. We try and talk to the ODs a lot by phone. If I have a case that is maybe something a little different or something and from a particular doctor, well, I may use the time that I'm talking to them about that case, to also maybe talk about some things that we're doing over the last few months or introducing PanOptix, for example, would be one. And that came after we had done our CE event. So, we needed to kind of get information out. So that's one way, I try to be in touch with them by phone and have short conversations about that. We'll send email information out. That's another way.

The other thing we do is also some print material. We'll use some of the things that Alcon, and J&J and so forth will provide for us, and we'll send those things to the ODs as well.

NEDA: Our co-managing liaison also spent some time going out to the referring doctors and taking material—whether it was marketing material from the company RxSight or, again, some of the material that I mentioned such as postoperative instructions and such—took it to the referring doctors and reviewed it with them, much like a drug rep would do when a new medication has become available.

And then we followed the news blast via email by another follow-up news blast just going in greater depth. First, yes, now we have it, and again, these are the types of patients who would be ideal patients, these are patients we wouldn't offer it to. Really informing them about our thought process and why we think this is an important new technology.

And then lastly, this is a continual process. It is one exposure to that news or that new information is not going to lead to any enthusiasm in the referring doctors.

We actually have a timeline and a schedule of continual clinical blasts that will go out via email, including clinical cases. Here's a follow-up on some of the original cases. And then finally symposia and CE dinners or CE events that, again, just reemphasizing the new technology. I know it sounds exhausting, but it's actually quite enjoyable. It just revives your own excitement about a new technology that you've brought into your practice.

MARK: It's interesting: one of the things that I've kind of found with all of this is that, the ODs, this is not an area that they spend a lot of time educating themselves on. They have so many other things going on in their practice that they're looking at issues with contact lenses or various other things with their vendors or different things with their practice administration or whatever it happens to be, and the things that are the most important to us, like the newest thing or understanding a new lens when it comes, isn't necessarily that important to them. It isn't on their radar necessarily. So, it is really important for us to give them that education and find ways to touch them and get that information to them.

There's two optometrists in our office that are part of our practice, and their job, too, is just to be in contact with these doctors throughout the week, talking to different ODs about different things that are going on in the practice. And so that's the other way in which we kind of have a conduit of information because a lot of them, they're colleagues, they are involved in the society together and all those kinds of things. So, there's a lot of interaction that goes in that direction as well.

MARGUERITE: Do you find that they are fearful at first of new technologies?

MARK: Not so much fearful just because, for our practice, they've kind of come to almost expect it. We've made one of the themes of our practices to embrace new technology. So, for them, they're kind of like, "Okay, what's Empire Eye Physicians up to now?" It's kind of like that. So, they're always sort of ready to hear something new from us because we've always been providing that kind of information. That's one area which distinguishes us from other practices in the area. They're kind of used to it. At the same time there's always that level of skepticism about, okay, what's the good and the other about this particular technology, or this lens, or whatever it happens to be. So, there is always that little bit of skepticism, but fortunately because of all of our past, the work that we do with them, they tend to be fairly trusting of us.

NEDA: I think, when you believe in a technology and it breeds excitement into your practice, you want to scream it out. You want to go out and announce it to everyone.

The key is, I think, for every practice to really recognize where their target audience is and where that target audience is turning for information and create a series of ideas on communication platforms and just maintain that as your Bible for your practice. This is step A. This is step B, is you send out an early announcement while you're updating your paperwork to your referring doctors saying stay tuned. Create some excitement. We're adding this to our platforms or our practice. Here's a video to it. And the step three would be maybe a news blast with more detailed information. Step four would be case reports. Step five would be symposia, maybe a webinar, which is what our next mode of communication is going to be a webinar that I'm going to do, a live webinar.

Now, with social media, you can do a webcam and do a Light Adjustment live and put it on your social media with the patient's permission.

It's a lot of fun. It adds to the creative side of practice that I didn't have the ability to do before, and so it's revived my excitement about my practice so much more.

And so I just hit the road and truly learned from the drug reps who had come to our practice. I'd take our pamphlets, and when I wasn't busy, I would take my administrative day and hit the road and go hand shake and go sit in the waiting room of these offices.

Oftentimes I was mistaken for a drug rep. I would show surgical videos. I would talk about cases, and my passion for what I do and my hopefully sounding somewhat semi-intelligent spoke for itself. And I think it really comes down to really believing in what you do and believing in the technology you offer to patients. And then the rest will follow.

MARGUERITE: So, for someone trying to build a referral network of optometrists and to make sure that they keep them in the loop on advanced technology, what would be your best advice on how to start?

MARK: I think that there's a couple things. Don't try and build an immediate network. Don't try and have 30 optometrists all at once. I think what you really should do is identify a couple practices that seem to have a culture and a patient profile and experiences similar to what your practice is and that you share kind of common values. Try and find some optometrists that are like that, maybe just a handful, a couple, two, three, something like that. Start a relationship with them. Try and start to build some rapport with them and get some patients that can be moving back and forth between the two practices and then expand from there. Once it gets to a certain point, then it becomes, I think, very important to have an optometrist on your staff because that peer-to-peer interaction becomes really important in order to develop a network that's robust and very helpful and works both ways.

NEDA: I would say my word of advice would be to do it with integrity and with passion, where you're not necessarily looking at the dollar sign at the end of it and you're doing it because you really are enthusiastic about the kind of care you're offering patients. And that you go forward speaking about patient care with a level of integrity that will speak for itself.

MARK: Another thing is don't assume anything. Make sure that you tell the optometrists that are referring patients to you everything that you kind of expect from them. Do you want them talking to the patient about choices for lenses, or would you rather be the person that gives that discussion? Make sure that everything is very clear in terms of how patients are going to be going back to them, when, and in what circumstances will they maybe need to stay with you.

That open line of communication is really, really important, and that's something that needs to be developed right away, at the very beginning. It's not something that you can develop later.

So, start with a core group, a small group. When you get bigger, make sure you have an OD in place to help you with that relationship. And thirdly, communication is essential. Pick up the phone. Always pick up the phone if there's any question in your mind. I'm wondering if they know what I'm thinking here. If there's any question, pick up the phone and talk with a doctor.

They always appreciate getting a phone call from me. I think that's one of the things that I think helps the strength of our relationship is, is the fact that they know that, if they call me, I'm going to take that call, or if I call them, they'll take my call.

NEDA: Going to local meetings is really important. No reason why you can reach out to the local optometry meeting and saying, "I have something to share. You know, I'd love to give a lecture.”

Nothing beats face-to-face.

MARGUERITE: I couldn’t agree more. So, thanks, Neda and Mark, for some really great tips and insights on educating and building tight relationships with your referral network. Please come back again.

NEDA: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Marguerite.

MARK: I will always come back whenever you'd like to have me.

MARGUERITE: I appreciate that, and I appreciate all of you for listening to this edition of Informed Consent: Getting to Yes.

7/15/2020 | 13:04

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