For many of us it's a generational thing. In the "old days" when we still used typewriters, a little white out could save someone from having to type over an entire document in case of a mistaken key being hit. Invented by the Betty Nesmith, the mother of Mike (a rocker who gained notoriety as one of the original Monkeys) it was a god send and saved many a long night - mine from being much longer. The time we are referring to was the sixties before even electric typewriters came into vogue with on board memory. Can you imagine you're completing that ten page term paper and a mistaken key or misspelled word happens? Just get out the "liquid paper" cover it up and retype over. Of course today with our word processors, spell check and other conveniences we can put our documents through a complete analysis and instantly correct the wayward phrase or misspelled word.
Imagine if you were using "white out" on a different plane. You and your staff have gone through an education process that defines everything from the initial phone conversation with the patient to presenting the latest new vision testing gadget. These scripts are played out in my office dozens of times each day. These scripts are meant to direct the patient to controlled outcomes. We have been doing them for so long we can say them with our eyes closed after coming out a deep sleep. The question is - do these scripts appeal to motivating the patient in a direction that we want or are they more of the same as far as eyecare delivery today? Will they be promoting that name brand soft contact lens or telling the patient about a fascinating new procedure where you only have to wear contacts at night? If it's the former - you may want to take out some mental white out and change them appropriately because what a patient hears on the initial phone conversation when they make their appointment will stick with them like glue when they arrive for their care.
First impressions are a big deal, so if your staff is not talking up all the cool things you're doing for your patients - you're missing a great opportunity. I always felt it was a waste of my resources to promote products that can be found in any local supermarket optical. I mean they have already prepared the public to expect to find this thing anywhere they go for care. It's a commodity, don't you know? The classic example, of course, is soft contact lenses.
At the Global Specialty Meeting in Las Vegas this year, they had a presentation on whether it would be possible to engineer a soft lens design that unlike what's available today would require a doctors expertise to prescribe. You see that the industry has made these products, soft lenses, a commodity like tooth paste or toilet paper. It's tough to fight the industry, they have more money. So what do you do? You can just go along and keep practicing that way or you can step out of the corner you have painted yourself into. That's where the white out comes in. It covers up that paint really well. It allows you to "white out" those scripts that have been going around your office promoting products and ways of practice that makes us into a commodity that can be shopped for the lowest price and best deal. Those scripts that have been running in your office for what seems like a millennium - replace them with another message.
One that promotes all the things you do that are not happening at that corner optical, like corneal reshaping. Those scripts that offer specialty services that are sought for by more and more folks dissatisfied with the model of a commodity driven health care system treating everyone like a number. Once you start down that other path less traveled, you're going to have a lot more fun in your practice. So don't forget to give a silent thank you to Mike and his mom Betty for helping you out.