Issue #11: A Better Way to Educate Patients
Most doctors that perform surgery love what they do. Some, however, dread the patient consultation, especially if it involves the patient paying directly for some or all of the services being performed.   

Plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists tend to do well here as most of their consults are for elective procedures.  Cosmetic dentists have elevated the consultation to an art form, complete with a case presentation format that includes how to finance what is often a five-figure proposal to enhance one’s smile. 

Cataract surgeons , however, have it tougher in this regard.  With an aging baby-boomer population, they are seeing more and more patients for cataract surgery without having to increase marketing budgets. The demand is there, which is a good thing. But growing demand is creating pressure to see more patients in the less time, when explaining options for cataract surgery (including upgrades to advanced implants and laser-assisted surgery) takes more time. 

The result is that tightly-measured “chair time” detracts from the doctor's ability to connect with the patient and focus on the clinical issues.  Dedicated counselors help alleviate this educational burden, but too many patients still arrive for the consultation unprepared, no matter how hard the practice works to send materials in advance for review. 

If the patient is overwhelmed, they cannot readily make a decision as to which path to take with regards to their cataract surgery.  As one surgeon buddy told me, “If you confuse them, you lose them.”  Well stated as a summary of decision-making behavior. 

Nashville-based Surgiorithm solves this issue in a way that is sustainable and affordable for the busy surgeon. Started by highly experienced healthcare executives who understand both patient communications and predictive modeling, they have proven their system to increase patient understanding prior to the consultation.

Their value proposition relieves the staff and surgeon from the initial educational component.  Surgiorithm takes all patients scheduled for cataract surgery and offers a high-touch / high-tech approach that begins with a telephone call made on behalf of the practice by a live human being (imagine that!).

Surgiorithm's call team kindly and patiently explains the goal of helping the patient learn about their options while also helping their surgeon understand their specific needs and concerns. What follows is an an “online interview” which has been validated over more than 2,300 cataract surgery patients.

The results are highly encouraging: 85% of patients with access to a computer or smart phone are completing the interview. A backup protocol is used for the less tech-savvy. Each patient receives a summary report of their responses.  The practice and surgeon receive an “Insight Report” (see the figure above for a partial view of the report) that gives them a one-page snapshot that is easily scanned prior to walking in the room. 

Both patient and surgeon enter the consult better prepared and leave more satisfied.

Patients are happier because they were able to digest a lot of the information from home at their own pace. Staff are happier because the initial burden of education has been alleviated. And surgeons are happier because consultations are smoother and faster than before.

While acceptance rates are higher, the real benefit here is improved workflow .  The demand for cataract surgery increases to the tune of 10,000 patients a day and will do so for the next decade or so. The average age of a cataract patient is dropping, and their demands for information are increasing as more and more options become available. 

Surgiorithm is a new bright spot in helping practices cope with the increased demands on their schedule and has the potential to allow the doctor to do more surgery without adding staff or facilities .  

They use a subscription model and charge a flat fee per surgeon per month that is a fraction of the cost of hiring another staff member.  The company offers a 30-day trial as part of a modest setup fee and doesn’t require integration into EHR systems (I can hear you cheering at this one).

Ophthalmology is their first specialty; as the company grows, they plan to expand to other specialties where the consultation dynamics are in a time-crunch.  Stay tuned.
If you are going to ASCRS in Washington DC next week and want to meet with Surgiorithm (they don't have a booth but will be at the meeting), just indicate this when you click the link immediately above.
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About "Tee Time"
Shareef Mahdavi has been helping doctors enhance their practices for years through technology, patient experience, and better economics.

Tee Time  provides answers to specific pain points within medical practices, offering advice and solutions from companies that have been reviewed and evaluated by SM2 Strategic.