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Three Ways to Build a More Diverse Practice
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EyeCarePro is a business serving eye care practices  which operate throughout diverse communities.

 With all the pain and tragedy coming into sharp focus, we felt it was time to clearly say that we stand for racial equality and justice, both for our Optometrists and the communities they service.

In that vein, we wanted to share a few insights from our doctors on how to foster a practice culture that is welcoming and appealing by being broadly accommodating. Diversity-consciousness is not only good for best patient outcomes it allows for a better society to live and work in. It’s also a great practice builder for broadening your patient base. 

But what exactly is a diversity-conscious practice? And, more importantly, what tangible steps can you take to nurture that consciousness? 

We posed that question to two optometrists who have been with EyeCarePro for a long time: Dr. Takeia Locke, of Family Eye Care of Atlanta and Dr. Diana Canto of Buena Vista Optical.  

 

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Dr. Canto has a hip and fashion-orientated approach to running her fully bilingual practice. Seeing a need in the marketplace, Dr. Canto designed her own line of frames for a Latinx audience called La Vida Optical. Here’s what Dr. Canto had to say:

LaVida-logo-diversity

You don’t need to be a polyglot

to embrace diversity

Diversity Words

Embracing a bit of mindfulness means fewer missteps or unintentional slights on the part of you or your staff. What’s more, it can help you build a deeper connection to the varied communities your practice serves. A recent article in Medium—and you all can outdo that particular featured company, right?—showed how stocking frames mostly intended for a caucasian face can cause problems with the fit for non-Caucasians. It also showed how diversity in staffing can help alleviate those problems and make your practice more welcoming.

In short, a diversity-conscious dispensary is one where there is sensitivity to differences in appearance, body type, and preference. In this way, you create a more bespoke patient experience, which can only do good things for your optical revenues.

And it goes beyond the frames you stock. Taking into account the different lived experiences of patients will help avoid miscommunications and assumptions that can alienate some patients and, worst-case scenario, diminish the quality of care you strive to provide.

So, we’re proposing 3 ways of going about building stronger

connections within your community by taking action & reaching out

1. Actions Speak Louder than Words

The solution to avoid appearing disingenuous is simple—Don’t be. A well-managed practice is one that isn't afraid to retool and even challenge operational norms where they could be improved: from clinical protocols to staff and hiring processes, to inventory management, marketing—you name it! Developing a genuine diversity-consciousness in your practice is no different. Challenge and re-examine your unconscious biases, workplace processes, and hiring practices.

Dr. Takeia Locke, of Family Eye Care of Atlanta, is an established voice in the advancement of neuro-optometry and vision therapy. A prominent business figure in the Atlanta community, her practice serves a diverse patient base of all ages, races and needs. Their core value has always been “Everyone deserves a chance.” Therefore, communicating that in patient care has always been at the forefront of the practice goals and objectives. Based on my correspondence with Dr. Locke, we can break down some practical steps you can take in the following areas of practice operations.

Column-Bigger-Taike

"Everyone deserves a chance"
~ Dr. Takeia Locke

Staff and Communication

A basic step is to commit to fair hiring practices that reflect the diversity of your community. But don’t stop there. Foster open lines of communication amongst staff and between doctors and staff. Allow for the celebration of culture and diversity in staff outings, lunches, meetings, etc. Formulate a creative program that breaks these barriers by asking for staff input and even delegating the task to different staff members, empowering them to contribute in a meaningful way.

Be part of the change you want to see. Support your staff and community efforts for anti-racist causes. Take a day off when race issues are stressful.  Allow for a mental health break since these occurrences can be traumatic and cloud staff and doctor judgment alike when there is no recovery time to process thoughts and feelings surrounding these instances of injustice.

Access to Care—Breaking the Barriers

Foster awareness and sensitivity in your practice to the reality that many populations do not have adequate access to care. Show that as a community member you understand that access is an issue. Try to get creative in the care of such patients without dismissing them from the health services they need because of access problems. Can you see them twice a year? Offer to waive fees and extend the grace period for patients who rely on transportation and may be late to an appointment. 

Are you willing to hear their story? Be understanding and try not to have unrealistic expectations for patients who may be socio-economically vulnerable. 

Assumptions in Care

When you care for your patients, be conscious of jumping to assumptions about income levels, education, or vocation. Do you ask everyone the same case history questions? Be sensitive about what you ask and how. 

Beyond these basics, the biggest challenge to embracing diversity in a genuine way comes down to challenging unconscious biases.

2. Challenging Your Unconscious Biases

Who do you imagine when you picture the wearer of a pair of high-end frames? There’s no right answer here, but there’s a fact of psychology and human cognition at play here. Our brains encounter millions of data points per second, but can only process a few of them. We therefore always take the neurological shortcut of snap judgments, which are informed only by our own limited experiences or the societal norms that permeate our thinking. Oftentimes, these snap judgments exhibit biases we aren’t even aware of.

Both Dr. Locke and Dr. Canto stressed this point: When it comes to Stereotypical imaging is a theme in the unconscious messages we see, which informs our unconscious biases.  Many of the high-end frame vendors will show a white man in a suit wearing the glasses. Does this truly reflect the diversity of your patients?

 

 

 

 

3. Reach out

From the perspective of brand development, it’s a good idea for your practice to be an active and engaged member of your community. By sharing the concrete steps you’re taking to build a more diverse and just practice, you encourage others to do the same, and you create a sense of allyship with traditionally marginalized communities. 

We’re going to have a lot more to say about smart community engagement. For now, at the end of the day, the more widely accessible and appealing your practice is, the more patients will feel comfortable booking an appointment with you, purchasing in the optical, and adhering to your management plan. Do it well and they will repeat the process every year or so. They might even bring in family and recommend you to their friends. Justice, community membership, and good business practice go hand-in-hand.

"Be the change you want to see in the world"
~ Mahatma Ghandi

We know this is a sensitive topic at a sensitive time. Please leave your comments or feedback below

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