Elle The Organiser Lends Her Skills To Tilganga Eye Hospital

Most patients visiting the London Vision Clinic reception are either somewhat preoccupied by the thought of their forthcoming surgery, or relishing the sensation of being “glasses-free” for their post-operative checks. While friendly faces greet them in reception before being ushered away for various scans, tests and eye checks; the majority of visitors to 138 Harley Street barely give a thought to the behind-the scenes mechanics and carefully conceived system which governs their personal appointment schedule throughout their laser eye surgery journey.

Elle (far left) with the team including Glenn and Zach at the back

Despite its super efficiency, the London Vision Clinic diary and administration system, always takes into account each patient’s individual needs. The friendly and highly qualified eye health professionals he or she will meet during their visits will also listen to their concerns and take time to note their personal likes and dislikes. As patients, we probably take this part of our Laser Eye Surgery for granted. The reception has a comfortable and calming atmosphere where we can relax, read one of the many magazines (that are carefully selected to satisfy every taste and interest), enjoy a tea, coffee or cold drink and nibble on a healthy or, if we so chose, a comforting, calorie-laden snack between the various essential eye checks.

Although the system usually works like a well-oiled machine, problems can occur in unforeseen circumstances – such as bad weather, transport strikes or unexpected illness.

To my knowledge – (and I’ve spent a lot of time at 138 Harley Street having my presbyopia corrected and researching interviews for this blog)- I have never known an examination room to be double booked or an optometrist to end up with two patients at the same time…. It just doesn’t happen. This is no accident but the result of many discussions, frequent and on-going communication between the various departments, and fine tuning of a bespoke computer programme to make sure that every patient’s visit is as smooth and efficient as possible. Most of us are busy people who, despite not wanting our eye health compromised in any way, also want to make sure that our valuable time isn’t wasted either.

Elle in “full barrier” – fully covered up in sterile overalls, rubber gloves, special shoes at the IOL lab

Clinic coordinator Elle who, after almost three years at the London Vision Clinic, is just one member of the team understanding the detailed way in which the clinic is run. Her career in customer service together with a passionate affinity for all things Nepalese, made her an ideal choice to help set up the administrative side of the new refractive surgery unit at the Tilganga Eye Hospital.

Unsurprisingly, when invited to visit the new unit, she leapt at the opportunity. “I had always been fascinated with Nepal. Being from New Zealand and having followed the work of Sir Edmund Hilary and Professor Fred Hollows; and having watched many documentaries about the country I had dreamed of going there one day”, she told me.

Professor Fred Hollows’ mission was to bring the best that modern medicine can offer to the developing world – including Nepal. Throughout a lifetime of notable achievements, this eye doctor had tirelessly followed up exploratory field trips to remote areas where – together with ophthalmological surgical teams – he identified eye health needs and worked out ways of meeting them. In tune with the current philosophy of the London Vision Clinic Foundation, this remarkable man believed in helping local people to help themselves by launching various training schemes and the transfer of knowledge and technology.

The final product

He worked closely with Dr Sanduk Ruit and in 1995 they established the IOL (Intra Ocular Lens) laboratory at Tilganga. This enabled them to provide high quality lenses at an affordable cost for cataract patients in the developing world. Visiting the laboratory and observing – in totally sterile conditions – the manufacturing process of the IOL´s was one of the highlights of Elle’s visit to Nepal.

Before the trip, Elle gave a lot of thought as to how she would help introduce the administrative system to the new clinic. It would be modeled on the one used at the London Vision Clinic; but would such a system, which runs so smoothly in central London, transfer to Kathmandu?

“I must admit it was all pretty chaotic when we arrived, but by the end of the week I had achieved most of what I had hoped. “I had to be a bit of a bossy boots – but hopefully in a good and helpful way! In my professional life I am a methodical person and a good organiser”, said Elle who puts the success of the project down to “the brilliant” staff working at Tilganga including the receptionists – Sushmita and Sophiya; optometrist Purushattan; and Sanju who is responsible for patient testing and scans at the new unit.

With surgeon Kishore

“Kishore (the ophthalmic surgeon who further trained at the London Vision Clinic) has a very strong team there and with the new structure in place it will help make everything run so much easier”, she added.

Being close to the airport and on the same electrical grid, the new clinic does not suffer from the daily power outages that make life difficult for the rest of the country. It also enjoys a good Internet connection. The bespoke diary system was quickly absorbed by the local staff while the internal messaging system took a while longer to be accepted.

“One of the biggest problems is going to be Nepalese timekeeping – it’s a cultural thing”, said Elle. “The urgency, and being guided by time throughout every moment of the day, that dominates our lives in the West, isn’t really part of the Nepalese culture. Some patients might turn up three hours early for an appointment while others might arrive three hours later than the allotted time!”

Elle travelled with ophthalmic surgeon Glenn Carp, who was assisting with surgery, and research technician Zach Dickinson, who put the computer processes in place.

The support provided by the London Vision Clinic is on-going. Because Tilganga now shares the same Electronic Medical record system, the surgeons and optometrists in London can review the notes of Nepalese patients and assist the Tilganga team with surgical planning, treatment schedules and diary appointments. However, with the time difference, and to make absolutely sure that the administrative team didn’t feel alone, Elle left her new colleagues on the other side of the world a complete and extensive manual of the booking system… just in case.

Her final thoughts on the experience: “I wanted to give them the tools, the structure and the skills for all their administration needs. After listening to their ideas, obviously the system will eventually be modified to meet the new unit’s specific needs. “It was a real honour to be able to help in the setting up of such a wonderful and life changing project.” Would she go back for another visit? “In a heartbeat”!