Key-Whitman Eye Center Focuses on the Science of Reducing Wait Times

Key-Whitman Eye Center Focuses on the Science of Reducing Wait Times

Very few eye doctors have an enthusiastic fan base—Dr. Jeffrey Whitman is one of those doctors. Whitman started his career in the mid-80s and joined a small, promising practice in downtown Dallas with Dr. Charles Key, a man who’d been seeing patients since the late 1960s.

The Key-Whitman Eye Center grew in popularity, and when Dr. Key retired in 1995, Whitman decided to expand to nearby Plano. From there, he hired more doctors, opened more locations and invested in technology and infrastructure improvements. The center started participating in FDA studies of new eye surgeries and pretty soon became known around the country as one of the foremost eye clinics.

Today, Key-Whitman Eye Center has six locations in the Dallas area, more than 150 employees, six ophthalmologists, five optometrists, and some of the shortest wait times in the industry. “Patients don’t often think about doctors as businesspeople, but they are,” Whitman says. “The more efficiently our centers run, the more delighted our patients are.”

Innovative thinking

Thousands of patients come through the doors of Key-Whitman Eye Center yearly. That number is expected to grow with their recent addition, a 35,000-square-foot building on North Central Expressway in Dallas. With so many patients, doctors, technicians, and administrative staff, it may seem difficult to keep track of everyone, but Whitman and his crew have it down to a science.

In early 2015, they started testing a tagging system for patients. Every time a patient would come in, they’d receive a clip-on tag to put on the neck of their shirt or sweater. The tag was then connected to the Center’s central computer system to allow doctors and family members to easily locate patients and identify wait times.

“After trying it out, we’ve decided to do analysis regularly to report on how long each doctor spends with each patient and how long each patient spends in each part of the exam,” says Whitman. “We’ve been able to see why certain tests have bottlenecks and it has helped inform us as to when we need to hire someone else to keep wait times down.”

The results since the initial test have been astounding. Patient reviews have gone through the roof and the Center has been able to accommodate 22 percent more long appointments.

In early 2016, the Center started working with an app developer to create a system with iPads to match doctors to exam rooms. Instead of lights illuminating outside rooms when a doctor was needed, the new system was hooked into a central computer via wireless Internet and tied each doctor to a specific color. The system has worked beautifully and Whitman says they plan to continue using it.

“When a doctor is needed in a room, the iPad connects to the specific doctor’s phone and flashes to tell them the patient is ready,” he says. “It also tells the doctor how many minutes the patient has been waiting.”

Focus on company culture

In addition to innovative treatments and patient interfacing strategies, the Key-Whitman Eye Center is known for its positive internal culture and has repeatedly earned a spot on The Dallas Morning News’ Top 100 Places to Work in Dallas.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the way we develop our offices,” he says. “We don’t have doctors hiding in offices; we have a central hub office desks that we call ‘the bull pen.’ No one is closed off and hiding. We are all available.”

Katie Morell

About the Author


San Francisco-based, writes about business, travel, social justice and human interest topics. Contributes to Fast Company, Hemispheres, The Guardian, Consumers Digest, OPEN Forum, BBC Travel & others.

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