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Article Date: 11/1/2013

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Practice Efficiency Helps Sales
MARKETING & MERCHANDISING
merchandising

Practice Efficiency Helps Sales

Ideal patient office time can aid in merchandising your optical.

images

GINA M. WESLEY O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.

Faster is better, right? At least that’s what a commercial with a panel of young children would have us think. However, if a patient’s experience in our practices is too fast, their impression may be that we care more about seeing a high number of patients vs. their specific needs. However, going too slow may lose sales because the patient becomes crushed for time.

There are varying opinions, but the “ideal” patient time spent in the office is 45 to 60 minutes. Anything longer, and sales generally decline.

So, how can we be efficient and wise with how patients spend their key decision-making time in our offices? In my practice, we have started analyzing our patient time in office: total time and time spent in each specific area from the moment the patient enters the office. (See “Correctly Time Exams,” page 20 for specific tips on how you can make these visits efficient.)

Before tracking this, we thought we were doing a pretty good job at moving patients through in approximately 45 minutes. However, our assessment showed the time was actually closer to 60 minutes. So, we decided to closely examine each step in the patient exam experience. Although we are still working on this, here are a few observations about the ar-eas of the practice:

Reception desk activities

This area is a huge time variable. Established patients can move through in less than three minutes, but even a small change, such as new insurance benefits, can alter that to three minutes easily. Additionally, new patients who have not filled out forms before arriving can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes at this first patient touch point.

To countermand some slowdowns, we’ve worked to ensure we don’t repeat questions among staff. Also, we’ve provided digital tablets for signing documents, as well as a protocol for pulling new patients back sooner into pretesting, if they are struggling to fill out forms.

Pre-testing and exam

This area varies from 10 to 40 minutes, depending on delegation and exam-delivery style.

Something as simple as having the technician pull all pictures and networked tests forward so they are ready for the doctor to show the patient can save one to two minutes per patient. If you see 20 to 30 patients per day, this can add up significantly.

Doctor hand-off/optical

Our observations in this area for my office center around dilation. Such an integral portion of the exam is critical for my practice’s standard of care, yet can really kill an optical sale due to blurry vision, and, thus, slow decisions, or end in no sale at all.

We’ve attempted to improve this area’s “time” by encouraging browsing before the exam or the use of daily disposable contact lenses when browsing (not a full fitting, placed on and removed from the eye by staff).

More to do

I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to digging deep at how much time our patients spend with us and how they utilize it. As much as we’d like to think they want to spend hours with us, it’s not reality nor as profitable. So, to revisit that commercial, is faster better? Turns out, when fast is defined as between 45 and 60 minutes, it may be. OM

DR. WESLEY PRACTICES AT COMPLETE EYE CARE OF MEDINA, WHICH SHE OPENED IN 2008. SHE WAS HONORED AS MINNESOTA’S OPTOMETRIST OF THE YEAR IN 2011. E-MAIL DRWESLEY@CECOFMEDINA.COM, OR SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: November 2013, page(s): 45

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