Optometric Management Tip # 239   -   Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Need more appointments? Just ask.

Here is a tip that can fill the holes in your appointment schedule. That makes it pretty powerful in my book! The technique presumes that you accept some vision plans, which have a system for verifying benefits over the Internet. Hereís how it works.

When a patient calls on the phone to schedule an appointment for an eye exam, your receptionist asks if vision insurance will be used. If the caller says yes, your staff member obtains the necessary information and pops onto the vision plan website while still on the phone. For most plans, itís a simple matter to navigate through the website to display the benefit eligibility status for the whole family. After confirming that the caller is eligible for benefits, your receptionist then mentions the names of the other family members who are listed as eligible for eye exams and asks if the caller would like to schedule appointments for them at this time. Most people will do so.

The reason I like this technique and the reason it is very effective is because it does not cost the patient anything out-of-pocket. Iím not a fan of being pushy or soliciting for business; itís bad for the practice image. But patients view the supply of this information as very valuable assistance in obtaining good eye care and in using the benefits they are entitled to. They donít see it as selling and neither do I.

A skilled receptionist can minimize the vision plan website window on the computer and use your office management software simultaneously. By checking your management software, you can find out what the relationships are and when the family members were seen last. My staff has so much practice with vision plan verification and with our office software that they are extremely fast, which definitely helps the procedure.

Here is an example of what the receptionist might say: ďOK, Mrs. SmithÖ Iíve verified with your vision plan that you are eligible for an examination and I have your appointment set up for Tuesday, August 29 at 10:00 AM. I also noticed that your daughter Amy and husband Bob are eligible for vision benefits. Bobís last exam was over two years ago, so heís past due, and we have no record of ever seeing Amy.Ē Pause and listen.

Even if you think this family appointment process is already being done in your office, it wouldnít hurt to double-check on that. These are the kinds of little things that can be forgotten when staff get busy.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management