What percentage of the spectacle prescriptions that are written by you are taken out of your office, resulting in your patient purchasing glasses elsewhere? How do you know – did you guess or are you sure?
We all know that optical dispensing represents a large percentage of revenue in any optometric practice – yet I’m surprised that so many doctors pay relatively little attention to this part of the practice. Dispensing is highly delegated and it often ends up on auto-pilot. The Rx walkout rate is a key statistic that is worth tracking. Guessing leaves too much room for error. My benchmark is that the practice should fill the spectacle Rxs for 90% of all patients that have a change or a new Rx. If you aren’t able to achieve that, I would be working on improving every phase of the optical department.
The mere fact that you begin to measure something often improves the result, which is reason enough to track your Rx walkouts. Your staff realizes that this is important, and everyone is more conscious of patients who want to shop around. We track walkouts by using Rx blanks on 2-part NCR paper for patients who don’t elect to select frames in our office. One copy is given to the patient and the other is dropped into a box in our dispensing area. At the end of the month, we count how many Rx copies we have, which gives us the absolute number of walkouts. We already have data on how many pairs of glasses we make per month, so it is easy to calculate the percentage that we did not make.
We also track the number of spectacle Rxs we make from outside doctors each month. We are happy to fill these prescriptions and we try to grow this part of our practice. These outside Rxs offset the ones we write that walk out.
What to do about it
I believe we retain and fill spectacle Rxs when we provide great customer service, excellent value and high quality. Prices do not have to be low – but perceived value must be high. We not only have to do these things to earn business – we have to look like we do it. In other words, it is not good enough for you to know that you provide great optical service – your office must present that impression in advance. Perception is everything.
If your Rx walkout rate is low – then you don’t need to change much, but keep monitoring it. If you lose many Rxs, analyze why – ask patients why before they leave and look at your operation and facility objectively. It could be time for a make-over of the displays, general redecorating, a bigger inventory, an on-site lab for faster service, staff training to be more caring and friendly, an improved warranty program… there could be many reasons.
Patients have a right to take their prescription and buy glasses anywhere they wish. With some effort, you can increase the number who select your office.
Next week, I’ll offer some tips for communicating with patients who decide to go elsewhere.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management