Optometric Management Tip # 287   -   Wednesday, July 25, 2007
A Single Question that Results in Revenue

Sometimes it's the little things that are so important. I'd like to share with you a simple question that my staff asks during the case history of every eye exam that results in a very high number of eyeglass sales. It's really quite brilliant in my humble opinion, yet as I observe office procedures and talk with eye care practitioners, I find the question is rarely asked.

The key question

In addition to the usual case history questions about the reason for visit, symptoms, allergies, and medications, my technician always asks "are you planning to get new glasses today?" Seems pretty basic doesn't it? After all, it's an eye doctor's office! It may not seem all that earth shattering, but if you aren't asking it straight out like that before the exam starts, you don't know what you're missing. Many patients answer yes, even though they didn't say so when they were asked about the reason for the visit. Maybe they are simply intimidated and don't know if it's okay to just buy glasses, but when we ask them directly, the truth comes out.

My exam form has the question printed in the case history section to remind staff to ask it and three possible answers are available so one can be circled. The answers are: yes, no, and only if Rx change. It takes two seconds.

This question eludes many eye care professionals because we are so focused on eye health, visual status and a review of systems that we may fail to elicit one of the most common reasons why patients visit our offices. They want new glasses! We should try not to be appalled at this concept, but rather embrace it. Accept the fact that some people are tired of their frame style or the hairline scratches on their lenses. Sure, these people want an eye exam before buying new glasses, and they will often come up with some ocular symptoms when questioned, but many people simply think of your office as a place to go to get glasses. That's okay with me. If you ask all kinds of questions, but never ask about the intention to obtain new glasses, you may never know.

Why it's important

When patients commit in advance to wanting new glasses, it makes my job much easier. I comment on the fact as I review the history and we go from there. I don't have to lament over a small Rx change, wondering if will be significant for the patient. When I see yes circled after that history question on the exam form, I assure you that the patient orders new glasses that day. I think most of us have been guilty of over-thinking and second-guessing the patients' wants and needs at times. Given the chance, most optometrists can actually un-sell anything!

If we don't ask the right questions in a case history we may become completely sidetracked. One of the most important things we can do to build the practice is be sure to address the main reason a person comes to see us.

Best wishes for continued success,

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