Optometric Management Tip # 328   -   Wednesday, May 14, 2008
A New Concept: Reduce the Time Patients Spend in Your Office

Here's an idea that many eye care professionals (ECPs) have never thought to work on: find ways to reduce the total time patients spend in the office. Achieving that goal is really a win-win situation because (a) patients actually love a shorter visit. Their satisfaction with your practice greatly increases if you get them in and out quickly. And (b) practice profitability increases when you spend fewer resources, like staff time, on each patient visit. If all visits are quicker, the practice can see more patients per day.

Total patient time

While I'm sure most ECPs try to be economical with their own time (although, amazingly many don't think about it at all), I'm recommending that you reduce the total time spent in the office by patients. Total patient time is different than doctor time because the former includes things like completing forms, waiting, pretesting, patient education, eyeglass selection, and so on. Ironically, many ECPs think they will impress patients if they make the typical visit fuller. They reason that if more things are happening, perhaps the patient will perceive greater value. This kind of thinking is even more prevalent in practices that are not extremely busy. It's false thinking. Who ever said patients want an eye exam to take a long time?! They don't. It's really not that much fun. Patients have busy lives and the eye exam is just a necessary task that most people would really rather not have to endure.

Of course, we should make the visit as enjoyable as possible and we can give patients a pleasant surprise by making the visit more interesting, but making the visit short is an important way to make it enjoyable. Don't wear out your welcome!

The new value of personal time

The practice that works to reduce wasted time, while still being thorough and delivering high quality, wins. Patients who think back about their eye care visit and realize they were able to get in and out with amazing efficiency will love your practice! They will refer more friends and relatives. Convenience and personal time is valued so highly today that people will actually pay higher fees if they can spend less time with you!

What can be done?

Here are some time consuming factors that can often be made more efficient.

There is a fine line between providing advanced services, new technology and personal care, and going on too long to point of being boring. Choose your procedures carefully and spend your patient's precious time on things that deliver maximum punch. Remember that the time spent in the optical dispensary or trying on contact lenses is a very profitable part of the visit. The less time spent in the waiting area, pretesting and exam rooms; the more time available for optical and contact lenses. Patients will only spend so much time in your office; use it wisely.

Best wishes for continued success,

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