Optometric Management Tip # 507   -   Wednesday, November 09, 2011
A Quick Way to Increase Appointments

Most optometrists can stand to be busier. If you could increase the number of exams you perform by two per day, you would increase your annual gross revenue by more than $150,000 and your practice net income would go up more than $100,000!

Here is the math on that:

Now that I have your attention, read on for a cool technique that could actually help you achieve that increased income.

Vision plan family members
I have written about this front desk procedure before, but if your practice is anything like mine, you may think you implemented it only to find out that it is not actually being done.

The technique involves an extra step when your staff schedules appointments for patients with vision plans. It works quite well with VSP, EyeMed and any plan that has an online eligibility system. We have the websites for our vision plans running on all our PCs where appointments are scheduled. After the appointment date and time is confirmed for the caller, we check eligibility while we are still on the phone. Once we determine that the caller has benefits available, it is just another couple of clicks to check the eligibility for all family members. Quite often, some of them have benefits available as well.

In these cases, the receptionist says something like this: "OK Mrs. Smith, we have you scheduled for your eye exam on Friday at 2pm. By the way, I see that your husband Bob and your son Jason are also eligible for exams under your vision plan, should we set up appointments for them now also?" A high percentage of these patients will go ahead and schedule their family members on the spot. And why not? It's free.

The sticking points
I recently asked some staff members if we were still doing this process, and I got rather vague answers like "Yes, sometimes". I decided to dig deeper and it turns out we had pretty much dropped the whole thing. I had to really understand what was involved and why we had resistance, and I learned that the main objection was that it took too long. Yet, when I watched the process of checking eligibility for family members it was less than 30 seconds. But it seemed like a long time. Most of my staff wanted to put the caller on hold while they checked the website. I insisted that we not do that and I was told that it felt awkward.

I find the truth is the best approach, so I told my staff to set up the appointment first, then tell the patient that we would like to check her eligibility with the vision plan, and ask her to just stay on the line for a moment. At that point the patient knows we are checking something and a short silence is perfectly fine.

Once I gained cooperation from all my staff, I asked them to keep a short log of every call that had this procedure and include a comment about how many family members were eligible and how many scheduled. We are averaging about five additional appointments per day! We will not drop the technique again.

Best wishes for continued success,

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