Article Date: 3/1/2010

I Can Answer That Question … Again
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I Can Answer That Question … Again

How to deliver accurate, consistent information to patients every time.

GARY GERBER, O.D.

“How many times have I told you_____ !” (fill in the blank). If you're thinking this is an article about staff management and telling your staff the same things over and over, it's not. It's about having to tell your patients the same things over and over. Not the same thing to the same patient, but the same things to all your patients. For example, won't you just cringe in exasperation and sigh when your next patient asks, “What exactly is astigmatism?” Or, explaining to a myopic presbyope that post-LASIK, they'll need reading glasses, even when they tell you (for the third time), “But you don't understand. I don't need them now!”

Head 'em off at the pass

After you've practiced for a while, your sixth sense alerts you that these questions are coming, and even with a faulty sixth sense, especially for new patients, it's a good idea to explain a patient's condition on your own terms so that they understand “optometry, according to you.” A great way to do this is to use the FAQ section on your web site and to steer patients there before they visit the office.

For example, when Mr. Cylinder calls up and tells your receptionist, “I have astigmatism and have been told I can't wear contact lenses” your reception should answer, “That's interesting because we have many patients who said the same thing and are now doing great with contact lenses. May I have your e-mail address so I can send you some information that you can read before your appointment?” From there, the receptionist would send the web site link that specifically deals with this topic. Additionally, there are many image and animation software programs that can help illustrate your point.


ILLUSTRATION BY MARK COLLINS

Similarly, more difficult to explain topics like, “My friend wears contract lenses only at night. When she wakes up, she takes them off and sees. I think they were called Orthokeratology lenses. But seriously, how can that work? I mean really — take off lenses and see?”

Untie your staff

Instead of tying up valuable staff time and perhaps more importantly, having the wrong message disseminated, write responses to these types of questions and put them on your web site. From there, you will only have to train staff in how to direct the patient to your responses. For those few patients who might still remain unwired, just print out the appropriate page and snail mail it to the patient.

Using your web site as a repository of information, instead of a simple e-brochure, can even save you time. If a known “tire-kicker” says to you, “I've heard about these plug things you can use for dry eyes. Do you know about them?” Your response can be similar to the staff's: “If you give me your e-mail address I'd be happy to send you information.” In this case, CC the message to your staff so they can follow-up with the patient to book a return visit.

Longer explanations

For those topics that really need longer explanations, you can upload audio or video files to your web site. Post these in a podcast format. Recommend that patients download and listen to them at their leisure. The price of this technology is now within anyone's reach.

These techniques will make your web site an electronic “show and tell” gallery — with all the content produced by you, and given to patients before their visit. OM


DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2010