Article Date: 10/1/2011

To Give the PD or Not Give the PD?
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To Give the PD or Not Give the PD?

That is not the question. Channel your energy in a different direction.

Gary Gerber, O.D.

It's getting more mention in lectures, blogs, e-mail lists and society meeting conversations: “I did this great exam, my optician spent 35 minutes showing frames, and the patient wrote the frame information and asked for the PD. The nerve!”

How does your office handle these situations? And feel free to expand PD to include seg heights or anything else the patient asks for in their quest to buy spectacles outside your practice.

The topic stirs great passions. On one side, doctors claim the PD is akin to a highly classified CIA document that is as critical to the patient's overall eye health and longevity as a diabetic's A1c, and therefore, under no circumstances, save a court order, should it be released. At the other extreme, you hear, “It's just a silly number that anyone can measure. They're walking anyway, so give it to them.”

Focus on prevention

I'd suggest you channel your thoughts and energy in an entirely different direction and change the “give or not give” question to, “How can we prevent the patient from asking in the first place?” To do this, let's address the three reasons patients ask.

1. Perception of greater value. Notice that I didn't say lower price. When consumers shop for price, the question of “better price for what?” must be answered. In this case, patients may feel they can get similar quality products elsewhere for less money. To facilitate that, they need the PD. Are the products the same? If so, give the patient compelling, tangible and credible reasons as to why they should pay more at your practice. Push the purchase psyche flowchart along the path from commodity to product to service, and end at experience. Starbucks does this with coffee, and you can do it with spectacles. Of course, if the products are different, make sure the patient understands why.

2. Perception of larger choice. When patients click on a website and see the availability of thousands of frames, you can't blame them for wanting to make sure that they buy the one frame that is best for them. Use this to your advantage by telling them your opticians have the expertise to facilitate that selection process.

3. Perception of convenience. What could be more convenient than, “click, click, pay, wait for box, open box, wear glasses?” How about if all of that never had to happen since the patient is in your practice to begin with? What could be more convenient than “clicking” for spectacles and experiencing them yourself, right now? Make the selection process fun and memorable. As in point number one, focus on the experience of buying spectacles, not just the spectacles themselves.

Add all the above with the ability to offer customized higher-end technology (that is, life-changing solutions), and there should be little reason you would lose a significant amount of business to any retailer—online or otherwise.

When all else fails

When the above steps fail, which they rarely do, what should you do? Give the patient their PD, and do it with a genuine heartfelt smile. After all, if you've done all the above, wherever the patient ultimately winds up will have difficulty delivering the same experience you did. So, while you might lose this sale, you should retain the patient, their family, friends and future business. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2011