Attracting More Private-Pay Patients
Marketing techniques that corporate optometry uses can help you, too.
By Richard Kattouf, O.D.
In this era of managed care, many practices have 50% or more of fixed fee patients. Are there methods of getting more private pay-patients?
- Dr. T. C. Lee, via e-mail
Dear Dr. Lee:
This is a common problem that my clients bring to my companies. Marketing research indicates that corporate optometry gets a majority of these non-insured patients. Let's analyze why.
- Perceived cost. Consumers perceive that independent optometry is more expensive than corporate optometry. My company solved this problem by studying and defining what corporate optometry does to establish this perception. It's all in the way corporate optometry presents fees compared to independent optometry. (More on this under "Fee presentation.")
- Service. Corporate optometry usually provides faster service than independent optometry.
- Marketing. Companies such as Lens Crafters have done a wonderful job in making the public believe that it has products that are unique to it. An example of this is "featherweight" lenses. All ophthalmic professionals offer high-index products, but clever marketing makes the consumer believe that Lens Crafters has a unique product. With proper internal marketing, independent O.D.s can beat this type of misperception.
- Optical departments. Corporate optometry's inventory is larger. Their accessibility is greater. They concentrate on developing profit centers that independents ignore.
For example, the plano sunglass market is huge. But if you study the pie graphs that indicate where consumers purchase their plano sunwear, independent optometry is non-existent. O.D.s will do well to expand existing profit centers and develop new profit centers with proper internal marketing.
- Hours of operation. Each independent must evaluate the scheduling needs of his patients. Many areas of the country require late afternoon or early evening hours as well as Saturdays. Corporate optometry accommodates evenings, Saturdays and more.
It's important to evaluate the specific community needs and make specific scheduling recommendations for your area in order to maximize profits. Many staff members won't be totally candid with you when ask about patient requests because they don't want to work evenings and Saturdays.
- Fee presentation. Independent O.D.s quote fees the same way they did 40 years ago, but the marketplace and the consumer have changed. Optical is retail. The patient should know the total cost of each frame and lens shown to them at the time of styling -- not at the end of styling. The way most independents quote fees develops sticker shock, which leads to patient erosion and significantly pushes patients elsewhere.
- Standing out from the crowd. Independent O.D.s don't do things in their opticals that send a message that they're unique. Consider computer systems that demonstrate frames on patients faces, for example, to give them a reason to brag to their friends and family about their experiences in your office.
Another technique that works to capture a larger segment of the private-pay market is to develop vision care programs with private businesses that don't have vision care. It's not as simple as just signing up the companies and waiting for the line to form. It requires monthly marketing into the homes of the employees as well as internal marketing in the office.
Strategies for success
Attracting more private-pay patients requires persistence and some basic idea of where to start. Now that you've had a look at some of the areas that corporate optometry uses to its advantage, you can apply the strategies to your own practice, attract more patients and stand out from the crowd.
DR. KATTOUF IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN WARREN, OHIO, AND HE'S PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT
ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING CASE
Optometric Management, Issue: August 2001