Staff in the Dispensary
What should they do, and when?
BY RANDOLPH BROOKS, O.D., F.A.A.O.
ILLUSTRATION BY DEBRA DIXON
Although Wall Street has bottomed out for many of our investments over the past few months, one investment that will always pay off for us is our staffs. Here are four tasks your dispensary staff should perform. Make sure they know how to do these tasks and they'll reap great dividends for your practice and provide the best possible patient care at the same time. They'll also feel more self-confident and professional.
1. Interviewing patients
Lifestyle questions give the patient the opportunity to tell you and your staff about special visual needs they may have. During pre-testing, your assistants must follow up on patients' responses with additional questions of their own, and ask about computer use, prescription sunglasses and hobbies. Then they must convey the patient responses to you so that you can best address patient visual needs.
2. Supporting recommendations
Patients follow your recommendations better when they understand them. The most important part of the recommendation process occurs when you hand a patient off to a dispensary staff member after you've explained your advice to him. Repeat your recommendations to the staff member in the exam room so the patient hears them a second time. This helps transfer the trust factor from you to the staff member. The staff member must convey an understanding of the recommendations and her agreement with you by amplifying your recommendations, informing the patient of options and further explaining why you made those recommendations. This will make the patient feel happy with his decision to follow your advice.
If a patient continues to ask questions while in the exam room, have your staffer explain that she'll continue the discussion in the dispensary. This empowers the staff member and transfers authority from you to her.
Don't leave a patient alone and tell him that someone will be with him shortly. The hand off must occur in the exam room. The staffer should escort the patient from the exam room to the dispensary so he's not "lost along the way."
3. Keeping neutral opinions
Don't let staff prejudge a patient's ability to afford more
expensive options. Your dispensary staff should make recommendations based purely on patient benefit and tell the patient exactly how the option will benefit him. Let patients decide, and they'll usually choose to follow your staff's recommendation even if it costs more.
4. Using demos
Because patients want to know immediately what they'll look like in glasses, closed circuit video systems have been created so patients can see themselves in their frames even when their pupils are dilating and they aren't wearing any visual correction.
Your dispensary should include demonstration aids and samples of anti-reflective coated lenses, variable tint lenses, polarized sun lenses and high-index materials. Many options will sell themselves if you have these systems in your dispensary and train your staff to use them. Explaining an option is one thing, but having a staffer who's able to show it to the patient makes a big difference in addressing the patient's visual needs -- and that translates into a difference in your revenue per patient and in your bottom line.
Regardless of what Wall Street does, your investment in staff training to meet patients' visual needs will reap great dividends.
DR. BROOKS IS IN GROUP PRACTICE IN LEDGEWOOD, N.J., AND IS PAST-PRESIDENT OF THE NEW JERSEY SOCIETY OF OPTOMETRIC PHYSICIANS.
Optometric Management, Issue: February 2002