Article Date: 4/1/2002

View From The Top
Filling Patients' Needs
Don't feel guilty about giving patients what they need and want.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

A friend of mine who has owned 16 restaurants for 20 years once told me, "Gary, no one has ever come into one of my restaurants, drank a glass of water and left without ordering something -- ever."

Then he explained, "Every customer who's ever entered any of my restaurants in the last 20 years has had two things in common: They're hungry and they're ready to eat. If they weren't both of those, they wouldn't be walking into the restaurant in the first place." Sounds obvious enough.

ILLUSTRATION BY PAINE PROFFITT

Making the connection

In our practices, the same exact thing happens. Let's rephrase his comment and apply it to an optometric practice.

"Every patient who's ever entered my office in the last 20 years has had two things in common: They have a vision problem and they want it fixed. If they didn't have both of those they wouldn't be walking into my office."

Simplifying this even further and using retail terminology: "The patient has already made his buying decision. In fact, he's decided to buy ________ from you."

Capitalizing on opportunity

Businesses that are the tops in their fields exploit this simple yet powerful concept. Take the philosophy of many theme parks: "Customers have already decided to enter our park. They have a fixed amount of money in their pocket that they've already committed to spending in our park. It's our job to make sure that they spend every one of those dollars in our park and nowhere else."

While it may sound mercenary, it's true. Every consumer has decided what he can afford, or is
willing to spend, for any given purchase. A smart retailer will recognize this and capitalize on it.

The buying decision net

As non-mercenary healthcare providers, we too must realize that much of what we do involves retail buying patterns and decisions. You could even say that our professional services fall into this same buying decision net. After all, when a patient books an appointment in your office, hasn't he decided to buy your services? Just as restaurant patrons don't drink the glass of water and leave, optometric patients don't fill out their history sheet and leave.

If it's right, don't fight it

It behooves us to drop any inhibitions we may have about discussing fees for what we perceive as "extra services." If a patient needs corneal topography -- if there's a valid clinical reason -- then do the test. Your patient expects you to solve his problem. And he's expecting to pay for it. To not do the test because you think the patient may not want to pay for it isn't only wrong in this retail context, it's also clinically poor judgment.

If a patient can benefit from high-index, AR-coated progressive lenses, if that's what's genuinely best for him -- then prescribe it. After all, he's expecting you to correct his high myopia, presbyopia and nighttime glare -- and he's expecting you to charge him for the tools you must use to do it.

A good image

If you're concerned about how patients perceive you in your office setting, don't be. In all of these examples, you're not selling -- you're just being a good doctor.

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY WHOSE MISSION IS TO MAKE OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT 800-867-9303.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2002