Article Date: 10/1/2002

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Restructuring Your Office Procedure
Consider having patients choose frames before their exam. Here's why.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

A common concern I hear from many clients is that they're always getting backed up and can't seem to stay on schedule. As a result, patients complain about spending too much time in their offices.

Check in. Exam. Frame selection. These are the most common "station stops" in a typical practice. After checking in, I often see patients in the waiting room stewing and waiting to see the doctor. Might this waiting time be better spent?

Analyzing your setup

For most practices, the frame selection stop is where they generate the most profits. This stop is the most consumer friendly because patients understand the fashion aspects of eyeglasses.

However, by the time many patients reach this stop -- the one they've been anticipating and that generates most of our profits -- they're tired, light sensitive from dilated pupils and just plain ready to go home. Moreover, they're typically in eye-medical mode, not in fashion-consumer buyer mode.

Mixing things up

What would happen if we changed the order of things to: check in, frame selection then the exam? Starting the frame selection before rather than after the exam not only smoothes out your office traffic flow, but it typically increases profits. Communicating with patients about the benefits of anti-reflective coatings is certainly easier when they're not fixated on newly diagnosed presbyopia.

ILLUSTRATION BY MARK COLLINS

Nothing to worry about

You can easily deal with clinical concerns when reversing the order of your procedures. So how do you choose a frame without knowing the patient's prescription? For a current wearer, simply look at her old glasses for a ballpark idea of the prescription. You can neutralize the lenses if necessary. For a new patient who doesn't yet wear glasses and whose symptoms you're not sure you can address with glasses, you can always do a "contingency" frame selection.

In effect, the dispenser is telling the patient, "Should you need glasses, these are the frames and lenses we'll use. If you don't, we can always make these into non-prescription sunglasses. We'll set these aside until after you see the doctor."

Presented this way, patients fully understand the system and have no qualms about trying on frames earlier in their visit. In fact, many clients have reported an increase in the number of patients purchasing multiple pairs. This is because the dispenser clearly outlines the contingencies (e.g., distance only, reading only, computer only) while the patient has a clear head and the desire and energy to comprehend what the dispenser is saying.

Routinely executing the frame selection first also works well for contact lens patients in that it gets them thinking about eyeglasses before you present them with contact lens alternatives. When presented first, eyeglasses are not seen as an afterthought to their contact lenses, but rather as an integral part of their vision correction armamentarium.

Keep everyone updated

Prepare any necessary forms or other documents before presenting this concept to your staff to avoid causing "process shock." Role playing what happens at the front desk is also helpful. Once everyone's on the same page, implement this new plan and see how it works for you.

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: October 2002