Tips to Rev Up
BY KENNETH A. YOUNG, O.D., Brentwood, Tenn.
Have you noticed a slow down in your practice? According to statistics, March and April of 2003 had the lowest consumer confidence rates in years.
Fortunately, times seem to be looking up in the second half of this year, so here are a few ideas to help you gear up your practice.
ILLUSTRATION BY CAM WILSON
Make some improvements
First, think of practice areas that you can add to or expand on. For example, consider fitting bifocal contact lenses. Many optometrists still don't fit these lenses because they believe it's not worth their chair time. With new designs in soft and rigid materials, fitting bifocal contact lenses was never easier.
Do you fit irregular corneas,
keratoconic, post-graft or post-refractive surgery patients with specialty lenses or do you refer them to someone else? These patients can be profitable for you and usually remain loyal. They also tend to generate a high rate of referrals. Most optometrists now co-manage refractive surgery patients. If you don't recommend refractive surgery to your patients and you don't participate in comanaging them, then your patients are going to find someone who will.
You may also want to add vision therapy and children's vision to your list of services.
Flaunt your features
Once you've expanded areas of service, let potential patients know. Newspaper, cable TV, radio and billboards are just a few ways to introduce your practice to the public. Other less expensive ways include involvement in organizations such as the local Lions club, Kiwanis club, Rotary club or Business Network International organizations. Educate the public by introducing yourself and offering something other than routine eye care.
Most of us have a stock pile of business cards. But if they stay in your pocket, they're not worth the paper they're printed on. Give them to everyone you meet and tell them about your practice. Stop by local physicians' offices or pharmacies and introduce yourself. Let them know what your practice can do to help their patients.
Of course, the biggest source of new patients comes from word of mouth. Encourage patients to tell their families, friends and colleagues about your practice and its special services.
Branch out if necessary
If you're slow and you have time on your hands then consider getting involved with other opportunities such as nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. Contact local schools and schedule a school screening day. Referring children into your practice is a way of opening the door to the rest of the family.
If you have more time than you have patients, then have your staff do a chart audit and contact patients whom you haven't seen in the last two or three years. Call or send a post card letting these patients know how long it's been since their last exam. Ask them if you can schedule an appointment.
Benefit now and later
Don't wait around for your patients to come to you -- be proactive, be creative and find different ways to kick your practice out of neutral. Doing so won't only stimulate your slow practice now, but it will also help you firmly establish your practice for the future.
Dr. Young is a member of the American Optometric Association and is an adjunct faculty member at the Southern College of Optometry. For the past 10 years, he's worked as a clinical investigator for the FDA and for many different contact lens, solution and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Optometric Management, Issue: August 2003