Article Date: 10/1/2004

staffing solutions
Boosting Your New Associate
Patients must agree to see your new doctor for you to reap the benefits.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

How do you get patients who are used to seeing you for their eye care to switch to a young associate you recently hired to lighten your work load?

At the outset, it's a tough assignment. And with some patients, an impossible one. The understandable reason: Established patients, by definition, know and trust you. The problem worsens if your staff doesn't have much background information about the new associate.

Cutting the cord

Here are some suggestions for getting patients to see your associate so that you can enjoy a reduced workload:

► Convey to your staff the high regard you have for your associate's credentials and competence. Impress your staff with the same qualities that impressed you about her. Even better, schedule the new associate to perform comprehensive eye exams or contact lens fittings on staff members. They'll experience first-hand the qualities you admired and thus can personally recommend her to patients.

► "When I first started in practice," says Dr. Lydia Gray, of Woodstock, Ill., "my boss took me out and introduced me to every single patient when they arrived for their appointments. He said, 'This is my new associate' and made it clear to patients that he had the utmost confidence in me -- which gave me confidence in myself."


► Consider sending a letter to all established patients introducing the new associate and citing the highlights of her education, previous experience and special recognition along the way. If the associate has specialized in an aspect of optometry not previously offered in your practice, then such a letter may stimulate immediate interest for appointments with her. Include a photograph of the associate with her family and mention the person's hobbies and community activities. Enable patients to relate to the associate on a personal level.

► As an alternative, include the same information on your practice Web site, in a patient newsletter or on a bulletin board in the reception area of your office. And send a news release to the local paper(s).

► "You can't just send your new associate out cold," says Dr. Jim Guenther, of Asheville, N.C., "You must step forward and show patients that this person is someone you've spent a lot of time finding, and that you believe she is right for your practice, and that you have complete confidence in your associate." Set the stage for success.

► Dr. Gray's first boss asked her for advice in front of patients, showing them he trusted her judgment. "The recent graduate may be more up-to-date on certain topics," she says, "so be big and say, 'My associate knows more about this. Let's ask her.' It's great for the associate to get a chance to shine."

► Most importantly, encourage your receptionist to make the associate more readily available than you for "emergencies" and "same day" appointments -- perhaps adding (for the hesitant patient): "You're going to really like him."

► If a patient puts you on the spot by requesting an appointment at a time when you're booked, you can say, "Ms. Smith, I'm booked pretty heavily right now. If this isn't an emergency, I'd be happy to see you next week (or whenever). But if you want an appointment sooner, than my associate, who I introduced to you recently, is available."

These steps will definitely lighten your load and boost the demand for your new associate.



Optometric Management, Issue: October 2004