Find a Bright Future with Photochromics
Boost sales and satisfaction with these steps.
ILLUSTRATION BY ROY SCOTT
For many practices, recommending photochromic lenses is a no-brainer. These lenses block UV rays, regulate light and are profitable and appealing.
"Patients love that they are so convenient for indoor/outdoor conditions," says Lindsay H. Bond, O.D., of 1st Eye Care in Fort Worth, Texas. "I've found that once a patient wears photochromics, they stay in photochromics."
If your practice hasn't experienced success with photochromics, then consider a review of the following steps.
Many successful practices take a proactive approach and develop marketing/educational efforts that reach beyond the walls of the practice.
"We advertise with Web site information and Web site links," says David Nelson, O.D., of Eye Contact in Madison, Wisc. "More patients are using the Internet to gain background information."
Practices use any number of channels -- newsletters, e-mails, direct mail campaigns, etc. The key is to find the right medium for your patients.
One of the biggest mistakes a practice can make is to wait for the dispensary to recommend photochromics, says Dr. Peter Shaw-McMinn of Sun City Vision Center, Riverside, Calif. "Often patients may be in the office for an hour but they get only 30 seconds to decide on a lens feature," he says.
The solution is to use all the time that patients spend in the office. Dr. Shaw-McMinn identifies a number of educational resources including information packets and brochures in the reception area, counter cards, demonstrators, posters and scripts for use during technician pretesting and doctor exams.
One of the most effective ways to market the benefits of photochromics is to allow the patient to experience the lenses. "We display plano sunwear, lens type example boards and a polarizing/glare demonstration box to stimulate interest in lenses," says Dr. Nelson.
Ronald Goldstein, O.D., of Square in the Eye Optical, New York, N.Y. finds live demonstrations useful. "We let the patient put on photochromic eye wear and then go outside for five minutes," he says. "It's easy for patients to understand and appreciate the benefits of the lenses after they've worn them."
Your staff will help
Patients meet members of your staff first and your staff can explain the benefits of photo-chromic lenses as well as gauge a patient's interest in premium lenses. Dr. Nelson finds this approach more successful than using paper surveys to uncover patient interest.
"We train most of our staff to the point that they can discuss lifestyles with patients verbally to highlight areas for appropriate recommendations," he explains.
Whether paper or verbal questionnaires, Dr. Nelson says, "the bottom line is that second-pair purchases by consumers who use lifestyle questionnaires is one of the key ways to increase revenue-per-patient and generate significant word-of-mouth advertising though pleased patients."
His staff takes advantage of educational opportunities from manufacturers, which can provide paraoptometric credits and information on the latest technology.
Make the recommendation
The best education and promotions pale in comparison to a doctor's recommendation. Dr. Shaw-McMinn refers to this as the "Power of the White Coat."
"A doctor prescribing photochromics will make the dispenser's job easier," he says.
Dr. Goldstein adds, "It's been my experience that when the doctor makes a detailed recommendation, most patients follow the recommendation."
The time to prescribe photochromics is when you present the findings of the exam to the patient. "Lay out the condition of eye health and vision, and then identify the steps that will make these better in the coming year," says Dr. Goldstein.
Dr. Bond says that she uses the word "prescribe" in her presentations so that the patients feel it's in their best interest for optimal ocular health. She also recommends anti-reflective lenses, particularly when patients complain of glare, have difficulties with night-time driving, commute daily or work on computers.
Dr. Nelson says that 49% of all the lenses his practice dispensed last year included anti-reflective coatings, particularly the hard coats with anti-scratch coatings. "Our patients are asking for it now," he says.
In reviewing reports generated by his PM software, Dr. Nelson says that patients with active lifestyles, particularly the 35- to 65-year olds, are most likely to purchase photochromic eye wear.
Research indicates that most lifetime UV exposure occurs at early ages so it's no surprise that children make up a growing segment of the market. Dr. Goldstein says that he "aggressively prescribes" photochromic lenses for children. Dr. Shaw-McMinn says that when he demonstrates photochromic eyewear to children, the response "is nearly always, 'Cool!'"
"Parents will be happy to pay the extra price for photochromic lenses when their children like them and are more apt to wear them," says Dr. Shaw-McMinn.
He and Dr. Goldstein advise doctors not to pre-judge the size of a patient's wallet."Recommend lenses to every single patient in the chair," Dr. Goldstein advises. "Until you recommend, you'll never know if the patient will purchase them."
Even the strongest recommendations can meet with objections. One concern is price, which Dr. Goldstein answers by explaining value.
"Glasses and prescription sunglasses are two items," he says. "They're almost always more expensive than one pair of photochromic glasses. With photochromics, there is one less layer of complexity in their prescription -- one less pair of glasses to worry about -- which is an advantage, especially with children."
Dr. Bond says that the number-one objection is that the lenses don't get dark inside a car. In these instances, the doctors recommend photochromic glasses with polarized clip-ons, a solution that's less expensive than prescription glasses and prescription sunglasses. Dr. Shaw-McMinn says doctors shouldn't hesitate to recommend a pair of prescription sunglasses in addition to the photochromic glasses.
"Someone who's in the sun a lot requires a set of sunglasses," he says. "Patients will recognize the benefits of a good pair of polarized lenses with AR on the back to complement their photochromics."
The easy pass
When the doctor prescribes the lenses from the chair, patients learn about the benefits of photochromics by the time they reach the dispensary, says Dr. Bond.
Dr. Goldstein recommends three steps: 1) prescribe to the patient; 2) make the prescription clear to the optician; and 3) have the optician reiterate the prescription.
Says Dr. Shaw-McMinn, "When you tie in the prescription to the exam findings during case presentation, you avoid the patient responding to the optician's recommendation with, 'Why didn't the doctor mention photochromics to me?'"
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005