Article Date: 12/1/2005

5_05 Business

Rating Your Patients
The ABCs of a controversial practice — rating patients based on spending.
JERRY HAYES, O.D.

Instead of giving advice this month, I'm asking for your feedback on a controversial practice employed by some optometrists — rating patients based on how much they spend.

The concept is straightforward. Patients who spend above average on services and eyewear are rated with an "A." Good patients who spend in the average range are rated with a "B," and patients who spend very little are rated "C."

Friendly skies

It's very much like a frequent flyer program; the more money a patient spends in a practice, the higher we rate him and, presumably, the better we treat him in some ways, such as preferred appointment times and personal service. To be clear, we're not talking about giving anyone less than the best eye care or medical treatment. Nor do I mean that you or your staff should be any less courteous to the patient you see in need. What we are talking about is creating a way for you and your staff to be extra attentive and go the extra mile for patients who do a lot of business with you.

Before you express too much indignation about this idea, consider: Many of your major frame and lens suppliers currently rank your practice as A, B or C, depending on how much business you do with them. Of course, you should always consider patients' health needs — especially urgent ones — separately from financial factors. But, right or wrong, your practice has been rated that way for as long as you have been in business.

I am not advocating this approach, but if used properly, I can certainly see its merits. One group of practitioners voiced opposition to the concept and assured me that they treat all patients exactly the same, regardless of how much they spend. But do they really?

Tailored attention

Suppose you have a new employee on the telephone. A loyal patient who has purchased several pairs of glasses from you over the past year calls. She wants you to stay open 30 minutes later than normal so she can pick up her new sunglasses for a trip this weekend.

Since the standard answer will always be, "I'm sorry, we close at five o'clock," how would a new receptionist know that, "Just tell us when you want to come by," is the right answer for this person?

Wouldn't most O.D.s try to be more accommodating to a special patient than to someone who comes into the office infrequently?

What about preferred exam times? Is it wrong to advise patients on your least desirable third-party plan that you won't see them in your prime 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. slots? Again, I'm not taking a position, I'm merely asking for your opinion on the matter.

Your perspective

I would like to know what you think. Choose one of the responses on the right and e-mail your thoughts to boylesm@LWWvisioncare.com. OM

THE FOUNDER OF KNOWYOURSTAFF.COM AND HAYES CONSULTING, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT MAGAZINE. REACH HIM AT JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.COM.



Optometric Management, Issue: December 2005