As I continue to look for ways to improve in my quest for distinction in the contact lens area of my practice, I have found that patients appreciate a customized, or patient-centered approach, to care. The challenge with this is finding out what the patient’s real or perceived needs are, so that we can meet those needs. The good news: There are several ways to accomplish this, and this approach works for both new and current wearers.
Here, I provide five tips to do so.
1 START THE CONVERSATION ONLINE
Begin the conversation on your practice website. We know the vast majority of our patients visit our websites before making a decision to make an appointment. Take advantage of that by including a section on contact lenses there. It should discuss contact lenses, in terms of the lenses you offer (i.e. soft, GP, multifocal, colored, silicone hydrogel, etc.) and the benefits inherent to each offering.
For example, colored contact lenses can change one’s eye color and enhance a patient’s current color, making them ideal for patients who identify themselves as fashion-forward or who like to periodically change up their look. Therefore, this lens offering speaks to these patients, conveying the message that there are specific contact lenses for them.
2 PLANT THE SEED DURING THE CALL
When a patient calls to make an appointment, continue the patient-centered approach by having front desk personnel ask whether the appointment is for glasses and contact lenses. Posing this question plants the seed in the non-contact lens-wearing patient that he may have a need for contact lenses. (Make it an “and” not “or” conversation, as this makes certain patients know it is expected and normal to have both glasses and contact lenses as options for their vision correction.)
For example, if the caller is part of a basketball league, but has been finding his sports goggles cumbersome or even tries to play sans eyewear, front desk personnel have brought this to his attention off the court and have offered him a solution.
Additionally, current contact lens wearers may be reminded of an issue they’ve been putting off, thanks to this approach to appointment calls. Non-contact lens-wearing patients typically respond to the glasses or contact lenses question with, “I didn’t know I could wear contact lenses,” which prompts the reply, “Dr. Landsaw specializes in contact lenses and is able to find something for almost everyone. I will let him know you are interested, so he can discuss this with you when you come in.” Now, the patient is excited about finding the contact lens personalized for him.
3 EXPLAIN THE CUSTOMIZED EXPERIENCE
When having front desk personnel confirm the patient’s appointment, have them first thank the patient for making the appointment — a personalized touch — and then briefly explain what the patient’s customized experience with the practice is going to be. This explanation should relay that the patient will undergo a personalized comprehensive eye health evaluation and then a contact lens evaluation.
4 ASK PROBING QUESTIONS
When your patient moves into pre-testing, have the tech continue the personalized patient experience by asking him questions about his lifestyle to, again, convey the message that the doctor will use this information to prescribe a contact lens personalized to him. Examples of such questions:
- What do you do for a living, and what are your vision needs at your job?
If the patient says he does a great deal of near work and he has presbyopia, you can suggest multifocal contact lens wear.
- What do you like to do outside of work, in terms of hobbies, and what are your vision needs for these activities?
If the patient enjoys gardening, for example, you can, perhaps, suggest tinted contact lenses.
- Would you like to be able to see at distance, near and everything in between with contact lenses?
Other questions we find helpful in this patient-centered approach for current contact lens wearers are these:
- Do you find your eyes tire at the end of the day?
- Are you able to wear your contact lenses comfortably all day?
- Do you ever feel your contact lenses in your eyes?
- Do you find yourself using reading glasses with your current contact lenses?
→ Show Them the Money. Have staff notify patients about co-pays and insurance benefits for their exam, glasses and contact lenses. It is extremely important to verify insurance ahead of time, so that we can let patients know their insurance contribution and have the money discussion completed early on. This allows our patients to enjoy their entire experience at our office.
→ Always Prescribe the Healthiest Option. Another major strategy we have in patient care and the patient-centered approach is to give every patient the healthiest option, regardless of cost or coverage. The conversation surrounding this:
“Mrs. James, contact lenses have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. We are proud of the fact that 80% of our patients use single-use contact lenses. The reason for this is that they are extremely convenient, there is less risk of infection, and the cost is similar to other contact lenses when you include the cost of cleaning/disinfecting solution. The improvement in comfort in vision, though, is what patients appreciate immediately.”
5 PROPOSE A CONTACT LENS
Once the patient is in your exam room, examine the answers the patient has provided to the questions the tech asked him, and use your contact lens acumen to prescribe a lens you feel — and your patient will feel — is personalized for him. To get patient buy-in and reinforce that the entire process has been customized to him, explain the reasoning behind your choice of contact lens. Example scripts:
- The new wearer: “Mrs. Jones, the contact lenses I am going to prescribe for you are amazing. They provide great vision for you from distance to near, and they feel like nothing is in your eyes. I know you said you just want to be able to see while riding your bike, however, you may find these contact lenses so awesome, that you enjoy wearing them all the time. Let’s go ahead and teach you how to put the contact lenses on, so you can wear them comfortably.”
- The current wearer: “Mrs. Smith, thank you so much for being here today. We are so glad to see you. I hear you are having some challenges with your current contact lenses. Can you tell me more about that?”
“After hearing your concerns, I am pleased to tell you I have great news for you. With all of the new advances in contact lens technology, I now have contact lenses that feel like nothing is in your eyes. They also provide great vision from the movie screen to the menu, all the while minimizing your risk of infection because you’ll use a fresh, clean lens every day. I cannot wait for you to try them on.”
- The interested, yet unsure, patient: “Mrs. Rogers, thank you so much for being here today. We are so glad you chose us as your eye care team. We specialize in contact lenses, and I am thrilled that you are interested in contact lenses today. Tell me what your expectations are for contact lenses? After hearing your thoughts, I know you will love what is available in contact lens technology today.”
We have had great success with contact lenses in our practice. I attribute this success to this described patient-centered approach. If it sounds too easy, that is because it is. I found that by providing a customized approach, both patients and the practice thrive. OM