Article

Consider an E-Commerce Platform

Define goals, identify the right fit in a partner and set a method to measure success

Are you tired of seeing online contact lens verifications or watching your patients walk out the door with your recommendation for an eye care product vs. purchasing it from your practice? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you may want to consider an e-commerce platform. Several vendors offer e-commerce solutions tailored to a practice’s needs. (See “E-Commerce Options,” p.33.)

Here, I provide additional reasons to mull this over, as well as the factors to consider.

ADDITIONAL REASONS

  • Patient desire for convenience. If given the option, many patients would order contact lenses and eyewear, among other eye care products, from practices, but many practices don’t make it easy, or convenient, for them do so. As a result, patients seek outlets that will provide this convenience.
  • Practice morale is hurting. Every time a patient walks away with her eyeglass or contact lens prescription, it deflates staff morale: For the optometrist’s part, we’ve taken the time to explain “why” we are making a specific recommendation, based on our eye care acumen. For the staff’s part, the optical staff, in particular, is excited about helping the patient find that perfect frame, for example. Organizations that have high employee engagement and low disengagement perform at higher levels, reports Gallup.
  • Rampant advertising by outside vendors. In speaking with colleagues, this buying behavior is becoming more common because patients are increasingly exposed to TV and online advertisements from outside eye care product vendors.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER

In launching my own e-commerce platform, I’ve found nine factors should be contemplated to increase the likelihood of success.

  1. The goal/purpose. What is your goal with your e-commerce platform? Is it additional revenue? Patient convenience? Staff efficiency? All the above? Additionally, what is its purpose? Do you want to sell contact lenses and capture contact lens re-orders? (Incidentally, I have found through my own research that for every 1,000 contact lens patients you have in your practice, you are sitting on approximately $200,000 dollars of potential revenue right now. This comes from patients who are past due to see you or who have a valid contact lens prescription and are due to re-order.) Do you want to sell eye drops? Solutions? Vitamins? Frames? Sunglasses? Dry eye products? All the above? Your goal/purpose for the e-commerce platform will determine both what you want to create and your platform vendor.
  2. EHR integration. Will the e-commerce platform integrate with your EHR? Many online platforms integrate with EHRs to pull patient data into an online-ordering software.
  3. HIPAA and PCI compliance. You are handling patient data and transactions. Consider what vendor you are giving your patient data to, in terms of whether they are HIPAA and PCI compliant. Additionally, determine whether their platform retains ownership of patient data. If this is the case, they can advertise directly to your patients and, possibly, completely cut you out of purchases in the future.
  4. Initial/on-going costs. There are hard costs to consider. These include platform hosting, related staff training and updating and security for transacting money, among others.
  5. Product distribution. Who will distribute the products you want to sell? For example, many sites can be managed for you via a small handling and distribution fee while you retain the profit. (I would argue that most of us are not equipped to distribute products online to patients.)
  6. Staff involvement. Staff members are on the front lines when it comes to running the practice and delivering patient care, so it makes sense to involve them in the talking points (e.g. how the platform should look, its operability, product offerings and distribution, oversight — many e-commerce platforms enable this to be outsourced — order-taking, delivery, etc.). This way, you can decide on the “right” vendor(s).
  7. Analytics. How will you measure what you are getting from the e-commerce platform? Will you get reports? Will they be easy to access and analyze, so you can make changes and pivot, if necessary? You need business intelligence/analytics to make informed decisions about the products and services you purchase and provide. Having this data at your fingertips enables you to make a decision on whether to continue using the specific platform.
  8. The entry point. To entice patients to enter the e-commerce platform, or the practice website, the entry point should be enticing as well. You should update it with call-to-action buttons, so patients know where to go and what to do.
  9. Required time/responsibility. Consider how much staff time it will take to manage the platform and who, specifically, will be responsible for overseeing it. Can these items be performed by current staff? Do any of your staff members have a background in e-commerce platforms? Does someone need to be hired to do so, or will the practice oversee it?

COMPETE AND WIN!

Online and big box retailers are relentless when it comes to capturing a purchase, and they are here to stay. Rather than complain about patients walking out the door with your recommendation, why not take action and consider an e-commerce platform? Once you get staff buy-in, they’ll promote the platform, and patients will buy the products you and your staff have worked so diligently to educate them about. It worked for me and my patients, and staff thank me every day for it! OM

Mego-studio/stock.adobe.com

E-Commerce Options

E-COMMERCE OPTIONS THAT ENABLE OPTOMETRIC PRACTICES TO MAKE BENEFICIAL EYE CARE PRODUCTS AVAILABLE TO THEIR PATIENTS. HERE’S A SAMPLING:

DR. CONTACT LENS (Dr.contactlens.com ). This technology allows patients to directly connect and order contact lenses from their doctors’ offices.

E-DR. NETWORK (e-dr.com ). This platform enables practices to order eye care products for their offices, as well as direct patient delivery and contact lens re-orders.

LENSFERRY (https://bit.ly/2Uuw1UM ). Provided by CooperVision, LensFerry is a cloud-based commerce solution that enables patients to order lenses from practices via their phones, computers or tablets, and provides direct patient delivery.

MYEYESTORE (myeyestore.com ). This platform builds a web store on a practice’s current website, handling orders, trafficking and notification for an array of optical products.

This list will be updated at optometricmanagement.com .