Two Quick Ways to Fill your Appointment Schedule with Zero Cost
August 10, 2016
Seeing more patients is the most effective way for most practices to increase profitability, but that is often easier said than done. Many strategies that increase patient demand take a long time to reap the benefits. In this article, I’ll describe two methods that will keep your schedule busy and productive right away.
Vision plan family members
I’ll admit that many of you have heard of this tactic before, but I think the odds are good that it is no longer being done on a regular basis by your staff. Even if you’ve heard of it before, it is so good that it is worth revisiting.
Here is the concept: Patients with vision plans call your office every day to schedule an appointment for themselves. As your staff member speaks to the patient, he or she brings up the patient’s name in the authorization section of the vision plan website. This is helpful because the staff person can see the patient authorization while still on the phone. Most vision plan authorization systems show all family members on the opening page along with their dates of eligibility for eye exams and materials.
Your front desk staffer looks to see who else is eligible and says something like this: “OK, Mrs. Smith, I have your appointment set up with Dr. Gailmard on Monday, August 15 at 2pm. By the way, I see your husband Bob is also eligible for an eye exam and so is your daughter, Brittany. Would you like me to schedule their appointments now as well? These visits will be covered by your insurance.”
As good as this method is, I must note that I have had an ongoing battle with my staff to keep doing it. I have implemented the procedure only to ask them six months later how it’s going and I discover we are no longer doing it. Many ODs have shared the same experience with me. When I ask why, my staff replies that they don’t always have time. Clearly, we have our priorities wrong, because I think there is nothing more important than scheduling additional appointments. I have had some success if I place a notebook at the front desk and ask the staff to keep a daily log of the names of people who are offered a vision plan family member appointment and how many say yes.
Walk-ins in optical
The second quick method of adding patients to the schedule involves the people who walk into your optical every day for an eyeglass repair, adjustment or warranty replacement. The number of people who do this may surprise you. In many offices, the staff just provides the service and does not even bother to pull the patient’s record because we think it may provide some good will and the vast majority are patients who bought their glasses from the practice.
Here is a better way: begin asking for the patient’s name every time someone wants optical service. An easy way to do this is to have pads of paper (4 X 5.5 inch) that are preprinted with blanks to write on. When patients approach the desk, the staff asks them to write their name on the form and indicate the type of service needed. The receptionist asks the patient to be seated and pages an optician. In the meantime, she looks up the patient record and writes the date of the last exam on the paper form along with the recall date and any other information such as vision plans or diagnosis. The form is given to the optician, who takes care of the optical needs as usual. Before the patient leaves, the optician says something like this: “Mr. Jones, I see that your last eye exam was in June of 2014. The doctor wanted to see you back in one year to check your eye pressure. We really should set up an appointment for that now; is that OK with you?” Further discussion about insurance coverage can follow.
We all have many patients who are non-compliant with recommended recall dates, but when we have them in the office, in-person, we have a great opportunity to ask them about it. The success rate of scheduling these folks is very high when the staff is already working with them.
A side benefit of this technique is that you can collect data about walk-in services and you may want to only provide service on glasses that were purchased from your office. The optical form can be scanned into the EHR system and provides a record of the visit.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.