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I’m sure you’ve heard of the practice of calling patients one or two weeks
after they receive new glasses or contacts to see how they’re doing. Most eye
care professionals have heard of this and even tried it for awhile, but I have
found that the procedure is often dropped. I’m here to recommend that you revive
Do you really want to stir up complaints?
The answer to this question is yes... you really do want to hear the complaints.
It’s far less costly to learn about problems and correct them than it is to let
the problems drift. The cost of uncorrected problems is fairly invisible, so
many practitioners prefer to not know, but realize that the true cost exists in
terms of loss of repeat business, lack of referrals of others, and general ill
will and damage to one’s reputation. The cost of not knowing is great.
The follow-up phone call does not cause patients to have complaints; it only
makes your office aware of complaints and problems that already exist. Every
office that dispenses eyewear has some complaints. If you don’t ask how people
are doing, a large percentage may let the problems go unreported. Certainly some
patients will return to your office to let you know about a problem, but for
every one of those there may be dozens who don’t bother to come back. This group
procrastinates about the problem; they try to deal with it; they want to avoid a
confrontation; and eventually so much time passes that they don’t feel they can
complain any longer. In the end, they resent having paid hundreds of dollars for
glasses that “were never right.” While these patients don’t bother to tell you
about it, they generally tell many other people in their social circle.
These glasses were never right
You may have seen a few of these patients in your exam chair. After obtaining
new glasses from your office a year or two ago, they are now back for an exam
again and they report that the glasses “were never right.” These patients don’t
necessarily expect you to do anything about the problem; they seem to just want
to report it. I know this is aggravating to hear and you want to say, “Why didn’t
you let me know?” The patient does have some responsibility to bring a complaint
to your attention in a timely manner, but my point is that these patients exist
in every practice and most of them do not reappear in your exam chair at all;
most just go somewhere else for eye care.
It may seem that calling every patient who receives glasses is going above and
beyond the call of duty, but that is exactly what I want to achieve in my
practice. I want patients to know that we care and we want everything to be
right. I’d rather initiate the call, find out if there are any problems, and
proactively do whatever it takes to remedy the situation.
Follow-up call procedure
Placing the telephone call is a great secondary job for staff members. There are
times when any office slows down and I like each employee to have a side job
assignment to perform when time permits. I assign the follow-up phone calls to
one of our most friendly assistants. You can track the patients who should be
called in a variety of ways, depending on your practice management software or
record keeping system.
This technique is also advised for a change in contact lenses, but unlike
eyeglasses, contact lens patients are often scheduled for a follow-up visit in
the office and that may make the phone call unnecessary.
The assistant says something like this: “Good morning, Mrs. Smith. This is
Denise from Gailmard Eye Center. The doctor asked me to call to see how you are
enjoying your new eyewear.” If all is well, great, but if there is any problem,
the assistant advises the patient to return to the office so it can be
corrected. In either case, you have made a positive impression on every patient
by showing how much you care.
I like the assistant to make a few brief notes after each call, such as: doing
great, left message on machine, thanked us for calling, or having a problem with
____. You could compile a list of names and phone numbers in a notebook for this
purpose, or you could write on the back of the optical order forms before they
are returned to the files, or use a notes section in your electronic records
program. A rewarding side benefit is that you quickly realize that the vast
majority of patients are very pleased with the services and products they
received, which makes working with the occasional unhappy person a little
Was the technique dropped?
I find the follow-up phone call is frequently dropped and forgotten about
because the procedure is delegated to staff and whenever the office becomes
busy, it can easily be postponed. Once it’s postponed it’s often lost for good.
The phone call is not vital to practice operations, so it’s the first thing to
go. The technique is important enough that management should make sure it
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.