Do you ever feel that many of your eye exams are performed with this question in mind: “Did my eyeglass prescription change?” There is really nothing wrong with this question and it could quite possibly drive the reason for most routine eye exams. If my patient wondered about this, I’d certainly answer the question after the exam, but I hope optometrists are prepared to go much further than that. It is often called “selling from the chair”, but that has a commercialized ring to it that offends some ODs, so I’d prefer to call it patient education. No matter what we call it, it is very important for patient care and for practice profitability.
Be the expert on optical products
Don’t try to impress your patients by acting like you are so focused on medical eye care that you don’t know the first thing about glasses. That might impress your fellow ODs, but patients are not going to understand it at all and they will only wonder why they chose a doctor who knows nothing about what they need most for their vision care. Even if you are not the most advanced expert on every aspect of ophthalmic optics, you know plenty about optical products and what should be included in an excellent pair of glasses. You know the patient’s occupation and lifestyle and you know his refractive condition. From the patient’s point of view, you are the highest authority on the topic of eyeglasses and he trusts you. Don’t blow it by ignoring the opportunity to advise the patient about buying glasses.
In this age of e-commerce, the end of the eye exam is your chance to direct the patient to make a smart purchase from your own optical.
Prescribe and recommend
I have heard repeatedly from opticians that a specific recommendation from the doctor at chairside makes selling optical products much easier. We intuitively know that is true. When the patient hears about a lens feature from the optician and the doctor also recommended it, it is extremely likely that the patient will accept that and order the item. It is not difficult.
I like to use two words when I talk to patients about glasses and they are basically interchangeable. I might say: “Mrs. Smith, I recommend a premium anti-reflective lens because your vision will be clearer in various lighting conditions.” Or: “Mr. Jones, I am prescribing a high index plastic for your glasses because it is much lighter and thinner than regular lenses.” Try saying those words out loud right now to get comfortable with them.
Avoid giving the patient options to choose from; they don’t know what to choose. Just tell them what is best.
Rx product checklist
I think it is very helpful to have an optical product checklist note pad in your exam rooms. This will help you with your lens recommendations and you can check off all the features you recommend for each pair of glasses you prescribe. You can then give this checklist to your optician or have your scribe take it as a reminder of what to do. The checklist makes it official and important. You could say: “Mary, there are a few different products I recommend for your main pair of glasses and I’ll check them off here, and the optician can review them further for you, but basically they are…”
The product checklist could include the following with check boxes next to each item: premium digital lenses, advanced progressive designs, high index materials, special multifocal designs, photochromic tints, other tints including sun wear, anti-reflective surfaces, scratch resistant surfaces, additional pairs of glasses, comments about the frame type, and more.
Well, did the Rx change or not?
A prescription change is a very valid reason for getting a new pair of glasses and it is one of the main factors you will look at and decide upon, but it is not the only reason. Patients may also benefit from new glasses because lens technology is always improving and there may be lens features they do not currently have. Always look carefully at the patient’s current glasses and review the lab order form if it’s available and then recommend updating the glasses to include the best features. I use the analogy with ODs that they frequently recommend a new and better contact lens material if the patient is wearing an older lens design. Even if there are no complaints and no power change, we might easily tell a contact lens patient that there have been advancements in technology and we have something better to offer. It is no different with eyeglasses. It is our duty to advise patients about what is the best vision correction for them.