An obvious title, I admit, but it has come up so often in recent consults that I have to make mention of it this month. Capture rate, the thorn in every OD/owner’s side.
The conversation usually begins with a question – “What do I do about walking scripts?” Patient comes in, values our service, pays for their exam, asks for their prescription, and leaves. It’s a painful experience to be sure. And all I can picture in my mind is a frowning, slump-shouldered, well-intentioned OD in a lab coat, standing under unflattering fluorescent spotlights, watching their revenue walk out the door.
When you ask, “What can I do about walking scripts”, what I hear is, “Why don’t they like me?”
The first step is, don’t take things too personally. The second step, use your Practice Management Software to determine how often this actually happens. We are wired to remember the bad things more than the good, so the capture rate may be better than you think it is! There are three categories of capture rate to consider. If we think of these as a tiered structure starting at the broadest category and getting narrower, we calculate capture rate as follows:
1. For the Practice: contact lens sales + frames sales / refractive exams. This will tell you how often you are able to provide a corrective solution for your patients.
2. For the Frames: frames sold / refractive exams. This number will include sunglasses and, using this calculation during a promotion on sun, is the only time I have ever seen a 100% capture rate.
3. For the Ophthalmic Frames: ophthalmic frames / refractive exams. The ophthalmic capture rate will be the smallest of the three, but it is no less important. The smallest number is not there to make you feel you are not doing a good job; instead, it is the ratio between the numbers that informs our next steps.
Now that you know how big the opportunity is, you can address it accordingly. Many ODs mistakenly assume patients are walking with their scripts because their optical is too expensive. Be careful about jumping to conclusions here before we have the data to back up our claims. Utilize a quick and easy optical survey before we go at our prices with a broad ax. After each patient leaves, have a relevant staff member who worked with them answer a series of questions under one of these three categories.
1. Patients who never shop the optical
2. Patients who shop the optical and do not buy
3. Patients who shop the optical and do buy
The opinions of patients who never shop our optical must be taken with a grain of salt and may inform a decision to begin charging for PD measurements. Patients who shop the optical and do not buy are critical to addressing our capture rate. What was discussed before they left? Did they look at multiple pairs? Did we talk about sun? Did we get to the lenses or did the patient leave after looking at our frames? Did the patient leave after they heard the price? Compiling a comprehensive understanding of these patients will help us effect change that should drive the capture rate up drastically. The third group is no less important: those who shopped the optical and did buy! Which staff member helped them? How long was the patient there? How many pairs did they buy? Did they use their own frame? Was there any pushback on price that we were able to address effectively? The answers to these questions speak to the quality of your staff and whether they can retain your patients.
If you’re feeling the financial pinch, noticing more walking scripts, or just feel your capture rate could be better, remember that the capture rate is a result, not a cause. It will be the result of patient-care, customer service, your new patient percentage, your inventory, your staff, your marketing, and a host of other things. It is a useful benchmark for a healthy practice, and improving it, regardless of where it is today, is a worthwhile goal. But, focusing on it directly may blind you to the underlying causes. Gaining an understanding of the peripheral behavior of your patients will help us make the appropriate adjustments to our practice to positively effect the capture rate in a sustainable way.
Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT and studied branding abroad at the University of Westminster. Her most recent positions include Merchandise Manager for Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Northeast Regional Trainer for Solstice Sunglasses. Susan started her own business in 2009 and sold it in 2016 to return to Connecticut and begin working for IDOC, helping other small business owners find succeed on their own terms. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.