I recently asked readers for some suggestions on tip topics they would like to see covered and I received some very good ones. More are always welcome, but read on for this tip from a colleague who has had the opportunity to work in many practices. He makes an excellent point.
I am a private practice owner of two years and an avid reader of your tips. Before purchasing my practice, I used to do a lot of fill-in work and I think this tip would be helpful for many ODs. Basically, I am amazed at how many ODs really short-change the eyewear selection experience for the patient. The patient is often dilated and given 15 minutes to select frames and make lens choices before being hustled back to the exam room, or it is rushed because the schedule doesn't allow adequate time before office staff leaves for lunch, or people are running vacuums, and covering equipment, etc. at the end of the day. Or, the doctor tries to squeeze in a comprehensive exam and visual fields, review findings and adjust therapy, then have the patient (dilated, blurry, and tired) try to select eyewear...the result being "just give me what I had last year"!
At my office, we schedule plenty of time while the patient is fresh to do the eyewear selection, offer complementary CLs for the high Rx patients, and for new patients (if we get good VA and feel OK with health screening) we schedule a separate visit for the DFE so the patient doesn't feel rushed. At the very least, we dilate AFTER the frame selection. We also always make VFs a separate visit from refraction/eyewear selection, and make every effort to run on time at the end of the day. We also have a policy that the radio stays on and there are no visible "end of day" procedures going on that could subtly make patients feel rushed as the end of the day approaches. I feel this has made a significant difference in our average optical sale.
This reader basically wrote this tip article for me, which is much appreciated! I have seen many practices that follow the examples provided and I have had to work on the procedures in my practice to avoid these mistakes.
It's easy for ODs to let other tasks supersede frame selection because we delegate the frame selection process, so it is easy to not give it much thought. Another reason is that we consider the eye exam to be the most important factor in the patient's visit. I think we can all agree that ocular health is most important, but that does not mean we need to neglect optical dispensing. For most patients, we can provide a thorough eye health exam and give the patient plenty of attention.
Don't waste time in the exam process. If you take too long on the clinical side, the patient will need to leave and will rush through the optical. He may say the dreaded "I'll just come back some other day when I have more time."
The patient only has a limited amount of time for the entire visit. Some personal chit-chat is good, but too much can hurt your bottom line.
Don't dilate too quickly. In my practice model, which uses scribes who also do the frame selection, the technician often takes a bottle of mydriatic eye drops with her in her pocket to optical. When the frame selection is nearly over, the tech instills the drops right there in optical.
Consider having the patient select frames before the exam when there is more time and the patient is fresh. Especially if there will be a slight wait before starting the exam.
Have plenty of staff and train them to not rush. Selecting second pairs of glasses takes more time. We want them to do that, right?
Reappoint for special testing, like visual fields, OCT, medical photos, etc.
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.