Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) know how a well-trained staff improves patient
flow and minimizes chair time. That’s why it’s important to make sure staff
doesn’t stumble when answering questions about color contact lenses. Staff
should be prepared for questions about ACUVUE®2 COLOURSTM Brand Contact
Lenses, and aid patients with color selection by using the color paddle
wheels and point-of-purchase brochures. Educating staff before patients
start asking questions will solidify the ECP as a contact lens expert – and
strengthen the bond between practice and patient.
Continuing with last week’s tip about asking for payment at the end of a patient visit, I have another rule that my
staff is trained to follow implicitly. This is not a rule we just give lip service to; we really do it. And the
rule fosters excellent cash flow, smooth patient relations, and low accounts receivable. We never ask a patient to
pay something unless we’ve told them in advance. Think about that one and consider if your office also follows that
rule and what’s involved in making it happen.
I’ve found that patients really appreciate what they feel is a courtesy when we tell them about fees and payment
expectations. We are being considerate by telling them something important that they might not think to ask about.
This rule prevents any embarrassment or hard feelings when it’s time to ask for payment and it lets the patient
obtain the funds in advance.
We never have a patient at the front desk who is not prepared to pay when asked. We never have a patient at the
front desk who thought we would accept his insurance when we do not. Because all staff members universally follow
the rule, we’re never in doubt about whether the patient was informed or not – we know he was.
This procedure of advance fee discussion was not very hard to implement, but possibly the biggest change is
communicating the information over the phone when an appointment is scheduled. Let’s look into the steps that a
receptionist would go through.
After setting up the time and date and obtaining all the usual information for an appointment, the receptionist
asks the patient if he intends to use an insurance plan or Medicare.
If he states a plan that your office accepts, tell him that you are a provider for that plan and that you’ll
need his plan ID number to verify benefits. If the patient does not wish to supply the needed information, you will
have to treat him like an out-of-network patient since you can’t verify coverage – see number 3 below.
If he states he wants to use a plan that you don’t accept, advise him that you are not a provider for that plan,
but that he can pay your fee and file his own claim for reimbursement. This is usually acceptable, especially if the
patient was referred to you and has already decided to use your services. And, if it’s not acceptable, now is the
time to find out! State the typical exam fee amount and mention that it is due at the time of service. If you
must state a range, do so now, but it’s better if you can actually pin down the actual fee for this first visit.
You should state that contact lens services would be additional, and discuss that if applicable.
If he states that he has no insurance, state the exam fee and payment expectation as stated above.
Additional fees for special diagnostic testing, eyeglasses, and specific contact lens materials and can be discussed
in the office in person, since the patient will have the chance to say yes or no at that time.
If all this seem like we focus on getting paid too much, we don’t. It’s the focus of this article, but it’s only a
small part of our interaction with patients, and it’s a part they want to know about. We are careful to always focus
on the patient’s needs – not ours.
The steps over the phone may seem like a lot to cover, but I’ll wager that this is work your staff will happily and
consistently want to perform. After all, they are the ones who must face the payment problems at the front desk.
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.