Approach to Practice
contact lens practice shares how providing four-star patient treatment helps them
By Barry Farkas, OD, Susan Resnick, OD,
and Jordan Kassalow, OD
people, no two successful optometric practices are exactly the same. They do, however,
share certain common threads. First, each identifies that portion of the patient
market that it wishes to target. Then, all of the practice's energies and creativity
are directed toward attracting that targeted group. Finally, and perhaps most importantly,
each does the very best it can for every patient that it treats. In short, members
of each successful practice have created that 'special place' with 'special
people,' ready, willing and able to deliver 'special services' and they've
then found a way to let the world know about what they've created.
Ours is a second-generation practice, built on
the shoulders of those who preceded us. We give special credit and thanks to our
founders for the creation of an entity, well in advance of its time, that encompassed
the principles of excellence in patient care, principles toward which we continue
to strive every day. Early on they recognized that it's the experience that counts.
Patients are, indeed, experts at knowing if they feel valued. Simply stated, if
you're selling a service, you're selling a relationship.
We also are equally in our founders' debt
for the legacy of the marketing direction that began with them. We continue to target
their chosen market, the most upscale of socio-economic populations. We have been
most successful in this pursuit by providing a location and ambiance that, along
with a warm, caring and highly trained staff, provide products and professional
care that consistently exceed expectations.
We're not sure that a practice like
ours that doesn't accept third party payments and costs several million dollars
a year to run could ever be created again from its beginning roots. The basic principles
of success are, however, tangible and we're constantly striving to maintain them.
requires integrating new technology into your office routine.
The Special Place
Location is the foundation upon which our 'special
place' was created. Our Manhattan location couldn't be better to attract our targeted
upscale patients. It's in the fanciest part of town and exactly on the line between
and surrounded by the priciest commercial and residential real estate in New York
City. Our office decor blends elegance, comfort and function. As soon as you enter,
you feel right at home. The walls are adorned with original artwork and the ample
seating is soft and elegant. Dozens of magazines and beautiful books are neatly
placed throughout the attractively furnished common areas. Laptop workspaces, a
courtesy telephone, and even a much-used jigsaw puzzle offer an inviting way for
patients to pass the time enjoyably when we too often run a little behind schedule.
We also make sure that nobody goes hungry or thirsty. Complimentary coffee, teas,
hot chocolate, bottled water and 'power bars' are always available. Just like a
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it's better than being home!
should also mention that within a 20-block radius of our office are dozens of high-end
optical boutiques. Rather than avoiding our "competitors," we've actively created
strong cross-referral relationships with these upscale establishments. We ensure
their patients get immediate attention, the most precise refractive services and
are sent directly back to them to fill their eyeglass prescriptions. Additionally,
we can provide the specialized contact lens services that many of these patients
Our office is convenient not
just to those who can afford to live and work in the area, but is also accessible
via all forms of mass transit. For those who visit us from out of town, there are
ample parking facilities, as well as the finest hotels, shops, parks, restaurants
and culture imaginable. In short, like a Ritz- Carlton Hotel, if we could afford
it, where we practice would be a wonderful place to live!
Creating 'special people' begins from the top
and actively extrudes downward. Because the doctors are often the most harried,
most frustrated, most hidden and least charming people in the office, we can't overstate
the importance of selecting the right office manager. We set the tone, but the managers
must disseminate and monitor its successful application. They must not simply be
as good as we are at this process, they must be better!
'Special people' is, of course, an extension
of The Golden Rule: Do unto others.... The variation on this rule is that the successful
practice strives to treat its patients even better than we would expect to be treated
ourselves. It is, of course, 'Marketing 101' and personifies that all-important
yet most basic concept of 'exceeding expectations.'
We can honestly, yet unfortunately,
state that we learn so much of what not to do when we visit other doctors' offices.
So who is our best interpersonal role model? Why, our Ritz-Carlton friends, of course!
If you've ever stayed there you've been treated to the experience: "Welcome Ms.
Smith. How nice to have you with us again." Each patient in our office is similarly
greeted with his or her name being repeated multiple times.
Please and thank you are not forgotten
and the first question our patients receive upon checking out is "How was your visit
with us today?" As we conclude each patient encounter, our doctors routinely ask,
"Is there is anything else we can do for you today?" We care a great deal about
the patients that we treat. We want them to know that they're not just another number
The most painful part of acquiring
those 'special people' is the price tag that goes along with it. Yes, our salaries
are higher than most, but that's only part of our success in attracting and keeping
quality staff. An extensive screening process in hiring and a rigorous training
program are essential.
We believe there are three key actions
in building a highly trained and extremely attentive office team:
You can't train
people to be friendly, you can only hire friendly people.
A jigsaw puzzle area, as well as complimentary
snacks helps make the wait more pleasant for patients.
Performance Empower your team
don't just delegate. Through cross-training and facilitating new skill development
you help your staff achieve, accomplish and take pride in their work.
Professional Image Uniformly professional
attire, nametags and business cards go a long way in creating that polish. A sad,
but essential necessity is to fire early an employee who cannot tow the mark in
meeting your standards of excellence.
'Special services' is the one area in which the
doctors must rule. Although we delegate so much of what we do, in this area, we
must maintain our strongest personal control. We never forget that our patients
come to see us, not our biomicroscopes, retinal imagers, wavefront analyzers or
To be sure, we have spared no time, cost or
effort in acquiring, mastering (or attempting to master) and maintaining the most
advanced array of products and ophthalmic instrumentation available. 'Special services'
have to do with how we funnel those advances into satisfying our patients' needs.
Those needs are often quite extraordinary in a specialty contact lens practice like
ours, where the average new patient has tried lenses unsuccessfully several times
before and keratoconus and 15.00D myopia seem like normal findings. The key to success
with this most challenging patient population is to have a full arsenal of clinical
tools on hand. This means having multiple fitting sets and a vast array of diagnostic
lenses available from standard disposable lenses to lenses for specialty applications
such as post-graft fits, advanced keratoconus, presbyopia and prosthetics. This
approach often permits same-day dispensing. Patients are extremely appreciative
when at the conclusion of their diagnostic evaluation, they leave with the appropriate
to three days after initial dispensing, our technicians call all new patients. The
purpose of the call, ostensibly, is to find out how the patient is doing with his
or her new contact lenses. It's truly an added touch that patients appreciate and
has many benefits from a patient management perspective. It allows for a quick review
of lens care procedures and the asking of questions which patients may otherwise
be too busy or timid to take the time to ask before their follow-up visit. The technicians
will bring any significant issues to the doctor's attention so that if alternative
lenses are needed or a situation requires "defusing" it can be done immediately.
In addition to patient pampering,
'special services' requires the successful integration of the newest of technologies
into your office routines early on. This is an ongoing process which involves keeping
your ear to the ground to know what's coming through reading, attending training
sessions and lectures, and gleaning helpful hints from those more experienced than
yourself. We are privileged to belong to a network of select practitioners, nationally
as well as internationally, with whom we exchange and evaluate both clinical developments
and business ideology.
We can proudly say that there's no
new product out there that we haven't either included into our specialty contact
lens practice or tabled for ongoing review. For example, we were among the first
in our area to offer patients the benefit of refractive surgery and then a bit later
on, corneal refractive therapy. We're currently embracing the introduction of phakic
implants and multifocal IOLs in our comanagement endeavors. We're continually evaluating
and incorporating new contact lens designs for presbyopia as well as new contact
lens materials, tear supplements and care solutions for dry eye management. Staying
ahead is how we stay on top of our game.
A Quality Investment
By Gary Gerber, OD
Establishing a highly personal, concierge-type practice may seem
like difficult task especially when trying to keep costs in line with industry
norms. For example, it's often written that labor costs for an optometrist's practice
should be about 18 percent of gross sales and occupancy costs should be about 5
percent. However, these industry norms are just that averages across a wide
array of practices. If you attempt to keep your cost in line with industry standards,
you'll wind up with a standard practice.
So, instead of using the benchmarks from other contact lens practices,
use those from industries you wish to emulate. Undoubtedly, the labor and costs
associated with maintaining the physical plant of the Ritz-Carlton dwarf those of
Motel 6. If you want to configure your practice to deliver concierge-type care,
be prepared to pay for it. In short, you not only get what you pay for you
get the rewards of those payments too.
Convenience is yet another important
facet of top-notch service. Our multi-doctor practice offers early morning as well
as evening and Saturday hours. We also provide immediate access to "loaner" or temporary
lenses as well as 24-hour telephone and electronic lens ordering services. Of course,
the doctors are reachable via our answering service around the clock in the event
of an emergency.
The final, yet perhaps most important
cornerstone of 'special services' is the practitioner's skill set and expertise.
Employing a cutting-edge approach in clinical applications as well as participating
in clinical trials or pre-market evaluations of new designs and materials are hallmarks
of successful and growing practices. It's important to be proactive with each and
every patient even with "non-complainers." Superior communication skills
are a universally defining quality of the superior practitioner. He or she takes
a focused history and is attentive to patients' goals and concerns. You then effectively
manage patients' expectations. Lastly, each patient encounter is culminated with
a positive message. This may involve informing the patient of a newer and better
contact lens design expected in the not-too-distant future or of an improved refractive
technology better suited to his needs.
'special services,' the best professional care possible, is the most important thing
we do. Happily, it's the single area that makes us feel the best about ourselves.
We think that the folks at Ritz-Carlton Hotels, in their own way, feel the same
The Same Rules Apply
Regardless of which patient market you wish to
target and attract into your practice, the basic rules that apply are the same.
If you can create the place, personnel and level and type of services to attract
your segment, they will beat a path to your door. How to let the world know of that
excellence is a topic for another day.
Dr. Farkas serves as a trustee for the Pennsylvania
College of Optometry and is a Diplomate of the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of
Dr. Kassalow is a partner at Drs. Farkas, Kassalow and Resnick
and Associates, PC. He is President of Scojo Vision LLC, and Chairman of Scojo
Dr. Resnick is a principal of Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick and
Associates, PC New York practice and is a Diplomate in the Cornea and Contact Lens
Section of the AAO.
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: March 2006