Dear Hanna Mae
BY HANNA MAE GUMMENT (AKA SUE CONNELLY, FCLSA, AND URSULA LOTZKAT)
My, the lazy, crazy days of summer certainly haven't slowed down your thirst for answers. So, without further ado, let me present another installment of answers to your compelling practice management questions.
Dear Hanna Mae, a large discount optical store recently opened in our area and now all of our patients are requesting that we release their contact lens prescriptions. I'm afraid we'll go out of business before the end of the year! What should we do?
Dear In, now don't get yourself into a dither. Remember, as of February 4, 2004, according to the federal Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, you must automatically give all contact lens patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions when the fitting is complete. It's the law.
The rules of the game may have changed, but the players are the same and the goal is as clear as ever: to provide the best vision and comfort for patients while maintaining their ocular health. What does a top athlete do when the rules change? If he still wants to compete, then he adapts. Eyecare professionals who want to retain their contact lens patients will need to adapt, too.
What sets you apart from your competition? That's right -- it's you. Strut your stuff. Let patients know why they should come to you. Describe the fancy tests and evaluations that you perform and build value into what you do. Remember, not all contact lens patients are looking for the lowest price. Most want the best value. It's important to offer competitive prices on materials and create value in your services. Make it easy for patients to do business with you by providing extended hours, home delivery, online or after-hours ordering, bundling of products and manufacturers' coupons and rebates.
Don't worry. While it's likely that you may see some impact on your patient retention when a large optical opens nearby, I'm pretty certain that "all" of your patients aren't leaving. Don't let a knee-jerk reaction control your decisions. And never try to fix a problem before you're sure a problem really exists. Remember, if the rules of the game change, then change with them if you want to take your turn at bat.
Dear Hanna Mae, during a recent exam, a colleague and I discovered that a patient was inappropriately wearing his contact lenses overnight. My co-worker didn't want to confront the patient, so she just reordered more lenses for him. I thought she should have discussed this with him and insisted that we refit him into more appropriate contact lenses. When I brought this up, she shrugged it off and said, "He's the customer." Is the customer always right? --Out of Answers
Dear Out, here's the reality: the customer isn't always right (neither is the patient). In fact, the customer is often... well, uh, let's see, how do I put this... wrong. Your colleague believes that the patient will remain loyal to the practice if she doesn't rock the proverbial boat. Well, sometimes customers (and patients) simply need to get wet!
Patients are in your office because they perceive that you're the professional. Act like one. Make the important decisions, steer them on the right path and inform them about what's safe (wearing contact lenses willy nilly with no regard to lens wear and care guidelines isn't safe). It's your responsibility to do what's right to keep the patient's eyes healthy even if it means you have to confront him. Never compromise professional judgment or patient safety to make the customer (or patient) feel that he's in charge or always "right."
Please submit your human management questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ms. Hanna Mae Gumment is a firm believer in the saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." She has spent the last several years of her career teaching others not only how to make their very own lemonade, but how to add just the right amount of sugar.