contact lens economics
Strive for an Inside-Out Contact Lens Practice? It'll Do You Good
BY GARY GERBER, OD
When I was a kid in summer camp, we had one day each summer called "Topsy Turvy Day" where we came to camp dressed "differently." The counselors let each camper determine his own level of differentness. But being eight-year-old kids, we took the path of creative least resistance and most of us showed up with our clothes put on backwards or inside-out or in costume. What could be better than Halloween in July?
What strikes me about this day, especially for the inside-out or backwards group of kids, was how the same clothes they might have worn the day before were now fresh, new and different, even though little had changed.
The Same Old Routine
"Which is better, one or two?" "Astigmatism -- that means you have a football-/spoon-/egg-shaped eye."
How many times today will you say one of these phrases? Except for those few of us who specialize in bitoric, keratoconic, multifocal fenestrated scleral lenses, fitting contact lenses is typically a somewhat repetitive process. And if you're not careful, you can get into a clinical rut -- or worse, experience professional burnout.
We've all pulled down the phoroptor nearpoint card and asked a patient, "What's the smallest line you can read?" when there were no letters on the card. (When this happens and the patient points it out, you should say, "I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.")
Turn Your Practice Upside Down
To keep things fresh and new, consider changing the order of how you do things in your practice. Start with a patient consultation/history-gathering process before your technician performs any preliminary tests. Or, if this is how you do things now, try changing the order. Or maybe now you don't even discuss contact lenses until you've completed your exam and collected all of your data. How about mentioning contact lenses immediately upon greeting the patient?
You can extend this "upside-down" thinking to other areas of your practice. Offer experienced patients a chance to try colored lenses while they're waiting to see you, instead of after their exam. What a great way to use waiting room time productively!
If you're in a high-volume specialty lens practice, you may constantly find yourself getting backed up because you spend a lot of time explaining the many alternatives available to these complex cases.
What if you close the exam with, "Your exam for your general eye health and vision is complete and your eyes are healthy. There are no signs of glaucoma or cataracts. That means we can go forward with more complex testing to assess whether contact lenses are right for your post-LASIK corneas. Let's set up that appointment now."
When teaching new wearers how to care for their lenses, if you explain lens care use first and then lens handling, then try flipping the order. Even something as simple as swapping where the tech and patient sit at the table can stimulate some new ideas.
Ask your staff what tasks they find boring and repetitious. Once you come up with a list, ask how the practice can maintain the same quality of data and service by doing that/those task(s) differently. Get creative and encourage your team to speak freely. When a crazy idea comes to the fore, don't be judgmental; instead figure out if your office can make the idea work.
So put your lab coat on inside-out and start getting creative!
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.