the business of contact lenses
Find the Right Words to Get GP Patients Back for Yearly Exams
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Except for perhaps patients who've had a lifethreatening condition diagnosed and successfully treated because of their eye examination, GP patients are the most loyal subset of patients. It's rare to hear of a happy GP patient seeking care elsewhere. Once you successfully fit them, they readily recognize the extra expertise and custom nature of their lenses. They equate these attributes with the inability — which then translates to lack of desire — to go elsewhere for care or lenses. That's the good news.
The bad news is, while soft contact lens patients return for comprehensive eye health care more frequently than do spectacle-wearing patients, GP patients are notorious for coming back only when obvious problems present themselves. It's not unusual to have a GP wearer state that the reason for his office visit was a lost contact lens. "They were great until that happened, and if I hadn't lost it, I wouldn't be here today."
Loyal? Yes. Return for care at regularly prescribed intervals? Doubtful.
More Compliant Patients
How do you get these patients to comply with your recommended examination schedule? Here are four ideas to keep your GP patients returning for care.
Durability doesn't mean don't come back. Be forthright and tell patients, "You're not wearing soft contact lenses. For that reason, they should last longer. However, lasting longer has no relation to how often you should return for yearly eye health examinations."
Most of us internalize this sentiment but rarely communicate it to our patients. To the contrary, we often highlight GPs' durability as a patient benefit and never discuss the potentially deleterious effect on the patient's perception of properly scheduled care. If we don't actively disconnect durability from the care timeline, patients won't do it themselves.
Replace lenses. Some of our clients have had success by telling a patient at the initial fitting that they'll replace the lenses when the patient returns next year. Today's lenses will become the latest spare pair. With higher Dk/t lenses, some astute clinicians have argued that yearly replacement is clinically reasonable. To help facilitate this, some practitioners have built this lens fee into each yearly global fee.
It's not just about vision. We know, and I hope your patients do too, that GP lenses give very sharp vision. Properly fit and cared for, that vision is consistent and comfortable. So consistent, in fact, that patients get used to seeing well and it becomes the expected norm. For that reason, these patients need extra reminders that good vision isn't the only thing you check during a yearly evaluation.
Throughout the year, via email newsletters, Web site stories and the like, continually remind patients what is already obvious to you — that you do more than check vision. For some patients you need to state the patently obvious. Something like, "Most patients who are first treated for glaucoma also have 20/20 vision with their contact lenses."
GPs for life. Explain at the outset of the visit that a GP patient, like any contact lens patient, is fit over a lifetime, not just over the next few days or weeks. To that end, let patients know that what you're looking at today with regard to corneal health and other things relative to a safe and good fit can change — and can change over a lifetime. Frame things from the perspective of, "You're a GP patient for life, or until you stop wearing the lenses. To that end, yearly visits are an important part of you wearing the lenses for the rest of your life." CLS
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.