Contact Lens Practice Pearls
Talking Money With Patients
BY THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO
Many of us are decidely uncomfortable discussing money matters with patients. If you struggle with this issue, utilize your staff when talkin' cash—but choose wisely.
Each member of your team brings a unique set of personality characteristics and skills. Which staff member presents various forms of information, including financial, can have an immense impact on patient perception and, ultimately, on patient care.
Staff Member Responsibilities
The Front Office Team The front office team makes the first and last impressions on your patients. Whether on the telephone or face-to-face, these individuals are the "first responders," deciding how patients are to be routed through the office.
My front office team estimates that 70 percent to 75 percent of telephone calls involve some discussion of finances. Be sure those answering these calls have been trained to ask questions that clarify patient concerns. Calls of this nature also provide a great opportunity to educate patients about your training, services, and office policies as well as costs.
Train your staff to embrace the "no surprise" approach to managing financial questions. For example, if a patient may be a candidate for a few different contact lens designs, have them provide a range of costs. If you charge an added fee for a comprehensive examination of a contact lens wearer, as we do, be sure patients know this ahead of time.
Patient Care Center The Patient Care Center, staffed by the doctors and technicians, is where the examination takes place.
Any contact lens treatment strategy is best presented by the doctor. Based on what has been learned about the patient's ocular characteristics and visual needs, offer a rationale that leads to a specific recommendation. It is important that patients have a clear understanding of the treatment plan prior to the presentation of fees. They need to know what they will be asked to pay for.
Who Talks About Fees?
For patients embarking on a new contact lens treatment experience, we have our technicians present fees. Having assisted patients throughout their office visit, technicians are able to reinforce the rationale behind the doctor's recommendation and explain the costs associated with the service of fitting a given contact lens design.
What about the Optical Center? The Optical Center is where eyewear is designed and dispensed, but our opticians do more than offer technical expertise. They sell. They are accustomed to discussing the cost of materials, so they are good at it. Utilize your optician's retail expertise to present contact lens material costs to established patients who simply need to purchase a new supply.
In our office, patients who purchase an annual supply of contact lenses receive additional benefits such as savings on eyewear (see "Promoting Purchases of Annual Lens Supplies," in the September 2008 issue). We find that our opticians better understand this program and are better at explaining it to patients.
Since we have shifted the presentation of contact lens replacement fees from the Patient Care Center to the Optical Center, not only has the percentage of patients purchasing annual contact lens supplies risen, spectacle sales to our contact lens wearers has increased as well. More of our contact lens-wearing patients have a full supply of lenses and are therefore more likely to adhere to their replacement schedule (Gerber, 2007). More have a reliable pair of spectacles. Not only does this approach improve our bottom line, it enhances service to our patients. CLS
For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references.asp and click on document #180.
Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio. He is a diplomate of the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry, an advisor to the GP Lens Institute, and an area manager for Vision Source. He has served as an advisor or consultant to Coopervision, Ciba Vision, and Vistakon and has received research funding from AMO, B&L, Ciba Vision, Coopervision, and Vistakon. You can reach him at email@example.com.