The Business of Contact Lenses
Speed Up Patient Visits Without Compromising Care
By Gary Gerber, OD
"My patients love me and only want to see me. They love that I spend so much time with them and that I personally take an interest in their contact lens success."
I can almost guarantee you that if one of our consultants were to interview this practitioner's patients, they would tell us, "I like Dr. Jones and I like my contact lenses. He does a great job fitting my contact lenses. My only complaint is that every time I go there, I always have to wait to see him."
In the quest for customer service perfection in a competitive world where "good service is no longer good enough," Dr. Jones needs to take a good look—and listen—to what his patients really want from his practice. It's time to not only step up his service, but speed it up.
Survey after survey show that, within some limits, patients are less concerned about the absolute number of minutes their practitioner spends with them, as long as they perceive that they were listened to and attended to. Distilling the patient sentiments in these surveys, you could readily say that if you can successfully fit a patient's contact lenses in, for example, 10 minutes instead of 40 minutes, you'd still get all the accolades above and fewer complaints about keeping patients waiting.
Streamline the Office Visit
Here are four things you can do to speed things up while not compromising the care that you give your patients.
1. Talk less about non-clinical things. Note that I didn't say don't talk at all about non-clinical topics—just do less of it. It's the rare patient who will cut you off and say, "Doctor, I really don't care that much about your last vacation. Will you just get down to business and take care of me?" Yet, many patients will be thinking it, with a deceiving smile on their faces.
2. Avoid the "Pepsi-Challenge." We still see practitioners doing this and frankly, while not only a significant time waster at the initial visit, the explanation of why you're doing it and the discussion of the results at subsequent visits does add to overall chair time. Beyond that, a bigger problem is the perception of abdicating a part of your clinical decision- making solely to patients' observation of their contact lenses. Sure, their opinions count. But frankly, your opinion, based on your clinical experience, counts more.
3. Keep your go-to lenses in stock. This goes for trial lenses as well as revenue boxes of disposable lenses. Paying close attention to the inventory of your three most widely prescribed lenses can save time by getting more things accomplished over fewer visits.
4. Use your staff more. While not attempting to stir up the contact lens fitting pot that's analogous to having technicians perform a refraction, technicians can certainly be called on to provide more help in most practices.
With training, most technicians can complete a cursory history, over-refraction, and rough assessment of a fit (or lack of one). For example, if a lens has obvious inferior edge stand-off, your tech can be trained to put on a steeper lens.
Keep in mind the key differences between making final prescribing decisions (which are yours and yours alone) and decisions about making obvious adjustments to certain lenses on certain patients. Viewed this way, you—as well as your patients—should be more comfortable with more technician interaction time. Patient surveys tell us that as long as patients leave the office with their concerns addressed, and implicitly endorsed by the doctor, having a staff member assist is a non-issue. 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.