The Business of Contact Lenses
The Little Things Are Just as Important as Your Dry Eye Care
BY GARY GERBER, OD
The goal of treating your patients’ dry eye complaints is pretty straightforward. Simply, you want them to report that their eyes no longer feel dry. Of course, clinically these cases can really test your diagnostic and treatment mettle and aren’t always straightforward. But, in the end, if a patient responds with, “My eyes feel great!” then you’ve done your clinical job properly.
But have you done your entire job properly? No. That would only be the case if patients intimated something like, “My eyes feel great…and I have already told many of my friends that not only do my eyes feel great after years of being miserable, but your practice runs better than a five star hotel! It is so easy to be a patient here, and I have to wonder why every doctor’s office can’t be just like yours!”
While you may get comments like these in places like online reviews, a goal of your clinical treatment should be to have patients elicit equally positive experiential comments as well. Coupled together with good clinical outcomes, this will cement your practice as the place for dry eye patients to seek care.
Why the Little Things Matter
The reason this is becoming more important is as follows: As more practices venture into dry eye care, and treatments improve, it will become increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself from others who perform similar services. For example, how different is your refraction from your competitors’? I’d guess not much in the eyes of a patient.
But what patients will notice is the entire experience that surrounds the clinical event. Except for digital versus manual forms, patients think that “the one or two machines you guys use” are the same at every eyecare practitioner’s office.
The events before and after a refraction can be incredibly memorable for patients, and they have absolutely nothing to do with technology or clinical care. And while those memories can easily be skewed positively or negatively, nearly all of them are under your control, and you can make them overwhelmingly positive.
For example, is your office spotless, or are the ceiling tiles stained? Is your staff dressed in a way that supports your “brand” as the dry eye center of the universe? Does the music you play also support that, or is the static on the radio what patients hear when they first enter? Is your staff empathetic when someone shows up late, or are they condescending and accusatory?
In the book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., surveyed airline passengers said, “If the tray tables are dirty, I wonder if the engines need maintenance.” This conclusion applies to eye care because patients will infer, “if you can’t get the little things right, how will you handle the big ones?”
To that point, we are potentially confronted with a reverse challenge and yet an easy opportunity. We can get the big things right (treatment) and get the little things right—because after all, they are little things! And, in turn, working on these smaller experiential items can alter patients’ perception of clinical care.
Related to this point, you should constantly communicate to patients that you are up-to-date in the treatment arena. Perhaps you have a patient whom you treated last year who reports he’s doing well, yet you have something new that might make him feel even better. While it might not be clinically prudent to switch, you should, at minimum, discuss it with him. This “little thing” of demonstrating that you’re current adds to patients’ current treatment satisfaction—even if you don’t change a thing. CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.