Faced with the sluggish economy, a changing regulatory climate, shifting patient expectations and new forms of competition, today’s optometrists are getting more creative in their approach to both clinical and business matters. Whether it’s improving their diagnostic skills, implementing new technologies in the exam room or office, employing the latest management techniques or raising the level of patient care, forward-thinking ODs are pushing ahead with fresh ideas. They are the focus of our second annual Optometric Business Innovators report, a special collaborative project between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business. Each month for the rest of the year, ROB will profile the honorees in various categories–business management, optical dispensing, digital media, marketing, the patient experience, influencers and contact lenses. This month: doctors recognized for innovation in marketing.
STEVEN CHANDER, OD
Primary Eye Care Associates
“It’s having the confidence to go off track to explore new concepts that separates you from anyone else.”
During the recent economic downturn, Steven Chander, OD, was able to use creative promotions to continue providing preventative care for his patients while also keeping his appointment book filled. “We started offering CareCredit to every patient, no matter how big or how small their transaction was, including those coming for an exam only,” he said. “We encouraged patients to return for their examinations even if they lost their job and benefits.” The same technique was used to maintain previous levels of contact lens sales. “Yearly supplies of contacts were made even easier during the sluggish recovery of the economy by use of the same concept—attain rebates and yearly supply savings and pay for them over six months interest free,” Chander said.
Keeping the patient informed, both during the office visit as well as after, is another way that Chander promotes his practice. “We are paperless and offer in-exam-room digital imaging and video to show patients the function of their symptoms or pathology that may exist,” he said. “All patients are either texted or e-mailed the day after their visit thanking them again for choosing us and directing them to a website to further enhance our services for members of their family and their friends. Our patients enjoy beverages and movies during their visit and are kept up to date with our Facebook and Yelp updates.”
Chander pays particularly close attention to first impressions, making sure that new patients are treated especially well. “We offer a free gift to every new patient when they have completed their time with the technician,” he said. “I always find a pleasant patient with a grand smile on their face holding their gift in their lap as I walk in to introduce myself…even if I’m slightly behind.”
This attention ultimately pays off. “Because of the gift, patients are less apt to take their Rx to go,” Chander added. “Even if they had been inclined to take their Rx to an online service or to a big box frame store, they will stop in our optical, almost feeling obligated to do so.”
“The biggest upside is more bang for our buck marketing directly to the patient.”
“I have always believed in striving to provide superior service to my patients and community,” said Darby Chiasson, OD. “With that in mind, I have been involved in local, regional and state associations that have helped me understand the importance of the business of optometry and service of optometry to my community.”
A 1999 graduate of the Southern College of Optometry, Chiasson opened a practice with Quentin Falgoust, MD, in Cut Off that same year and in 2003 bought the practice from him. Being solely responsible for the practice (and having recently moved into a brand new building) meant that there was no time for slow business so Chiasson opened a finishing lab in the office. The lab, called South Lafourche Optical Lab, handles all the work for Chiasson’s office, as well as for Falgoust’s other offices. It also meant he needed to become savvier with his marketing efforts.
“Marketing my practice changed from mostly paper/yellow pages to digital,” he explained. “We have used more social media and direct electronic marketing in the last two years. Participating in events throughout my community and region along with follow-up marketing has kept our office in the minds of the area. We love being an integral part of many community projects and marketing one-on-one has set us apart. The biggest upside is more bang for our buck marketing directly to the patient.”
RICHARD J. SHULDINER, OD, FAAO
Low Vision Optometry of Southern California
“All of my interactions with patients, colleagues and vendors are guided by the philosophy of win/win.”
Low vision has always been a high priority for Richard Shuldiner, OD. In the 1970s, as a young optometrist in upstate New York, Shuldiner was looking for ways to distinguish his private practice. After hearing a Lions Club speaker talk about low vision, he contacted the New York Lighthouse, which helped him get established in the field and later appointed him clinical director of low vision services for Westchester County.
Working with pioneering low vision specialist William Feinbloom, OD enabled Shuldiner to develop a deeper understanding of low vision issues and treatment options. Together, they created an innovative training program for optometrists, “Philosophy & Methods of Providing Low Vision Care,” that has helped thousands of patients.
“I developed a model,” Shuldiner explained. “The first part is a patient telephone interview. I want to make sure that when that patient is in my chair, they know what to expect and whether we can meet their goals. Then there’s a 12-point evaluation that covers all the patient’s needs. We believe in life after vision loss and hands-free magnification.”
Shuldiner founded an organization, The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists, to train and coach members in semi-annual meetings, monthly conference calls and one-on-one conversations. Members are required to come to Shuldiner’s San Diego, Calif., office for a week of personal, hands-on training. “I’ve trained about 40 doctors in the last 10 years,” he proudly noted.
Additionally, Shuldiner owns Vision Vitamins Inc., a company that makes over-the-counter drugs to slow or stop the progression of macular degeneration. He also operates Vision Improvement Services, which trains occupational therapists to teach people with central vision loss how to compensate with their peripheral vision.
“By personalizing our patients’ care, we create a high level of satisfaction which increases our patients’ trust, and in turn, their loyalty.”
“Business as usual” isn’t an option at Wineinger Eyecare, Ryan C. Wineinger, OD, pointed out. The doctor, who joined the practice 10 years ago which his father Roger C. Wineinger, OD, founded 35 years ago, said the practice prides itself on staying on the optometric cutting edge. “We were one of the first optometric practices in the country to apply for, and receive, stimulus money for the electronic health records incentive program,” Wineinger said. Another key advancement: the addition of digital refracting machines. “This helps to increase our efficiencies, which reduces the amount of time patients spend waiting in our office.”
The practice adeptly uses technology to market its products and services. “We recently started aggressive social media campaigns, and almost all of our communications going to patients now are in electronic format such as e-mail and text messaging,” Wineinger said.
The practice also recently started offering monthly promotions either via a social media website or in the office directing patients toward its social media sites. These promotions typically involve a free monthly giveaway such as a pair of sunglasses, contact lenses and gift cards, in addition to product discounts. “Patients enjoy the game aspect of our promotions “and we’ve seen that as a way of personalizing their care while also increasing our brand awareness,” he said.