By Rachael Click, OD
April 8, 2015
Free up revenue-generating doctor time by delegating contact lens testing and instructing tasks. For a small practice, designate one CL technician, then scale up as you grow.
DESIGNATE AND COMPENSATE CL TECHNICIAN.Define duties in educating patients about CLs, troubleshoot and do simple follow-ups. Pay on par with pre-testing technicians.
MAKE TECHNICIAN FIRST CONTACT. Let patients know they should call the technician as a first step before notifying the doctor of any CL difficulties or discomfort.
TRAIN TO DO SIMPLE FOLLOW-UPS. Can be trained to do follow-ups for single-vision, spherical soft contact lenses.
Patients who wear contact lenses are more valuableto a practice over timethan those who wear eyeglasses only, according to studies. This is due to their more frequent rate of returning for visits and the fact that they buy eyewear, as well as contact lenses. In our practice, we’re attempting to further growthis revenue-building areaby assigning to one staff member the duties of providing information about contact lenses, their benefits and care guidelines, and providing care during follow-up visits. The contact lens technician role was added to the practice about five years ago, but it was just recently that we added training to the role for the contact lens rep to learn how to work more with the patient in person and on the phone, freeing up more of my time.
Rachael Click, OD, with her support staff, which includes a contact lens technician. Dr. Click says having a staff member devoted to serving contact lens patients frees up valuable doctor time and helps ensure good patient care.
Adding one exam a day by delegating these tasks would allow us to easily add more than $88,000 annually to practice revenue based on our $400 revenue per patient.
So, needless to say, I am pretty motivated to get this person fully trained!
In addition, I believe we will sell more annual supplies of contact lenses with the focused education a contact lens tech is able to deliver. A contact lens technician could help sell more annual supplies because they would potentially have no interruptions in their presentation to patients.
The contact lens tech can do the follow-up and help double-check the contact lens Rx if there are no problems based on my previous notes. Then, the contact lens tech can answer all insurance and financial questions in the room and place the order in the exam room. This would be great because then only one person is interacting with that patient at the follow-up, rather than me passing them off to a technician in the dispensary. I think the fewer interruptions, and more continuity, the greater the success of an annual supply sale.
CL Technician: Designate Duties
• Educate insertion, removal and wear and care regimens
• Conduct preliminary exam of patient’s eyes to determine prescriptions for single-vision patients, which doctor will then finalize
• Take patient through check out process, including educating on the value of annual supply of contact lenses
• Make follow-up calls to ensure prescription is working well, or to find out which trial lens worked best for patient
• Serve as communication conduit between doctor and patient, relating to the doctor the concerns or discomfort patient may have with the lens
• Meet with CL vendors
• Manage CL inventory, sales stats and projected inventory needs.
• Manage vendor rebates
Designate CL Technician Duties, Set Compensation
I have one staff member who handles all the contact lenses for the office, however, because we are a smaller office, they have other roles, too. This person does the pre-testing for me, but then focuses on contact lenses with the patient. This staff member is responsible for ordering all contact lens trials, prescription orders, meeting with the vendors, managing contact lens sales stats, managing vendor rebates and patient insertion and removal training.
I would estimate 50-60 percent of the contact lens technician’s time is dedicated to working with contact lens patients including helping me determine through their work with the patient if the patient is a good candidate for contact lenses, or if a different lens would be better. This has helped me be able to solve contact lens problems faster.
The contact lens tech is currently paid on par with the technician that does the pre-testing. The salary range for this job role in my area is $11-18 per hour depending on experience.
Make CL Technician Main Patient Contact
I think a contact lens tech is crucial to the practice in a way that an optician is crucial to the practice. It is great for patients to know they have one person in the practice whom they can ask questions. The relationship between the tech and patient starts with pre-testing, so it’s good to have continuity of care established early in the exam and office flow cycle. The technician will follow up with patients during their trial period if they haven’t returned to the office.
Train CL Rep to Troubleshoot
Our contact lens technician is able to double-check prescriptions over the phone when a patient, who has done all the necessary follow-ups in the office, needs more time to determine comfort between two materials or two prescriptions. This has really saved us time as the rest of the staff no longer has to wait for me to double-check a prescription and then call the patient back to order. This has made the practice money as these phone calls can be immediate points of sale.
Our contact lens technician has only been in the eyecare industry for about eight months. This person is currently going through a steep learning curve regarding all aspects of the practice, and is participating in online training, in-office training and manufacturer rep training. I think it is important to have training guidelines and goals in mind, but I think it is equally important to tailor the training to the way the person learns best. My contact lens tech learns best by doing things hands-on, rather than just by reading and doing online tests, so I give her the opportunity to learn through on-the-job training.
There is definitely a larger time investment when you hire someone without prior experience, but my best employees have always been the ones who were new to the industry. They have no prior industry bad habits to fix, but most importantly, these people are the most excited to learn something new. The key to hiring someone without experience is to not to wait too long. There are more hours involved in training someone who doesn’t have experience, so you don’t want to hire someone without experience when the practice is in dire need of another employee or during a busy season. You want to try to plan ahead and act on those plans as much as possible.
The contact lens technician is currently in training to do some of our spherical one-day contact lens follow-up exams. The technician will follow up with patients during their trial period if they haven’t returned to the office. They will call the patient and ask about their vision and comfort level, and how they are finding the wear and care regimen. If there is a problem, the tech is able to give feedback, and then talk to me about prescribing the patient a different style of lens, or another solution to their challenge.