Embrace Your Community–and Potential New Patients

By Scott Huffer, OD, FAAO

Nov. 16, 2016


Forge ties to your community by engaging in local activities and charities. You show patients you share their values and generate new patients.


SUPPORTYOUR PATIENTS’ CHARITIES. Get to know the activities and charities many of your patients participate in, and have the doctors in your practice do some of the same things.

PLAY ROLES IN LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS. The Rotary Club and Lions Club are easy to get involved with, but require a minimum of a couple hours a week, and annual dues.

MARKET SERVICES. Be ready to answer eye health and vision questions, or direct people to come in for an exam, and to explain the full scope of optometric care to other healthcare practitioners.



Your practice brand is first ABOUT? BUILT BY?the care and patient experience you provide. But not far behind those elements, is the presence your practice establishes for itself in your community. My practice is conscious of the role we play in our community of Nashua, N.H., and its importance in firming up relationships with current patients, and drawing in new patients.

Get to Know Your Patients & What They Like & Need

Our community is socio-economically diverse. The population of the region is about 100,000 with very low incomes in the downtown areas (annual household incomes under $30,000) and very high incomes (annual household incomes $150,000+) in surrounding suburbs.

We have a large defense contractor nearby, and a few other technology company headquarters, so we see a lot of engineers and software developers as patients. We see a lot of families with young children, and stress the importance of getting children’s eyes examined early starting at six months. Some of our practice’s ODs have been seeing patients for 40 years in the office, so their patients tend to be a little older. I will routinely see a child under 5 and a person over 85 in the same day.

The ODs in our office reflect the interests of our patients in the activities we participate in. Three of our five ODs are avid golfers, a passion shared by many of our patients. Many of those same patients ski in the winter. Outdoor activities like hiking, fishing and boating also are common among patients.

I like that there is enough of an affluent community to allow for advanced eyecare to be practiced and high-end products to be sold, but also a enough of a lower-income population to allow us the opportunity to help people less fortunate than ourselves.

Play Roles in Community Organizations

Four of five of our providers are currently members of the Rotary Club, and I am a past president of a local Lions Club. The wife of one of our ODs is currently running for re-election as a state senator, and another OD has also been active in local politics. We make donations to many community organizations including the local soup kitchen, Nashua Children’s Home, the Boys and Girls Club, the Police Athletic League and other organizations. As an office we usually buy Christmas presents for a few of the children at Nashua Children’s Home.

Gauge Time & Expense to Participate

The Rotary Club requires a minimum of an hour and a half a week, and about $1,500 annually in other expenses per member. This is before fundraising and fellowship events. Half of those expenses are usually incurred by the members personally. Lions Club is typically two meetings a month, and about $500 per year in annual expenses.

Other donations from the practice and our doctors vary greatly. On average, we probably donate $100 to 20-30 charities per year.

Be Prepared for Interaction with Prospective Patients

Whether volunteering at a health fair, or another community charity event, be prepared to field questions and requests from potential new patients.


People frequently ask vision or eye health questions that they would like you to answer on the spot. This situation is best viewed as an opportunity to gain a new patient–within reason. If a patient is asking about an infection, or health condition, it is best to advise scheduling an appointment so that a diagnosis can be confirmed with an examination with proper time, equipment and diagnostic testing if appropriate. I have gained many patients through these kinds of interactions.

I recently had a conversation with a fellow Rotarian who noticed his vision was decreasing over the past few years. He came into the office for an exam, and I was able to successfully fit him with multifocal contact lenses. He is now an advocate for my services throughout the club.

On the other hand, I have had other club members suggest our products are marked up excessively. This is an opportunity to re-educate a misinformed member of our community. Many times I have had conversations with other healthcare practitioners in the community who do not realize the scope of optometric services, which presents a wonderful opportunity to promote our practice and services.

Encourage Practice-Wide Participation & Promotion

We often provide tickets to our staff to attend events hosted by organizations our doctors are involved with. Our Rotary Club hosts a Rock’n Ribfest every year, with proceeds going to local charities. We provide tickets for any staff members who wish to attend. We have had staff volunteer, and it is much appreciated by us and the organization. No significant training is usually necessary for them to volunteer.

We promote the events of local charities at the office. A sign promoting Ribfest is up for the month of June. And there was recently a Rotary spaghetti dinner for charity, Spaghetti City, that our practice promoted, posting pictures of staff involvement on the practice Facebook page.

Find a Local Organization to Participate In

If you feel inspired to volunteer in a local charitable organization, and don’t know where to start, visit a local Rotary Club or Lions Club meeting, and ask if you can observe the proceedings as a guest. Find a local organization that is doing work you believe in, and would like to support, and ask what you can do to help.

Scott Huffer, OD, is a partner with with Drs. Helfman, Lasky & Associates in Nashua, N.H. To contact:

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