By Kelly MacDonald, OD
July 20, 2016
My five-doctor practice in Nashua, N.H., which I joined 14 years ago, is in a constant, upward state of evolution. As one of the newer doctors on staff, my colleagues and I are always looking for ways to build on the foundation we inherited, including becoming more patient-centered, and increasing our focus on preventative eyecare and wellness. We have a four-step plan for taking our practice into the future.
Train Staff: Patient Comes First
One of the things my practice has always done well is be patient-centered. The senior partners in our practice have a saying: “We throw away glasses, not patients,” meaning we won’t hesitate to remake a patient’s glasses if it means ensuring a patient leaves their appointment satisfied. We discuss in our monthly meetings, and quarterly half-day meetings, how to increase the focus on our patients. The ideal we communicate to staff is: “What’s best for the patient is best for our long-term growth.” That includes educating our patients on dangers to their eye health and vision, including blue light, and then prescribing products to guard against those dangers, like specialized computer lenses.
I begin each of our staff meetings by sharing a story or quote that highlights how we want to treat our patients. We point out staff-patient interactions that went well, and those that didn’t go as well, including what we should do differently next time.
Enhance Communication to Patients
For the first time since I joined the practice we are e-marketing to patients, including posting weekly to our practice Facebook page and sendingnewsletter e-blasts with promotions for products, and eye and vision information and tips, to patients.
We hired an outside marketing consultant, and are investing 1 percent of our growth in revenues into marketing. Our budget this year is $27,000 (which is less than 1 percent,but we’ll likely get to 1 percentwith things not accounted for in the budget). Of that, we pay our marketing consultant a fixed fee of $900/month for up to 10 hours of work (including meetings/developing add copy/fourFacebook ads per month/digital sign development for our internal digital sign/etc). We paid him a higher fee earlier in the year because we had more work for him to do. Within our total budget for the year was also the initial development of our digital sign, four+new slides for the digital sign per month, development of our new office logo and setting up of business cards/stationary/etc, some larger local ads. Our marketing person takes care of getting the add copy to the newspaper or setting it up for things like Facebook.
In addition, we’re now advertising in a local Chamber of Commerce magazine that reaches new business and residents, and also advertising in local special supplements in newspapers. Our marketing consultant recently wrote a profile on our newest OD, which was e-blasted to patients, along with an updated piece we had on file about the advantages of daily disposable contact lenses.
We get up to a dozen new appointments after each newsletter is sent out.
We also like to show patients our office culture with fun posts to social media. For instance, we shared photos with patients on Facebook and in our newsletter when our whole staff dressed up for Halloween.
Part of making our practice a practice for the future is investing in the latest in eyecare technology. For instance, we recently brought in an Optomap digital retinal imaging instrument. The wide-field images and auto-florescence capability of the instrument does more for our patients on the clinical level, allowing us to better monitor their eye health, and it impresses patients. Many of our local competitors have an Optomap, so we had patients asking about it before we added it to our office. Now, we have care that has been taken to the next level, and are sending a message to patients that we have the latest technology that’s on par with, or greater, than other local eyecare offices.
Refine Optical Selection
We carry 1,800 frames, and try to keep it interesting, but some patients still say we don’t have enough of a selection. So, we have refined our optical offerings, investing in more fashion-forward frames, geared more toward younger patients, which works for our changing demographics. We’ve been careful to bring in lines with recognizable brand names, such as our recent addition of Etnia Barcelona frames and sunwear.