By Robert L. Bass, OD, FAAO
Oct. 7, 2015
Mastering the optical handoff makes it more likely patients fulfill your prescriptions, and your optical generates growing revenues.
DEFINE YOUR HANDOFF. Set protocols for a seamless connection from exam room to optical
PRE-SET PATIENT FOR SALES. Prescribe specific optical products from the exam room, and describe their benefits to patients.
TALK SPECIFIC BRANDS. Show patients the eyewear and lens brands that you, personally, are wearing.
Perfecting the optical handoff is an essential step in improving optical revenues. Simply stated, eyewear sales are increased when you prescribe specific optical goods in the exam room, and then personally introduce the patient to your optician, who reinforces your prescriptions.
Define What Handoff Means to Your Practice
In our office, “handoff” means me walking the patient to the optical, like I have done for 33 years. My staff has tested this, and many more patients decided to shop elsewhere when I no longer took the time to escort them to the optical area and make the handoff. The most essential part of the handoff is that I repeat to my optician in front of the patient what the patient and I discussed in the exam room.
In addition, let your staff know the “why” of this: an effective handoff makes more money for the practice that employs you. Staff is more motivated to behave as you instruct when they understand the why.
While patients are in the exam room, Dr. Bass prescribes optical products and discusses their benefits. Patients then see those products here, in his optical.
Pre-Set the Patient for the Conversation in the Optical
I don’t just prescribe eyewear for patients. I discuss in the exam room the products I am prescribing, and how each prescription will enhance the patient’s life.
For instance, if prescribing computer eyewear, I might say: “I would recommend computer glasses for work, in addition to the progressive glasses you will wear walking around. The computer glasses will be set for seeing at the distance of your work station, so you will be able to view the whole screen with only moving your eyes, and you will not have to bend your neck back to see through the bottom of the progressive.”
In addition, I recommend AR treatments and BluTech lenses, and I have the patient demo with trial lenses the products I described.
Patients Need to Hear it From the Doctor
Hearing about your prescriptions in detail solely from the optician(s), doesn’t cut it. I am the doctor, the authority, and patients respect my opinion more than others’.
I haven’t always felt this way, but my staff many years ago did a test with me. For a week or more, I recommended lens treatments, sunglasses, computer glasses and other products. The next week or more, I recommended nothing, and when asked, I would say, “Better to ask my staff.” The result: Without me recommending or giving optical advice, purchases of lens extras, like AR, were down 28 percent. I have a large medical practice, but not taking two or three minutes to discuss optical options was not in the best interest of my practice.
Talk Brands in the Exam Room
I mention brands that I believe in and wear myself. For example, I mention Unity Progressives with Unity Elite AR Coating and Transitions XTRActive for the sun. The reason is I wear them and they work great for me. I am not sure brand recognition resonates with lenses as much as it does with frames, but I still cite them by name.
Doctor Product Recommendations
Do a test in your practice:
For one month: Recommend products, such as specific lens treatments like AR and specific products like computer glasses in the exam room.
For the following month: Recommend nothing directly to patients in the exam room, and leave the discussion of specific lenses and products entirely to your optical staff.
Result of this test in my office: Discussing the benefits of specifically recommended optical goods in the exam room adds 2-3 minutes to an exam. In return, it adds up to 28 percent more in sales of lens add-ons like AR. —Robert L. Bass, OD
Talk Benefits, Not Technical Jargon
I am always cognizant of not speaking in technical terms (I really dislike computer people who do). Most patients (the occasional engineer excepted) want to know if the lenses will help them see, do better in school and at work, and not how it works.
For instance, instead of talking about the technical features of a lens treatment that enable it to protect the patient’s eyes from ultra-violet radiation and reduce glare, I would say: “This is a great lens for several reasons. First, it protects your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun, which can contribute to cataracts and diseases like macular degeneration. Also, it will improve the quality of your vision. You’ll really love driving and spending time outdoors with this lens.”
Think About Exactly What You Will Say
I’ve put thought into how I speak to the optician in front of the patient. Here is what I might say to our optician, Tony, when introducing our patient to him:
“Tony, Ms. Kim’s prescription is for progressive glasses. I have recommended to her Unity products, and she has agreed that this is the best option for her. Please show her these products and help her find a comfortable frame.” So many of my colleagues say they do not have time to do this, but it only takes me 14 seconds to say those two sentences. I’ve seen the difference it makes, so I’ve made it a formal part of the process.
If Tony is busy when I walk to the optical with the patient, the products I have recommended are sent from my practice management system to his PC, so I say to the patient as they start to look at frames: “Tony knows what we have discussed. Thank you for coming in, and we will send you a notice in one year for your next examination.”
Prepare for the Patient Who Wants to Walk with their Rx
Sometimes, before the handoff, a patient will let me know it is not necessary for me to introduce them to our optician because they intend to shop elsewhere. In response, I might say: “Fine, I will print you a prescription to shop around, but before you leave, I recommend you have our optician, Tony, give you our fees, so you have a real number to compare with. Many times, advertisements are for fast glasses, not inexpensive or high-quality ones.” We win a few at the quote, more after they price shop, but the rest already had their mind made up to purchase elsewhere.
The patient with prescription in hand may change their mind after getting introduced to your optician, and seeing first-hand all the products you have prescribed that they can buy before leaving your office.