Doctor Patient Relations

Treat Patient Companions as Guests in Your Office

By Scot Morris, OD

Treating family and friends who escort patients to your office as guests enables you to reaffirm patient loyalty and acquire new patients.

Have you ever considered the importance of the people who come into your office with your patients? You may think of them as your patient’s guests. But they are the guests of your office, as well, and play a critical role in the patient’s experience in your office. They may be a mother, brother, sister, daughter, son, father, friend, neighbor, nurse, wife, husband or helper. One thing is for sure: They have a tremendous impact on our patients’ experience and your sales.

Manage Companions to Avoid Distraction
This guest is someone your patient feels a need to entertain and keep happy while they are at your office for an exam. This can affect the time and concentration that your patient gives you. Consider a child who keeps saying “Mom, Mom, Mom” during her mother’s refraction. This will most likely negatively affect the results of the refraction because of the frustration and multiple breaks in the doctor’s and patient’s concentration. Another example would be a wife picking out eyeglasses with her husband. While the husband asks every three minutes if they are about done, the wife will likely get frustrated and make a hurried choice or no choice at all. Relieve patients of this concern by entertaining and educating their guest.

Your Patient’s Experience Influenced by Guest
Think about how much the patient’s experience is influenced by the guest. Time studies show that consumers shopping with children or a spouse spend less time shopping and buy less merchandise. On the other hand, when guest are friends, shoppers typically spend more time and more money.

Tips to enhance your office guest’s, and subsequently your patient’s, experience.

Reception
–Buy and maintain a kids or teens area to entertain young people complete with videos, books, pertinent magazines, computers, toys, etc. You may even consider assigning a staff member to this area if there are children present so the parents can feel at ease.

–Have an adult section with enough comfortable areas to sit and magazines or patient educational brochures to flip through. A book about the practice, the doctors, and the staff also make nice educational/marketing tools.

–Have your staff offer them beverages or snacks.

–Have a patient education video in the reception areas running on a loop.

Exam and Pre-test
–Have your staff explain the purpose of each of the pre-test procedures to demonstrate and educate on all the processes that happen before the doctor portion of the exam.

–As the doctor, explain what you see to both your patient and their guest.

–Always ask all parties if they are experiencing any vision or health issues.

–Ask both of them if they have any questions about their eyes. Many times you may get more questions from the guests than the patients themselves.

Optical/Contacts
–Buy a comfortable chair for your optical.

–Have a supply of magazines, or a personal audio or video player to entertain them.

–Have your staff offer them something to drink.

–Have another member of your sales staff talk to them about their eyewear (make it a shopping experience for them as well).

–Occasionally have a staff member stop by and ask if they need anything.

Check-out
–The most important step–ask the guest when they last had an eye exam–and if they, or any member of their family, would like to schedule an eye exam.

So, next time your patient has a companion, be sure to have a process in place for how to handle that guest. Done well, these companions will soon be called a patient. And if you do this really well they will pay you the ultimate compliment—they will bring a friend in too.

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Scot Morris, OD,of Eye Consultants of Colorado in Conifer, Colo., is an international speaker and educator on optometric subjects. He directs anophthalmic consulting service, Morris Education & Consulting Associates, as well as Ocular Technology Solutions, Inc. To contact him:smorris@eccvision.com.

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