Doctor Patient Relations

7 Steps to Systematic Patient Education & Optical Hand-Off

By Ian G. Whipple, OD

August 28, 2019

Your ability to help patients improve their lives won’t get far without effective patient education and a topnotch optical hand-off. Here’s how my two-OD, one-location, 13 support-staff practice does it.

Prescribe from the Chair
My associate and I prescribe from the chair after conducting each of the 4,000 comprehensive exams we deliver annually. We ask about how patients use their eyes, including leisure activities, job duties and day-to-day visual demands. I tell them that it’s OK to be picky because it’s their eyes and we’re here to improve, not just their vision, but their life.

Specific questions we ask include: What is a typical day like for you? How do you use your eyes during the day? How many hours per day are you spending on your computer or cell phone? How much time do you spend outdoors? How do your eyes feel at the end of the day? Is there anything you don’t like about your current pair of glasses?

Have In-Depth Problem-Solving Conversation
Once I have determined the true visual complaint I can diagnose the cause of that complaint and offer solutions in the form of eyewear, or other products and services, that will address the patient’s concerns.

I recently had a discussion with a patient who didn’t wear her previous pair of glasses much because they were too heavy and because they didn’t darken enough outdoors. We both quickly recognized that she would see and feel better if she wore her glasses more consistently. But the new glasses needed to solve her concerns. I suggested that my opticians show her the Modo and Silhouette frame lines, which are both lightweight and stylish.

In response to her questions about light sensitivity while driving I educated her about the Transitions XTRActive, which darkens behind the wheel, and can act as sunglasses while outdoors. This set the stage for my opticians. After the patient has been educated properly by the doctor it is easier for the opticians to help the patient complete their treatment plan by purchasing appropriate eyewear.

Use a “Doorbell” System to Request an Optician
We have set up a doorbell system in our office. At the completion of every exam, the doctor rings the doorbell, which has a different chime for each of our five exam rooms. After I ring the bell, I start wrapping the exam up in the chart. After an available optician responds to the doorbell, and lets herself into the exam room, I introduce the optician to the patient and recap the findings of the exam.

A typical exchange is as follows: “Mr. Jones, this is Lori, she’ll be your optician today. She will help you complete your examination by selecting your new pair of glasses. These glasses will have the new Eyezen lenses, which we discussed, to help you see better and more efficiently, especially while using your computer. Lori will help you select a killer frame for your new prescription. She’ll also help you maximize your savings with your vision plan, and then she can get you set up for your next exam, which should be in 12 months.”

By saying it this way the patient should recognize that the examination isn’t over yet. The patient has already been transferred from the technician to the doctor. Now the patient is being transferred from the doctor to the optician. The patient completes the examination only after the optician and doctor have educated them and made expert recommendations on which specific glasses features are most appropriate.

Talk to Patients in Terms of Benefits, Not Features
Our opticians are trained to avoid terms like “AR,” “poly” and “progressive” without describing them like this: “The anti-reflective properties of this lens reduces glare, especially while driving, and helps keep your lenses clean” Or: “Polycarbonate lenses are thinner and lighter-weight than traditional plastic lenses. It is this space-age material that makes these lenses resistant to breakage.”

Use Digital Displays to Educate Patients
We use digital displays from Contentlinq to help educate our patients on glasses options such as high-index material, anti-reflective lenses, Transitions lenses and other options. Our patients love being able to experience these lenses virtually prior to their purchase.

Capture Delayed Sales
Every patient who doesn’t purchase immediately (especially those who say something like: “I need to come back with my wife so she can help me select frames”) gets a printed quote that names the products they need, breaks down the cost and describes the glasses in terms that are easy to understand.

This custom quote is printed on a single sheet of paper that is given to the patient in a file folder, which can’t just be folded and tossed into a purse. Our hope is that when the patient leaves our office they’ll use this quote as a guide when purchasing eyewear.

Often our patients will come back saying that they’ve priced out the specific products they need and they are ready to purchase from us. Sometimes the returning patient will even say that we’re not necessarily the least expensive option, but that they trust us more with their eyes, and that’s the reason they have decided to purchase from us.

Continuously Perfect Your System
We are part of the Essilor Experts program, which helps us track and monitor sales by product and staff member. We use these metrics to ensure we’re using the preferred products for each insurance company. This program is nice because it helps us identify the opticians who are going the extra mile for patients.

For example, one of our opticians consistently has a 50 percent, or greater, Transitions sales rate. We asked her to educate the rest of the team in a recent staff meeting on how she is able to accomplish this. Her answer was that she really believes in the product and absolutely loves her Transitions lenses. They have definitely improved her quality of life, and she wants others to experience the same improvement.


Ian G. Whipple, OD, is the owner of Vision Source of Farr West in Farr West, Utah. To contact him: 

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