By ROB Editors
E-mail-based automatic reminding systems, such as Alcon’s EyeVIP program, can help your patients better comply with your contact lenses cleaning and replacement recommendations.
Your ability to encourage patients to comply with the contact lenses regimens you prescribe may have just picked up steam. You now can sign your patients up to receive e-mail reminders from companies like Alcon and Vistakon that alert them to the need to change their contact lenses. Alcon’s eyeVIP program, launched at the beginning of this year, provides e-mail blasts customized to individual practices. E-mail blasts can focus on any topic the doctor chooses, from eye safety to contact lenses compliance, and can include coupons that encourage patients to use recommended products, such as the contact lenses solution you prescribe. Four automatic e-mails go out each quarter that are uniform to all practices signed up to use eyeVIP, but the doctor has the ability to send out an additional 10 customized e-mails every month.
Review of Optometric Business spoke with two ODs who are using eyeVIP in their practices. Vistakon’s Acuminder program will be profiled in a later issue.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Programs such as eyeVIP allow practices to make sure they stay top of mind with patients, says John McIntyre, OD, of Drs. McIntyre, Garza, Avila & Jurica in Corpus Christi, Texas. “Our patients benefit by receiving coupons on solutions and medications, and getting information directly from their eye doctor” Dr. McIntyre points out. His practice did not have trouble implementing eyeVIP, the doctor says, because the only responsibility the practice has is to ask patients if they would like to sign up to receive the e-mail blasts. Dr. McIntyre and his partners chose to send quarterly contact lenses and eye allergy-related e-mails. Patients benefit, he says, from not having to rely on their own research regarding common eye health questions about contact lenses use and other issues. “This is information from their own eye doctor, and not internet hearsay,” Dr. McIntyre says. “Plus, they get discounts on products to help reduce the cost of contact lenses wear.”
In addition to receiving information that reminds patients of the importance to change their contact lenses on time, and to use the solutions which Dr. McIntyre recommends, the e-mails are an important marketing tool. “I feel the more times we ‘touch’ the patient, the more they feel connected to the practice, and when it is time for their annual eye exam, they will be more likely to return to us,” he says. “I do believe that the EyeVIP is a differentiating point compared to other practices–the more personalized information directly to the patient from the eye doctor gets through the e-mail clutter, establishing a closer relationship between the doctor and patient. It gives a more ‘family’ effect to being a contact lenses patient in the practice.”
Dr. McIntyre says there has been no cost in dollars to implement eyeVIP, and that the staff time amounts to just minutes a day. Staff working at the front of the office keep the eyeVIP site open in minimized fashion on their computers all day, and just click to that screen to sign up patients as they check out, following their appointment. So far, patients are responding well to the program. “EyeVIP has been very well received by the patients–at first we were concerned about whether or not the patients would give us their e-mail addresses, but that has not turned out to be a problem,” says Dr. McIntyre. “We just tell them we will be communicating with them from now on through e-mail, and very few object. I’m not sure that I could quantify patient behavior changes, but I expect that the compliance rate for contact lens wear and return visits for annual eye exams will increase over time.”
North Miami Beach, Fla.
E-mail is an ideal platform for patients to receive regular updates from their eye doctor, says Steven J. Lowinger, OD, of The Lowinger Eye Center in North Miami Beach, Fla.
“Reminders and correspondence always benefit the patient if done professionally,” Dr. Lowinger says. “We implement it by simply asking the patient if it is okay if we contact them by e-mail periodically. Ninety percent of patients (not an actual number, but a guesstimate) are comfortable with getting e-mails as long as it is not spam, so it gives us a platform to communicate with the patient in an unobtrusive way.”
eyeVIP also allows the doctor to better coordinate his marketing campaigns. “The key benefit is I stay on the patient’s mind as his/her primary care doctor,” he says. “They hear from me, so the need to see someone else is minimized. Also, while we send recall postcards once a year, having both electronic and snail mail recalls reinforce the idea that patients need timely exams. Staff costs are the few seconds it takes to put the patients in the database.”
Patients, he says, seem to like receiving the e-mails because it makes them feel like their eye doctor cares about them beyond just their time physically in the office. “The recall is the major benefit to me and my patients,” says Dr. Lowinger. “I have gotten more than a few patients who have said ‘thanks for keeping in touch,’ so they are noticing it.”
Dr. Lowinger is still gauging ROI on eyeVIP, but says he is encouraged. “It is still a little too soon to tell, but we are up a little this year in terms of existing patients coming back to the practice, so EyeVIP may be part of that effect,” he says. “Considering what it costs to mail a postcard (the card itself, the postage, the address labels and the time to collate all that together), eyeVIP is a penny-a-patient system that is just as effective as a postcard (and likely more so). If I get one patient per year coming back because of this system, it has paid for itself. I wish everything had the ROI that this does.”
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