Be the Red Zebra: Stand Out from Other ODs in Your Community

By Maria Sampalis, OD

Independent ODs have no shortage of competitors. How do you differentiate yourself from other providers? Are you the red zebra in your community, the one patients remember and likeenough to mention to friends and family?

Like any small business owner, independent ODs have to focus on every aspect of their office every day to stand out from the crowd of competitors.

Advanced Instrumentation

Patients think that all optometrists have the same skill and ability. Differentiate yourself through technology.

The retinal camera is a great patient education tool and revenue booster for your practice. This technology generatesword-of-mouth referrals for me. A retinal camera makes it easy to show the patient their diabetic retinopathy and other conditions, and enables you to provide high-quality care.

It’s funny how an autorefractor or NCT have amazed patients in my office. Comments I have gotten include: “The last doctor didn’t have this,” and “I feel like I’m getting a much more thorough eye exam here.” Patient perception is everything. Many practitioners look at this equipment as non-revenue, but in actuality, it provides you information to give a patient a fast, efficient eye exam, and hopefully, will reduce the number of needed remakes of eyewear. In addition, this kind of instrumentation should allow you to see more patients in an hour, reducing chair time.
Proactive Practice-Patient Communication

Are you effectively communicating with your patients? Are you getting the message across about your practice that you aim for? For instance, if you brand your practice as patient-centric, are you illustrating that brand effectively on your web site through photos and patient testimonials?

There are two primary vehicles to look at here.

1. Web site: Are you showing that your practice has state-of-the-art equipment? Do you show that your hours are accommodating to patients? Are you promoting your ability to fit bifocal contacts or sell high-end eyewear?

2. Signs advertising office: It seems so straight forward, but a lot of practitioners don’t have a visible sign on the street to advertise services provided. Make sure you are catching the prospective patient’s eye, as it’s free advertising. We always hear “location, location location,” but even a prime location isn’t worth much if patients can’t easily see you and quickly understand what you do.

Attentive, Pleasant Staff

Is the staff friendly and compassionate? As a doctor, are you easy to talk to? A large percentage of patients will be routine eye exams. They can get this care from any other optometrist, so what are you doing to keep them inyour office?
Simply engaging in a conversation with the patient about their work and hobbies will develop a relationship with them that will keep them coming back!
Also, you need to make sure that you are listening to what the patient wants. You can’t give a patient distance contacts when their chief complaint is blurry near vision with glasses. Talk to your patient about all of their options (bifocal contacts, monovision, etc.).

Easy Solutions to Patient Problems
I tell contact lens wearer dropouts about daily-replacement contacts and how they would work well for the gym, social events and hobbies. These patients may only be using their contacts a few times a month, but it generates revenue for your practice. Suggesting daily-replacement lenses allows you to come across to the patient as going the extra mile, but, in reality, the conversation takes no more than two minutes!
What measures have you taken to stand out from your competitors? What do you think patients most appreciate and remember enough to recommend a practice to friends and family?

Maria Sampalis, OD, is the owner of Sampalis Eye Care in Warwick, RI, and North Dartmouth, Mass. To contact her:

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