By Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD
September 13, 2017
Appealing to Millennials, many of whom are making their own decisions about eyecare for the first time, requires targeted marketing. But another factor can be equally powerful in appealing to this age segment: having cutting-edge technology online and in your office.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are 80 million Millennials in the U.S. compared to only 65 million Gen Xers and 74 million Baby Boomers. By the year 2020, Millennials will make up over 50 percent of our patient base. Therefore, optometrists should consider incorporating technology throughout the office, from the reception area to the exam room to the optical, to suit Millennials’ expectations.
Offer Easy Online Appointment Booking
From what I’ve observed on the teaching staff at Nova Southeastern University, in addition to working part-time at We Are Eyes in Boca Raton, Fla., Millennials are more likely to put off seeing doctors. They often wait to see if the problem will subside on its own. In addition to that, they feel that they don’t have the time to go to the doctor. When they are sick, Millennials are more likely to turn to Google, WebMD or urgent care centers for healthcare information before visiting a doctor. If they finally decide to go to a doctor’s office, Millennials are frequently intimidated by making an appointment over the phone. They prefer buying products and tickets online, making restaurant reservations online, so, therefore, would prefer to make doctors’ appointments online.
Enable Communication Via Cell Phone & Texting
When collecting contact information, get a cell phone number first, then an e-mail. Skip the home phone number and the daytime or work phone number. If you want a Millennial to schedule an appointment, allow them to do so from their mobile device. There are plenty of services that connect to your practice management software to send text or e-mail reminders of an upcoming appointment.
And the practice management software that is already being used in many offices may have mobile and online scheduling incorporated directly. A third-party service may not be needed anymore. For example, Eyefinity has online scheduling called Eyefinity Patient Engagement. This allows patients to schedule from mobile devices, and also to confirm or change appointments, access or update their medical history from the patient portal, and ask questions within the secure software. Whatever platform you use to communicate with patients, be sure it is HIPAA-compliant.
Update Web Site & Social Media Pages
Your web site should be optimized for mobile viewing, and you should have Facebook and Yelp pages that are updated on a daily basis. If a patient has a good experience in your office, take the time to ask them to post a positive review immediately. If the doctor does not want to have this conversation personally with the patient, designate an employee to do so. It’s best to ask before they leave the office. Give patients an extra incentive to like your Facebook page, or post a review, by offering them an optical cleaning cloth or an extra starter kit of contact lens solution or water bottle, or another token of appreciation.
Share Digital Images of Eyes in Exam Room
In the examination room, ODs should consider digital imaging techniques that can be viewed immediately by the patient. Millennials are more likely to understand the results of their examination if they can see it on an iPad or computer monitor. For example, a patient is more likely to be compliant to their prescribed contact lens wearing and replacement schedule if they can see the giant papillary conjunctivitis under their eyelids or the deposits stuck to their over-worn contact lenses.
I recommend large touch-screen monitors, or tablets, to view test results and ocular photos. When a patient has a question about their diagnosis, the doctor should have a face-to-face discussion with them. But once the question is answered, optometrists should consider taking a moment to send the patient an e-mail with more information. Don’t hand a Millennial a paper brochure. Send them an e-mail with a link to your web site or another credible web site.
Use Modern Measuring Technology in Optical
The optical area should also have modern technology available. I know many experienced opticians who are spot-on with their PD sticks. But measuring a pupillary distance manually with a PD stick is considered too basic and inaccurate by Millennials. iPad programs are available to measure PDs and simulate the optics and clarity of digital lenses. This adds perceived value to the optical purchase, which can help practices differentiate themselves from online glasses retailers.
Evaluate State of Technology Annually
The challenge with incorporating technology into a practice is that technology is ever-changing. Millennials are used to change, they expect it. So, never get too comfortable with the technology you have. An updated version will be available soon. To keep up with the most tech-savvy generation, practices may have to change the patient experience constantly.
Market New Technology
Once you have created your high-tech, mobile-friendly practice, market the technology to Millennials as an experience. Make a video creating a digital tour of your practice showing the technology you use. Post the video to your web site and Facebook page. Millennials live in a world of instant gratification, so marketing and communicating should be done in a timely manner. When you get new diagnostic technology, or new technology in your optical, it should be posted immediately.
Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD, practices in South Florida, teaches at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, and works part-time as an associate at We Are Eyes in Boca Raton, Fla. To contact her: TLNGUYEN@nova.edu