By Eric Hammond, OD
March 13, 2019
Your reception area, where patients check in for their appointments, and your optical, are probably the first things your patients see when they walk into your office. These are also the last areas the patient sees. For those reasons, investing in technology that creates a more convenient and pleasing experience at the front of the office can deliver a great return on investment.
Patients are more likely to stay longer, and shop more, in an office where they are comfortable, and more likely to return to that office in the future, and to refer friends and family. We are good at that, take it up a notch from there, and drop a few “wow” factors into the mix to give patients a service element or two that sets us apart.
Here are the key pieces of technology that we have at the front of our office, which patients tell us they appreciate.
What Do Your Patients First See?
One of the first things patients see when they walk into the office is our Opticwash machine, which cleans patients’ glasses or jewelry free of charge (you can charge using a card system that comes with the machine, but we did it more for a wow approach than for money-making purposes). It uses water and UV light to disinfect, and is a visual treat with its clear glass exterior where the patient can watch the whole process. Cost: around $500 per month.
In addition, we have a Starbucks coffee machine (our biggest hit in the office!) for fresh-ground, fresh-brewed coffee. It offers three kinds of coffee and you can even get a chai tea latte! This machine gives us the most positive reviews on our surveys, even more than the doctors and support staff. Amazing what a little coffee can do for someone’s mood.
The machine also makes hot chocolate, which kids, and even some adults (like myself) love. Cost: $1,300 per month, including cost of goods and the machine itself. Per cup the cost is about the same price as a Keurig, but with the wow factor of a fresh-ground cup of Starbucks, hot chocolate or chai latte, the volume has quadrupled.
We also have free WiFi, which may not seem like a huge deal, but which patients consistently tell us they appreciate, allowing them to more easily use their phones, and other mobile devices, as they wait for their appointments, or shop in our optical.
Instead of using paper for patients to sign in for their appointments, we use an electronic sign-in on an iPad, facilitated by technology from CQueue. We use another iPad in the optical. It looks high tech, and it lets patients sign in and get coffee instead of waiting in a line to get checked in. Also, the iPads keep patients from being skipped because it shows us who signed in when and for what. The CQueue system costs us $399 per year, plus the cost of the iPads and stands.
Deciding on What Technology to Add
We added the Opticwash because we saw it at Vision Expo and thought it was cool… that’s about it! We just thought it was a cool machine that we wanted to try out in our office. Patients think it’s pretty cool, too. My favorite part is that it cleans the frame and nosepads as well, which most people don’t think to clean.
Other Pieces to Explore
We added the Starbucks coffee machine around five years ago. Everyone loves coffee, and you see Kureg machines everywhere. We decided to go big or go home! The upkeep on it is expensive, but now that we have it, and see how much patients love it, we couldn’t imagine not having it.
We added the iPad check-in to the optical first because we wanted something better than a sign-in sheet that would alert opticians that they had patients waiting. The doctor can also sign patients in from the exam room and request specific opticians and/or let the optician know their recommendations. When we saw how well it worked for the optical, we added it to the front desk.
There is no direct ROI in front-office technology, but if you dig deeper, you can find indirect financial benefits. For example, more patients come back and see us because of our cool “toys” in the front. Does it directly make us money? No, but inadvertently it does by capturing more returning patients. These wowed patients then go onto Google Reviews to talk about their great experience in our office, including all the front-office technology that created a positive experience.
Create a High-Tech Optical Experience
We use the Essilor Visioffice system in our optical, which takes custom measurements for a patient’s glasses order (specifically, prism patients and progressives). Essilor provided us with the Visioffice system for free because of the volume of business we do with the company. We charge $20-30 for the custom measurements the Visioffice provides, and this technology allows us to show patients the value of our optical services compared to online retail, or many of the large chain-store opticals.
Technology like this, and the other front-office technological systems and niceties we have in our office, make us a stand-out. Ninety percent of the doctors’ offices patients go to look the same, everything is the same, and has been for decades (think of your PCP visits). Be unique!