By Brooke Schaeffer-Kaplan, OD
Dec. 12, 2018
You want your patients to have the products you prescribed for them, and to have them buy those products from your optical.
The number of pairs of eyeglasses dispensed as a proportion of the number of exams conducted provides a rough measure of a practice’s eyewear sales “capture rate.” Industry data from the Management & Business Academy show that one-third of the eyewear purchases of patients of independent eyecare professionals are made with other providers, usually optical retailers whose main focus is selling eyeglasses.
While “walk-out” represents enormous revenue loss to independent eye doctors, just 23 percent of MBA practices ever track their eyewear sales “capture rate.
Here are some of the ways I coordinate with my opticians to enhance patient care, and to drive optical revenues.
Ask Key Questions: Profession, Family & Hobbies
The number one question I ask is, “So, what do you do?” We used to live in a world where one PAL could solve every visual need throughout a day. Now, we live in a world with multiple, large-screen monitors plus small screens on phones, tablets and e-readers.
When I discuss a patient’s work set up, most of the time I come up with two or three solutions (a standard PAL, a computer Rx and prescription sunglasses) needed to optimize comfortable vision all day.
I also ask about the family and hobbies. For parents of kids playing sports, I discuss the importance of sun protection when they are outside. If they wince at multiple pairs, I discuss Transitions lenses with them.
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Give the Patient All Their Options
I start the discussion of all their spectacle and sunwear lens options by saying: “I am putting multiple prescriptions in your chart so that when I take you to the optical the staff knows exactly what we discussed.”
I always have a conversation with the patient because the prescriptions mean much more coming from the doctor’s mouth than they do when solely communicated by the opticians, who are reading from a prescription pad or computer screen. The patient understands that as a doctor I am prescribing eyewear, rather than just selling it.
Talk Digital Eye Fatigue & Blue Light
I discuss blue light technology, like Prevencia from Essilor, to help with end-of-day eye fatigue. I usually bring this up whenever I walk into an exam room and the patient is looking at their phone.
I might say: “I am a firm believer in the need to protect our eyes from the vast amount of screen time we all endure. I even have all three of my children in “iPad glasses” (ie +0.50 Eyezen with Prevencia).”
If I’m discussing this with parents of patients, and they emphatically say they limit screen time, I ask them about school. Do their children have access to computers, tablets, Surface Pros at school? Are they looking at a traditional white board, or does the school use smart boards? I emphasize the point that we cannot completely block screen time, so why not protect our eyes?
Listen for Clues from Patients
Sometimes determining what a patient needs in eyewear isn’t as simple as asking questions and getting responses. It can be dependent on being a careful listener, who picks up on visual discomfort, which the patient themselves may not yet realize is becoming a problem.
Every patient will give you clues throughout the exam, if you just listen. The patient chose to come and see you for an eye exam. A vast majority of them come in not because they are concerned for the health of their eyes. They come in because there is some visual need not being met in their day-to-day life. It is up to us to find out what that exact need is, and I find that just talking to them continuously through the exam helps lead me to the right solution for them.
For example, an older patient may mention that they no longer go to club meetings at night, and if you dig further, you may find that it’s because their night vision has deteriorated, or a contact lens wearer in monthly disposables may make passing reference to forgetting once in a while to take out their lenses, or that “everything is fine,” but that their eyes sometimes get dry at the end of the day. Those are the times when you can step in as doctor, and say: “I think I know what the problem may be, and how to fix it.”
Take the Time to Escort the Patient to the Optical
Once the exam is complete, I escort the patient to the optical and repeat my recommendations to the optician in front of the patient. It’s important to reinforce what you already discussed to solidify that this is the best solution for the patient.
Doctors & Opticians Should Both Track Optical Sales Numbers
In our practice, the doctors and opticians work together to reach optical sales goals. Our doctors have access to all of the same numbers as our office managers and opticians, and we find that helps nurture a management team spirit, with operations, clinical and sales working together to provide the best patient experience.
Doctor Models Glasses Sold in Optical
Just as your opticians should wear the products your optical sells, so should your doctors. That includes the doctor posting photos of themselves wearing the optical’s products to the practice Facebook and Instagram accounts.
On Election Day, I posted my “I Voted” selfie wearing Beausoleil sunglasses, and received multiple compliments about the glasses!
Brooke Schaeffer-Kaplan, OD, is an optometrist at Schaeffer Eye Center, a 16-location practice in Alabama, founded by her father, Jack Schaeffer, OD, that is now a part of MyEyeDr. To contact her: email@example.com