Ali Khoshnevis: The Patient Moment of Truth

Why excellent eyecare must begin when someone first contacts your practice

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 edition of INSTORE.

Remember the last time you bought a car? Do you think you’d be willing to spend more if the salesman offered you a basic model and asked you to add all the features you would like, or if he gave you the fully loaded option and had you remove features you did not want?

Chances are, you would have purchased a more expensive version of the car if it were first presented as a fully loaded car. The reason is a perceived sense of ownership, and studies show that when people are offered a fully loaded car, they become reluctant to remove items. How can we apply this lesson to the eyecare business?

People don’t buy what you sell; they buy why you sell it. Why do people buy Apple products or visit Starbucks? Apple doesn’t sell computers; it sells the belief that the company thinks differently and challenges the status quo. Starbucks does not sell coffee; it sells an experience. So to that notion, eye doctors and opticians do not sell glasses; we restore sight, which is essential to having a high quality of life. How can we better serve our patients’ needs?

The answer lies in what we call the Patient Moment of Truth. The moment the patient calls to make an appointment — because of blurry vision, eye pain or simply a desire for new eyewear — is a critical time in the patient life cycle, a point when you can begin to form a personal relationship with the patient at a time when they are vulnerable and need your help.

Now — not when someone arrives at your office — is the time to learn more about the patient and how you can solve her problems. Psychologists know that humans need information to be presented three to five times before we understand it. But many ECPs fail to give patients ample opportunity to receive and digest important information.

For example, 42-year-old Mary is experiencing near vision blur. She finds an optometrist and makes an appointment. Once at the office, she rushes to fill out paperwork while office staff verifies her insurance. During her exam, the doctor determines that she is presbyopic. Mary proceeds to the optical, confused at best, only to have the optician inform her that progressive lenses will be $600. Her anxiety about the price and the barrage of information leads her to walk out of the office. She may consult friends, family or the Internet next — but she may never return to that practice.

Here’s a new approach: Mary has blurry near vision, finds a doctor and books an appointment. Using technology, eyecare office staff triage her situation and deliver personalized messages to her several times before her visit. She begins to understand potential causes of blurred vision and learns about solutions like progressive lenses. Staff also learn that she drives a lot at night and plays in a recreational volleyball league, so we can recommend AR coating and shatter-resistant materials.

Mary arrives at her appointment with a clearer set of objectives. She is much more likely to “own” her custom eyewear and less likely to forgo important lens features. In this model, Mary has an experience that is designed specifically to her needs, which results in better outcomes for her and for the doctor. ECPs can use deliver highly customized education to patients before they even walk in the door. The patient is primed with potential solutions that will improve her health and quality of life. As long as we put our patients first, speak to them when they are in need and educate them on products that will solve their problems, independent ECPs can remain relevant and create loyal customers for life.

Dr. Ali Khoshnevis, a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, is now managing director of patient-centered care for PxSource. Learn more at