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Mark Hinton

Get Focused on What Your Patients Can Tell You About Improving Their Experience

You can’t imagine everything necessary to provide a superior and memorable “Patient Journey” unless you ask them.

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A WHILE AGO, WE tried to imagine everything necessary to provide a superior and memorable “Patient Journey” in our office. We soon realized without actually asking our patients what that would look like, we were only guessing.

So, we decided to host a focus group and invite 15 patients from a broad demographic, including the college kid, Gen Y and Z singles, couples with and without children, and retirees, as well as relatively new patients and those long established.

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We had it catered in our office with nice linens, china, flowers and great food.

We thanked them with gift cards for movies, Amazon, and our local bookstore.

We designed questions to uncover what we could do better and had our attendees write their answers down. We felt it would avoid group bias, and it did.

We framed the questions “No holds barred!” to get them to be honest with us.

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Some of our questions included:

“Why did you choose our office to provide your eye health care?” “What could have been better?” “Where did we excel?” “Where did we fail you?” “During the pre-exam, what did you not understand?”

We asked one to go through our pre-exam testing, and asked each attendee to make notes of what made sense and what felt confusing to them. Where there was a previously undisclosed charge/co-pay for a screening, like iWellness, or retinal imaging, or MPOD, we asked how we might better convey the benefit — the Why? — of the screening or the cost. The answers were immensely helpful in rewriting our patient value dialogue.

We asked questions about their own exams and walked them all through the mock exam of a staff member asking them to score it and make notes where they needed more information or felt confused.

We handed the mock patient off to an optician and asked the attendees to make notes about the handoff as if they were the patient. This was especially eye opening, as in the end, the majority expressed that the doctor and optician were not on the same page. The advice during the exam was not conveyed clearly to the optician and that the optician “neglected” or “forgot” to follow some of what was expressed by the doctor. Even more felt like they were “being sold to” in the optical. Several expressed confusion between what was prescribed and what was merely a suggestion. In the end, we realized we were not prescribing or handing off specifically.

We understood from our group that “recommending” was less important than prescribing with a why; doctors were suggesting sunglasses or computer glasses, but not actually asking the best questions to see if a specific need could be met. As we discussed the attendee notes and grading, it became clear the questions “How have your eyes been doing?” and “What brings you in today?” were far too broad to help the patient give an answer that would be beneficial to them or the doctor.

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Ultimately, in pre-exam screenings, we found the patient only heard “option,” price, “Unfortunately, it’s not covered by your ‘insurance,’” and “Did you want to get it?” as if we were apologizing for the cost of an outstanding diagnostic that would improve the quality of the exam.

Once in the optical the overarching patient feeling was “unsure” and “not confident” about what to do following the exam.

We thanked our “trusted advisors” for their 2.5 hours, gave the gifts mentioned, as well as a 50 percent off their next non-vision plan eyewear, and learned they felt special being included and appreciated us for caring enough to be “brave.”

As a result, we rewrote our patient dialogs leading patients to opt-in instead of helping them opt-out. We rewrote our pre-exam history/lifestyle questions to gain more specific answers than “Yes” or “No.” We simplified our optical choices and stopped asking patients salesy questions, like “Would you be interested in…?” “Let me explain…!” “Have you ever considered…?” and “If you were thinking…”

And very important, we learned that if you don’t get the patient to buy-in to their own treatment plan in the exam room, the best you can hope for is … hope!

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Mark Hinton is a practice owner, as well as CEO and president of eYeFacilitate, a private practice consultancy. A sought-after ABO/COPE approved practice management expert, with eYeFacilitate he helps practices drive optical efficiencies, maximize managed care revenue and profit, improve capture, and increase revenue through simple systems with a focused process. Email him at [email protected]

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Mark Hinton

Stop Selling and Start Filling Sunwear Prescriptions

A little sun sense can go a long way, here’s how…

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IF YOU’D LIKE to help patients, include sunglasses. It requires a system and starts before they come to the office … What do you tell them they need to bring to their exam?

There are many things they need to bring to the exam, but for sure, patients need to know, in advance, to bring their most current eyeglasses, sunglasses, computer/tablet glasses, and other eyeglasses that make their day more productive.

The reception and pre-exam techs take inventory for the doctor of what the patient currently wears.

Next, to help patients include and purchase sunglasses, the doctor must actually prescribe sunglasses to reduce the risk of future (or further) sun damage. The pre-exam assistant, or doctor, must ask the simple question: “What do you enjoy doing when you’re outdoors?” and save the patient’s answer until it’s time to review the retinal screening images, at which time, the doctor says: “Pat, your eyes show no signs of sun damage today [or they do]; macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness as we age and I don’t want that for you, so I’ll prescribe the sun lenses that you and I can feel confident will filter out all toxic wavelengths of sun. That way when you see me this same time next year your eyes don’t show [further] signs of sun damage; does this sound like a simple plan to keep your eyes healthy in the sun?” This dialogue holds to reason and requests an agreement with the patient; it’s also very caring and not “salesy.”

At the handoff, the doctor (or scribe) will introduce the optical expert and have a three-way conversation, including prescribing the sunglasses, and a WHY: “Pat, this is our optical expert and she is going to be sure your new sunglass lenses reduce the risk of sun damage,” while passing the patient to the optician.

In the optical, the optician simply mimics the doctor’s orders, saying: “Pat, when you were in the exam with Dr. Wise today, she prescribed lenses to be sure we do everything possible to reduce your risk of future [additional] sun damage, because it leads to irreversible vision loss with time. So, I will be sure your new sunglass lenses filter out all the toxic wavelengths of sun to reduce your risk. Try this frame on and let’s see if we agree it could be ideal to safeguard your entire eyes from sun.” Lead, don’t ask permission.

You’ll note there is no salesy talk; the doctor prescribed it, and the optical expert simply repeats the order and fills it. It certainly should never be said in optical, “So Pat, did you want to look at some sunglasses while you’re here today?” And not: “If you get your glasses with all the bells and whistles, you get a huge discount off your sunglasses.” These disconnect from the exam process and more readily lead the patient to opt-out because they are centered on money and not patient outcome.

This way, the doctor shows a valid retinal image, prescribes with why it will benefit the patient, includes stats (AMD is the leading cause of vision loss as we age….), hands off to the optical expert with assurance, and the optical expert repeats the doctor dialogue and fills the sun Rx… no sales required.

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When You’re Rushed for Time, Don’t Take Shortcuts

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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THE DOCTOR RUNS on a schedule and optical must do everything possible to stick to that schedule. If the doctor is running a 30 minute comprehensive exam, it’s not near as difficult to adhere to the same patient schedule in the optical, but today, most practices run 10, 15, or 20 minute exam schedules and it likely causes a backup in the optical.

In a comprehensive exam, the doctor is typically not disturbed by phone calls, or other interruptions. But in the optical, it is common to answer phone calls inquiring about when glasses will be ready, to service walk-in patients looking for an adjustment, repair or dispense, or for a patient who ran out of time to return to shop for eyewear. These “interruptions” cause us to get behind schedule. Then, we find ourselves hurrying to catch up. What suffers? Sales and attention to detail.

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Consider the following ideas to reduce lost time:

Create an Optical Schedule

An optical schedule provides the control to reserve/schedule optical consumer needs; such as those who want to come back later for glasses, and reduces the many calls from patients requesting glasses updates, etc. It’s easy to get a fax daily from the lab for lens spoilages, and easy enough to reschedule the few of those that won’t make it back from the lab within 10 days.

Pre-Appoint Dispensing

The more patients you pre-appoint for glasses dispensing, the less bottlenecking occurs during ‘prime time’ patient schedules. Reserve this time during the glasses order and carve it out on the optical schedule before they usually head to work. In our office optical experts take turns two days a week dispensing eyewear from 7:30 to 8:45 as optical customers are headed to work; our doctors begin med checks at 8:30 while first comprehensive patients are in pre-exam.

Don’t Explain the “Add-Ons”

Don’t break down the individual lens treatment components. AR, Blue AR, High Index are “essential,” not add-ons. Your optical consumer wants to buy a pair or two of glasses, not a list of all-too-confusing add-ons, which you know leads to “Do I need it?” “Did the doctor say I need it?” “I didn’t hear the doctor say I need it?” “Is it covered?” Make it simple and simply include the “essentials” into the total lens price. You bought the blouse and the buttons came with it!

Don’t Walk Them to “The Boards of Confusion” to Find Their New Frames

When you walk the optical consumer to the frame boards, it almost instantly becomes overwhelming. Sometimes the consumer says: “I don’t see anything I like!” And you wonder how that’s possible. It’s called “Choice Overload,” a real human psychological dilemma. It’s just too much to take in. Simply ask what they want to change about their frames this time and then go pick them out yourself. Likely you’ll be right 99 percent of the time and you won’t disappoint them with the inevitable “That one’s too tight!” “Too loose!” “Too narrow.” “Too wide!” when they are left up to their own devices. Pick seven frames and help them purchase the three the doctor prescribed. You are the expert because you do it many times every day.

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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Mark Hinton

Do You Have a Sales Vision for 2020?

Perhaps it’s time to accept that you, without even realizing it, build the walls and barriers that keep patients from purchasing more.

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BY NOW YOUR Doctor/Optician “sales” goals have been discussed, benchmarked and are solidly in place, right?

You have your plan to drive the sales of the primary pair of eyewear, task or computer glasses prescribed for? And of course, we don’t want the patient to contract sun damage, or further sun damage on the surface or inside the eyes, right?

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You already know you want patients to replace clear lenses with photochromic lenses because clear lenses filter and eliminate none of the shorter wavelength “Blue Light” beyond 400nm whenever your patient forgets their sunglasses outdoors, right?

Strategies are a necessity to achieve your “sales” goals. I hate the word “sales” and so do eye doctors; let’s just stop selling and start helping patients buy outcomes. Sell rhymes with hell.

You can’t persuade consumers to buy optical if they don’t understand the personal value of what they’re getting. People buy emotionally; recall that last thing you saw you wanted, that only a few minutes earlier you didn’t even know existed, and your emotional mind told you exactly why you needed it.

In our world we make buying glasses a scrubbed-down, ugly experience, when it should be more like the beauty counter. We use words like “coverage,” “overage,” “add-on,” “allowance,” “eligible,” and, of course, “outta pocket!” Those words focus on money and scare your patients.

“Premium lenses!” simply says they’re going to cost a lot. “Polycarb” and “1.76” scare consumers. Use more consumer-centric words. Ask yourself, what does their vision benefits provider insure them for? Nothing! It’s a great club where they spend little (average $100 yearly) to get “big” savings. Their medical health insurance provider ensures their eye health when treatment beyond the “routine” vision plan is necessary.

At a handbag counter you’d never hear: “Unfortunately that one’s not covered by your insurance.” Change your words and change your world!

Let’s talk “frame eligibility.” Say your patient has a “managed vision savings plan” and is “entitled’ to a new frame every 24 months. They come for their yearly eye health exam at 15 months after their previous exam and eyewear purchase, and you say, “Sally, unfortunately, you aren’t eligible for a frame until next June!” What’s the outcome? Yes, perhaps they do get a dollar amount toward a frame every 24 months, but often their vision savings plan provides them a percentage savings any day of the week they’d like to add another set of glasses, and you have the power to provide or increase their savings, as you wish.

Patient: “How much do I get towards my frame from my insurance?”

You: “Sally, you have extraordinary savings for any and all sets of glasses you want. When we find your favorites, I’ll maximize your vision plan and show you your savings. Let’s have fun!” At dispense, invite her to “pop in and browse” the new collections that arrive monthly. You are a doctor’s office and patients don’t know they can just drop in and browse until you give them permission.

Why does the average person have a closet full of clothes, but one set of glasses? Take a close look at the words and phrases you say to patients. When was the last time you recorded yourself, listened back, and realized you, without even realizing it, build the walls and barriers that keep patients from purchasing more?

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