By Deborah C. Weston, OD
Feb. 16, 2022
Your patients want contact with your office when they have a question or need a product and service, and you want contact with them to facilitate marketing. The question is how best to provide that contact, so both patients and practice benefit.
Here is how I create touch points that keep a line of communication open with my patients, and allow them to receive products, like contact lenses, when they need them.
The Pandemic Posed Unprecedented Challenges to Patient Touch Points
I’m a hands-on eyecare practitioner who enjoys time with patients, so not being able to physically see patients during the pandemic, and adjusting to a “new normal,” was a steep challenge. Fortunately, I already had strong communication platforms in place that helped me to continue to foster mutually beneficial relationships with my patients, even when we couldn’t see each other in-person.
We are now back to a normal schedule of seeing patients in-person. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is patients’ desire for 24/7 access, which has been made possible, thanks to digital platforms that allow for a new type of patient-practice connection. By using these platforms, I can better help patients achieve the best eyecare experience possible.
Providing an Easy Way to Get New Supplies of CLs
Contact-lens ordering platforms were, and remain, an incredibly valuable technology for my practice because they allow me to compete in the increasingly complex eyecare market. These platforms give me an opportunity to meet my patients in the digital world they already live in, while enabling my practice to grow and connect with patients.
For example, MARLO, Alcon’s contact-lens ordering platform, allows patients to experience the convenience of order reminders and notifications, while also having 24/7 access to contact-lens ordering with the click of a button. Patients are looking for “concierge-like” services that make them feel like they are getting priority care. My patients are vocal about having the ease and freedom to order contact lenses whenever they want, so it’s a win-win in which both my patients and practice are kept happy.
Editor’s Note: MARLO is a digital platform that allows patients to order Alcon contact lenses from their doctors. Platforms by other contact lens manufacturers and distributors are also available, including LensFerry from CooperVision and YourLens.com from ABB Optical Group, among other options.
When my staff and I started using contact lens ordering platforms like MARLO, I found that it took minimal time per patient to enter in the patient’s information if they weren’t already in our practice management system. Once that is done, a link is sent to the patient and the patient can decide on the order quantity and place an order whenever they want.
By utilizing this and similar platforms, my staff and I gained an extra 30-60 minutes per 1-2 patients because we could communicate with patients instantly. Activities such as contact lens ordering, appointments and rescheduling were reduced to just a few clicks.
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My practice is not yet fully recovered from the pandemic lockdown, and the months when we had to limit the number we could see per day, but I’m proud that my practice improved its revenue gap between 2019-2021 vs. 2019-2020, and we’re probably only down about $50,000 in total gross revenue between 2019-2021. A large part of our success is a result of increasing our contact lens revenue, which is truly our private practice’s holy grail. To experience a percent increase for contact lens orders when people were living in a world, in which they didn’t have a reason to wear contact lenses as much, is significant and a main source of optimism that we’re on the right trajectory to return to pre-pandemic numbers.
Patient Communication Software for 2-Way Texting & E-Blasts
I use e-mail marketing software from Weave that makes it easy for me to connect with patients via two-way texting and e-blasts, which have been especially helpful during the pandemic. Even though my patients weren’t stepping foot in the office during the lockdown, I brought in $4,500 in contact lens orders in two days, thanks to two e-blasts.
Editor’s Note: Weave is one of many platforms you can choose from for patient communications. Other options include Solutionreach and Constant Contact. Be sure that when you text or e-mail with patients regarding protected personal information that you use a HIPAA-compliant platform.
On April 7, 2020, I sent two e-mails: one e-mail informed patients that we were open, and one e-mail informed patients that we were abiding by COVID protocols and were also offering telemedicine appointments. I sent the first e-mail to nearly 10,000 recipients, and had a 40 percent open rate. The second e-mail was just shy of 10,000 recipients with a 50 percent open rate.
I try to keep e-blasts simple and focus on whatever news I am trying to share. I also tend to use basic logos and graphics to get my message across. People often think you need to be an e-mail marketing expert, or have a sophisticated e-mail marketing platform to reach patients. However, I found that if you take time to learn your e-mail marketing platform, and you have compelling practice information to share, your e-blast will speak for itself.
I used this graphic in an e-mail sent to my patients to let them know were were open again for routine care:
And this one to let patients know we offer free shipping on contact lenses direct to their homes:
Use Communication Platforms to Provide Patient Education
In addition to marketing messages, my patients appreciate ongoing educational communication sent via e-blast, such as when my practice shares links or resources related to eyecare needs. This includes, but is not limited to, health and nutrition sites for my diabetic patients, as well as tips from the American Optometric Association on eye safety and how to maintain healthy eyes.
Deborah C. Weston, OD, is the owner of Weston Town Center Optometry in Weston, Fla.