Doctor Patient Relations

3 Questions to Ask Patients to Enhance Care & Optical Sales

By Lindsay Berry, OD

May 29, 2019

Your patients require an education from you about how you can help them safeguard their eye health and improve their vision. That education begins by asking the right questions. Here are three to ask every patient to ensure a high level of care, and to spur optical sales.

What do you do for work?
This question is straight forward and simple, but can provide valuable insight about how a patient uses their eyes and visual system on a daily basis. You can get a sense of the visual scenarios a patient has to endure throughout their work day.

An accountant who works on the computer for eight hours a day has different visual demands than a person who works in outside sales, driving to customers and having face-to-face meetings.

Opportunities to provide care and sell products 
By understanding the visual demands a patient experiences throughout the day, you can offer individualized recommendations. In our example, the accountant may benefit from computer glasses with blue-light blocking technology, whereas the sales representative may need a pair of sunglasses for driving, and contact lenses or glasses for distance and face-to-face interactions.

Common patient responses and questions
Patients often inquire about the benefit of multiple pairs of glasses compared to a single pair to cover all their needs. This is when it is beneficial to probe more about how happy they are with their vision and any symptoms they may experience throughout the day.

In the example of the accountant, the patient may be experiencing tired eyes and fatigue at the end of the day, but may not offer that information until asked. I often describe computer glasses as performance lenses: “To perform our best in sports, we wouldn’t wear the same shoes we would wear to a nice dinner. Instead, we would wear shoes specific to that sport. The same rule applies to our vision. To perform our best on the computer for extended periods of time, we may need a specific performance lens to improve the efficiency and comfort of our vision.”

Impact of conversation
This conversation can increase optical sales, especially when the reason behind the recommendation is explained properly. In this day and age, patients are interested in preventative health care and want to do what is best for their eyes and vision long-term. By understanding the patient’s needs, presenting treatment options and explaining why the recommendation is individualized to their needs, the patient will see the value in the care and pay the extra money to improve their quality of life.

On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your eyes and vision?
This question opens the opportunity for discussion about any problem the patient may be having with their vision. If they respond with any number other than 10, it is important to ask why they didn’t rate their vision higher.

Opportunities to provide care and sell products 
Due to the wide variety of responses patients could report, this opens the opportunity to discuss any product or service available at your office. You may need to discuss dry eye treatments, lid hygiene products, different brands of contact lenses, anti-fatigue lenses or vision therapy. Patients are often unaware of the wide range of services that optometrists can provide, and this question allows for informative discussions to occur.

Common patient responses and questions
Complaints I’ve heard in response to this question include mild dry eye symptoms, contact lens intolerance, eyestrain and even double vision. The patient may have follow-up questions regarding your recommendations.

For example, if the patient is complaining of dry eye-related symptoms, it would be beneficial to perform a complete dry eye evaluation. The patient may inquire about why this additional testing is necessary. This then allows for a discussion about the different types of dry eye and the varying treatment options available, other than artificial tears. I often discuss the assessment and treatment as a way to create an individualized treatment plan for the patient’s eyes based on their specific conditions, rather than a one-size-fits-all treatment, such as artificial tears alone.

Impact of conversation
Patients are comforted knowing that their doctor is taking extra time and care to provide what is best for them and their specific needs. This conversation may take an additional 3-5 minutes in the exam room, but allows for the potential of increased product sales and follow-up office visits to care for the patient. Overall it may make the patient more happy and provides more income for the practice.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
The objective of this question is to learn more about how the patient uses their eyes and what visual/optical needs they might have. Many different activities require varying visual aids to help the patient perform optimally, and this question encourages discussion about those products.

Opportunities to provide care and sell products 
Based on the hobby or activity the patient describes, you can determine the visual demands and prescribe specific products. For example, many of my patients play golf. Golf requires distance vision, but also near vision to keep score on the score card.

However, a standard progressive lens is not ideal because the corridor interferes with head/neck posture during their swing. Therefore, I often recommend a bifocal lens with a very short seg height to optimize the field of view for distance, but still provide the small add segment for keeping score. Adding Transitions to the lens, or recommending a separate pair of sunglasses, is also beneficial since the sun and glare can be a significant factor during a golf game.

Common patient responses and questions
In the example of the golfer, I have had patients inquire about glare issues or the decreased contrast they experience with some sunglasses. This allows for a thorough discussion about tints, lenses and coatings for lenses, and which is best for their needs. The knowledge you provide the patient allows them to make an informed decision about how much they are willing to invest in their eyes and vision.

Impact of conversation
Recommending products based on the activities the patient most enjoys allows you to come across less like you are trying to up-sell and more like you are caring for them as a person–which you are. When you provide services and products because you truly care about the patient’s needs and visual comfort, they will see that passion and be more willing to comply with your recommendations.

 

Lindsay Berry, OD, is an associate at Neuro-Vision Associates of North Texas. To contact her: dr-berry@dr-s.net

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