By Carla Gasparini, OD
Dec. 18, 2019
The ability of patients to get vision refractions online presents a new challenge to optometry practices, and a threat to the eye health of patients who may assume that there now is no need for them to visit the eye doctor.
Here are the three steps I am taking in my practice, two independent sublease practices housed within Walmart stores in the Austin, Texas, area, to address the threat to my practice and patients of online refractions.
Step 1: Talk Directly with Patients in the Exam Room About How You Help Guard Their Health
I am opening up the can of worms and talking about it to patients and having staff trained to do the same. I am asking patients not to skip their “routine” care in lieu of the promises of an online refraction saving them time.
If patients question why online refractions do not provide the care they need to monitor and maintain eye health, I explain that the human eye is way too intricate of a system to do an exam remotely.
I note the many conditions and diseases that can be uncovered in the course of an in-person refraction and comprehensive exam such as dry eye, corneal edema, warpage from contact-lens overwear and even systemic diseases like diabetes.
Speaking to patients costs nothing but a minute or two in time. Reassuring them that most of their eyecare needs can be seen and taken care of in an efficient manner in my office is worth the extra time.
I am using my EHR to send patients reminders for medical office visits (glaucoma -IOP checks-diabetic). I plan to track my number of appointments in the New Year to see if my conversations with patients about the importance of coming for an in-person refraction and exam are making an impact.
Step 2: Follow-Up With a Phone Call
I have started following-up with a personal phone call to patients about their exam experience and contact-lens fit. I plan to use the feedback I get from patients to make my office processes better and more efficient.
Direct patient feedback, whether positive or negative, is one of the most powerful sources of information in guiding practice improvements. I would rather know what we are doing wrong, and have the chance to improve and keep a patient’s business, than have them not tell me, and go online for their next exam.
People tend to return to businesses owned by people who they feel care about them. Online refractions can be done quicker and easier for the patient, but the element of the caring, in-person human is missing. Following-up with a call to the patient reminds them of the added value of a face-to-face interaction in medical care.
Step 3: Implement Mobile Marketing Using Geolocation Technology
In the next year I plan to start mobile marketing using geolocation technology. I will be able to identify people within a short range of my office, sending them marketing about the services we provide.
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I’m optimizing geolocation technology through my credit-card processing company (Heartland) by using their analytics tool via a special browser set up for my office. Employees just input cell phone or e-mail and then we send out an e-blast that hits any of our patients who are within 200 feet of our Walmart location at any given time. We can advertise a special coupon or our services and it shows up on patients cell phones.
Since most of my patients already shop at Walmart, or surrounding stores, biweekly, I plan to tailor ad/content/promotions promoting eye wellness. I want to educate people shopping near my office about why it’s important to have an eye exam instead of relying on an app to do their refraction.
Trying to attract repeat patients to my office is a challenge since I am in a dense retail environment with many other eyecare practices of all types nearby. A good percentage of people are on their mobile device instead of computers, and this will be a way to help capture the patient who might want to stray and use an online refraction app for their exam.