By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
August 31, 2022
Back-to-school time is upon us. Pre-pandemic, we had systems in place to handle getting school-aged children and other people into the practice. Post-pandemic, there was so much built-up need for eye exams that it did not require much effort to get patients to return to the practice.
Now that the pandemic buildup stress from put-off exams has softened, we need to get back to a systems approach to getting school-aged patients and others into the practice. Here are the key steps to doing that.
The place to start is your practice management software. Do a search for school-aged patients who have not been into the practice within the last two years. (Do a similar search for adult patients who have not been in the practice for the last three years.)
The best approach is to target a problem you found in the last exam and use that as the reason they need to return. With children there is always the issue of growth and the refractive changes that come with growth. This is especially important with our new understanding of myopia management. (With adults, there are always the issues of presbyopia and chronic illness.)
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Word-of-mouth is still the very best way to get new patients into practices. Having someone outside your practice team to recommend your practice to people is far more effective than for you to put out ads singing your own praises. With today’s technology, people are interconnected like never before. It seems that everyone is involved in at least one social circle. home-school moms, tennis clubs, coffee klatsches, Cricut (no, that’s not misspelled) clubs and Pickleball groups are just a few examples.
Come up with a script asking your current patients to share a story about their positive interaction with your practice with the people in their social circle. It could be as simple as: “Mr. Jones, I was driving by the pickleball courts last evening and saw you playing. Remember how we talked about how your new glasses should improve your performance on the court? Well, I’d like to ask you a favor. Would you please share with the people in your pickleball social circle about how we helped you?”
Control the Flow
This is also the time to go back and look at your current recall systems and marketing systems for new patients making sure that the programs that worked best didn’t get lost post-pandemic. Some of the digital recall programs have “valves” to control patient flow. Make sure you control the “valve,” so that you don’t send out targeted recalls for 1,000 people today, and tomorrow 400 people call in wanting appointments. Control the flow to make sure you don’t overwhelm your practice.
Fill Your Chair
The bottom line is to fill your chair. This time of year is back to school. Use that as a marketing message to help fill your chair. There is also an ongoing need for people who are overdue for exams to get back into the office to get the care they need. And there is a whole group of people who have never been in your office. Let’s get creative and get them in as well.