By Lindsay Berry, OD
Oct. 16, 2019
Families with children are the lifeblood of many practices, including the one where I work as an associate.
As a new mother myself, I’ve learned how ODs can best reach out to ensure the children of patients receive the best care possible. Doing so is the right thing to do, and serves as a practice builder and an important way to increase profitability.
Reach Out to Other Health-Care Practitioners
The practice where I am an associate specializes in providing neuro-rehabilitative care and vision therapy. For that reason, we are highly dependent on referrals. We do not spend much money on advertising, but we do rely on a significant amount of marketing in the community.
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Our marketing is focused on other local providers, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, chiropractors, teachers, reading tutors, athletic trainers, physicians and other optometrists. Our office has an employee who is responsible for marketing, but the doctors in our office also contribute to marketing by hosting lectures to these professional groups.
We find a significant increase in referrals after our lectures. We notice a decrease in referrals when a lecture has not been given for an extended period of time, therefore we try to meet multiple times with the same facility/provider in order to keep strong referrals.
Build Relationships with School Nurses & Teachers
The doctors in our practice are in contact with teachers and school nurses frequently due to the specialized nature of our practice. Many of our pediatric patients have visual efficiency and/or visual processing problems and benefit from classroom accommodations. In these situations, we write letters to the teachers to educate them on the existing conditions, recommended accommodations, and how it relates to the child’s academic performance. Editors’ Note: To follow HIPAA rules, you need written permission from the parent/legal guardian to send a letter to the teacher.
I find that educating teachers on how vision conditions manifest in a classroom setting allows them to recognize the problems earlier, and note their concerns to parents. Educating teachers also allows them to understand the reason behind the accommodations, which makes them more likely to enforce them in the classroom.
Post to Social Media to Educate Community on What You Do
Our most popular posts on social media are those related to “hot topics” for children, including attention deficit hyeractivity disorder, dyslexia, autism and screen time.
The following Facebook post is an example of marketing outreach through social media on the topic of ADHD and the value of recess time. We received six times more response on Facebook with this post compared to our average post. Posts with linked articles tend to have a larger reach than posts without.
Participate in Local Charities Related to Pediatric Care
Our office annually participates in the Special Olympics Lions Club International Opening Eye Program, which provides vision exams and glasses to athletes in the Special Olympics. This program works with both youth and adults in the Special Olympics, but allows the parents of the athletes to know there are providers who work with patients with special needs to treat specific visual challenges.
Engage Both Child & Parent in Exam Room
When a child is being examined, I like to have a conversation about their daily activities. This can be as simple a question as, “What did you do today?” Or: “What are you going to do today?”
This starts a conversation and builds rapport with the child, but also gives insight into how they spend their days. Are they the type of child who likes to play sports and spend time outdoors? Or are they the type of child who loves to watch television and play video games on their computer? This simple question opens the door for a conversation about proper visual hygiene, screen time and possible lens recommendations to maximize their visual performance.
I also ask children about their academic performance, favorite subjects and least favorite subjects. Asking about their least favorite subjects can provide insight into their visual performance and possible need for further vision services.
For example, if a child says they don’t like reading because they are slow and lose their place, then further evaluation of their visual tracking system should be performed with vision therapy possibly recommended if deficient. Similarly, if a child says they don’t like reading because the print gets blurry, evaluation of their accommodative system is indicated, and vision therapy or a reading lens can be considered.
Don’t Forget to Market Inside Your Office, Too
Our in-office marketing includes videos about vision therapy in the reception area, pamphlets about vision therapy and brain injury rehab in the waiting room, flyers about all services provided in the hallway and demonstrations of double vision and saccadic dysfunction in the exam room.
Our in-office marketing integrates nicely with the other marketing we do. The majority of our patients are based on referral, and have already done research before scheduling their appointment. However, we do have some patients who inquire about specific treatments, other than for what they were referred, based on our in-office marketing tools.