By Jennifer L. Stewart, OD
August 25, 2021
As the pandemic (hopefully) winds down, practices will be assessing how the crisis permanently altered how they serve patients and do business, and what new opportunities are arising.
We reopened our office on May 20, 2020, after being closed for eight weeks to routine patient care. We slowly increased our patient schedule over the first month, but were back to our typical schedule fairly quickly. We usually have two doctors seeing patients most days, and we returned to this schedule early in the summer last year. At this point, our patient flow and per-patient revenue is about the same as what it was prior to the pandemic. That said, we see opportunities for growth. Here is how I am using this time to better serve patients and grow my practice.
Ask About Patients’ Home Work Setup
Some people have already returned to their offices, but many others are not yet returning, and may never fully return to office life. That means they are discovering the stress on their bodies and eyes of working long hours in a setup that may not be optimal.
I take the time to ask each patient about their current work setup, how it differs from their old office setup, the challenges they are facing and what they would like to change about their home office and how their eyes feel while they work and at the end of the day.
Many have not correlated their increase in eyestrain with the change from working in an office to being on a laptop at their dining room table, and are excited to get new eyewear to solve their problems. It doesn’t need to take longer. I often ask questions as I am doing the slit lamp exam, and utilize scribes for pretesting, history gathering and entrance tests.
Like most practices, we have seen an increase in our blue light and anti-fatigue lens (for blue light, also plano/non Rx) sales. Patients of all ages have increased screen time and are experiencing eyes that feel blurred and tired. They are looking for solutions.
More patients are asking about blue light lenses than ever before, so we spend more time going through the difference between blue light lenses that can be found online versus the benefits of the lenses we provide. Patients are naturally curious about blue light, so I think this is a great opportunity for education (and it doesn’t need to take long!)
Educate on Dry Eye Symptoms & Treatment
Patients are having increased dry eye symptoms due to changes in computer use and mask-wearing, so taking time to address those symptoms also leads to a better outcome when prescribing glasses and boosts overall patient satisfaction. Again, many patients know what they are feeling, but haven’t realized it is due to changes in their lifestyle.
Maintaining Efficiency & Cleanliness Learned During Pandemic for the Long-Term
We really increased our efficiency at our front desk, so patients do not wait (or it is very minimal) when the arrive at our office to limit exposure to other patients and keep patients socially distanced. We do not lock our door or have patients call from the parking lot, but we have a scribe ready to begin pretesting as soon as they arrive to limit patients in the waiting room.
We have always scheduled patients for optical appointments (frame selects, dispenses), but we reiterate that with patients to let them know we schedule them so they do not have to wait, and so they have dedicated time with the optician. We also have always direct-shipped contact lenses to patients, but now remind patients about this convenience as they check out after their appointment.
We continue to let patients know what we are doing to keep THEM safe. Patients still like to hear what we are doing, even if we have been doing it for over a year. We let them know how we disinfect each exam room, and how each frame is hand-sanitized after it is handled, or tried on, by anyone. Patients still appreciate knowing this!
Great Time for a Refresher on Maximizing Optical Sales
We recently had an optical sales training session with our Essilor lab consultant to go over our pricing, product mix and managed care metrics to make sure we are using the lenses that are best for our patients and most profitable for our practice.
With more patients realizing the need for blue light-filtering lenses and other kinds of computer glasses, now is the time to learn how to better sell task-specific lenses. Click HERE to read how I recently learned two tips from my lab reps projected to help me generate an additional $30,000 annually.
More People than Ever Before May Be Open to Contact Lenses
You have a prime opportunity now to have a conversation about new contact lens technology in the exam room. Patients are more interested in health and hygiene than ever before, so educating them about utilizing silicon hydrogel daily disposables is timely, and much easier than before the pandemic.
We were already a heavily daily disposable practice prior to the pandemic, but I have found those patients who were resistant to changing to a daily disposable are now more likely to switch in light of the cleanliness and the health benefits of single-use lenses.
Click HERE to read more about how I am increasing contact lens sales.
Other Articles to Explore
Children Need Sports Eyewear
Children, like the rest of us, took a break during the pandemic from in-person activities, including sports. With most sports either already back up and running, or soon to resume, kids need eyewear that protects their eyes while maximizing their performance. Discussing appropriate eyewear for each sport is a great way to set your practice apart and generate additional revenue.
Click HERE to learn how I prescribe and sell sports eyewear.
Expand Availability to Capture Uptick in Local Suburban Residents
We are seeing an increase in new patients in our practice due to the shift to work from home instead of commuting to New York City (we are about 50 minutes outside of NYC). While patients may have sought out practitioners close to their offices during the work day, they are now working from home and coming to see us. We are also seeing an increase in our new patients due to the influx of new home buyers in our area.
We suspended our Saturday hours, as those days were not as requested over the past year. However, as many offices reopen in the fall, we will revisit this. We continued our normal hours during the week, but have slightly increased doctor availability those days.
We are ready to serve patients in the new ways they need, and are poised to turn this patient care into a practice- and profitability-builder.
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is a partner in Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn. She also is founder and chief vision officer of Performance 20/20, a sports vision training center in Stamford, Conn. Dr. Stewart is also the founder of the consultancy OD Perspectives. To contact her: email@example.com
Photo credit, top of page: Getty Images