Marketing

Ask Patients for Referrals in the Exam Room

By Mary E. Boname, OD, MS, FAAO

May 13, 2015

SYNOPSIS

Begin aconversation about referralsin the exam room. More patients will send friends and family your way.

ACTION POINTS

EDUCATE & ASK IN EXAM ROOM. Let patients know why they–and family and friends–should see you regularly to maintain their eye health.

GIVE REFERRAL GIFT CARD. Give gift cards, redeemable for optical at the practice, along with your name and practice logo.

REMEMBER PATIENT BIRTHDAYS. Send card, and maybe even gift, to keep you top of mind when a friend or family member asks if anyone knows a good eye doctor.

We value the experience and perspective of our patients, so to increase the number of patients who refer friends and family, I begin the conversation in the exam room, and give gifts for referrals, and recognize patient birthdays with postcards. These efforts have resulted in about three referrals from our patients per month.

The front and back of the birthday postcard Dr. Boname sends to patients. Dr. Boname says remembering patient birthdays with a card helps keep your practice top of mind, so when a friend or family member needs an eye doctor, the patient thinks of you.

Doctor Educates & Asks in Exam Room

In the exam room, I tell patients that my goal is for them to leave confident that they have had a thorough, comprehensive eye exam, and that they are cared for by me. I ask if there are any other family members who are in need of an eye exam. I also ask them, at the close of the visit, if they had a great experience, whether they would be comfortable sharing that experience on our Facebook fan page or giving us a Google Review.

I always ask people about their families and note the ages and names of children I haven’t seen yet. I ask about siblings and parents who may live nearby. Often during the holidays, visiting relatives will stop in to meet me, have their glasses adjusted by my optician and practice co-owner, Ben, or have a problem-specific visit with me.

Review Family Risk Factors

It is often the case that patients underestimate the length of time since their last eye exam, or their spouse’s or child’s last eye exam. I also review risk factors for sight-threatening eye diseases, like glaucoma and macular degeneration, and the need for annual comprehensive eyecare to ensure the best possible care of their eyes and vision.

Offer Gift for Referral

Traditionally, we have given a dollar amount of a second or third complete pair (like $50 or $75). We are in the process of having Montgomery Eye Care gift cards that are like a credit card, and have our logo on them (like the ones Target and other major retailers have). We will put them in a gift card box and wrap them up. They will then be placed in a customized gift bag with tissue paper.
Editor’s Note: Some states do not permit the giving of money or gifts to patients to reward them for referrals. Check first with your state optometric board before offering these kinds of rewards.

Recognize Top-Referring Patients & Network

I refer to these patients as our Montgomery Eye Care Ambassadors. One of my top-referring patients first presented 16 years ago. He had been a patient at a neighboring practice. He told me that when he spent $800 or more on Rx eyewear, his eye examination was free. I told him we would be happy to adjust the cost of his prescription eyewear, but my professional services were never free. He is a Rotarian, and always invites me to give presentations. Every time I attend a Rotary event, I meet someone who becomes a new patient.

Ask Referred Patients: Ask Why They Came

I ask what prompted the referred patient’s visit, how they heard about me and my practice and what caused them to look for a new doctor.

It is more common for patients to be referred to me via patients that I am treating for ocular surface disease/dry eye, or someone looking for a doctor who spends more time with them and connects with them. Those who compliment one of my patients on their prescription eyewear usually go to the dispensary first (if they have a current Rx). If not, then they schedule a visit with me.

Remember Patient Birthdays

Reminding current patients that you value them on an ongoing basis also helps generate referrals. We have been sending e-birthday greetings, but I decided recently to take it old school with a vintage birthday postcard gifting my patient with a $50 gift certificate toward the purchase of a complete pair of prescription glasses. They have six months to redeem it.

Mary E. Boname, OD, MS, FAAO, is the owner of Montgomery Eye Care, P.A., in Skillman, NJ. To contact her: mboname@mecnj.com. Ben Fazio, ABO, is the head optician and co-owner of the practice. To contact him: benfazio@gmail.com

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