By Yoongie Min, OD
Ensure that patients get the eyewear your recommend through effective communication between OD and optician. Then measure how a successful handoff system boosts optical revenues.
ASK all patients status of current eyewear and lifestyle needs.
INDIVIDUALIZE handoff to needs of your office’s patient and work flow.
ADAPT communication with optical staff ensuring patient’s needs are known.
Perfecting the doctor-to-optician hand-off provides a prime revenue-enhancing tool. Practices that work on this key step see immediate and measurable revenue increases. As busy and hectic as things can be in our office, this important transition from exam room to optical dispensary is a priority. We have worked out a set protocol that guarantees patients will first receive a detailed prescription in the exam room, along with an education on how the products I prescribed will help them, and then will have that message reinforced and carried out in the optical.
OD-Patient Conversation About Status of Current Eyewear
At the very beginning of the exam, I try to find out exactly how old the patient’s eyewear actually is and also whether they have prescription sunwear, as well. I have learned over the years that we cannot assume patients are wearing the eyewear they last obtained from our office. Sometimes they have returned to an old pair of glasses for various reasons or sometimes they have obtained additional eyewear from other opticals since they were last here. I also make a point of looking at their lenses for scratches and wear and tear on their frames. The eyewear discussion is usually the last thing I summarize to the patient. I go over their eye health findings first because that can affect my eyewear message, for example, if the patient has cataracts or macular issues.
Specifically Discuss Needs of Patient’s Prescription
I typically try to discuss the patient’s prescription with them to make recommendations on material depending on how high their Rx is. For new multifocal wearers I will often describe or draw out how progressives and flat tops work and try to stress that there is a period of adaptation. I also stress that if they have issues, they need to return to our office so we can address them. For sunwear, I will usually tell patients that we recommend polarized lenses as the best option.
I think many optometrists are still reluctant to make recommendations because they don’t want to come across as “pushy” or too sales oriented. However, when such a large part of our revenues come from our optical, I think we must be proactive about it. In addition, most patients value our recommendations and it is easier for opticians to sell the things we have already talked about. Editor’s Note: According to the Management & Business Academy’s 2013 Key Metrics (p. 14), product sales equal 61 percent of revenues for independent practices.
Particularize Hand-Off to Unique Needs of Your Office
My presentation to the patient and our transition to the optical staff may be different than many offices because we use scribes in our exam lane. We have two technicians that do pre-testing and then bring the patient into the exam room where they take acuities, prepare the equipment, and then scribe for us in our electronic records system. Our technicians are an extension of the doctors and are very good at knowing what we are going to say, even before we say it sometimes. When we make our eyewear recommendations to our patients, our technicians are noting those recommendations in the electronic record, as well as on a routing sheet that we use. They then escort the patient to the optical and turn the patient over to one of our opticians and pass along our specific recommendations.
We currently have three opticians and we find that one of them is usually free to help a patient. If all of them are busy, we ask the patient to browse in the optical, but it typically is not long before one of the opticians gets free.
Adapt Hand-Off Routine When Necessary
There are times that one or both of our technicians may be out on vacation, ill or taking a personal day off. We are then not using a scribe so we are alone with the patient in the exam room. In those situations, our hand-off changes so that we actually summon an optician back to the exam room. We simply use our phone system and intercom to contact an optician or our receptionist who then asks one of the opticians to come back to the exam room. At that point, I make my eyewear recommendations to the patient in front of the optician. They then escort the patient to the optical and begin the eyewear selection process.
On rare occasions, I try to summon an optician but they are tied up with other patients or tasks. On those occasions, I will walk the patient out to our optical area and ask them to begin browsing. I usually will find an optician, though, and tell them the details of the patient’s prescription and reiterate my recommendations. In general I do not like making recommendations to the patient or optician in the presence of other patients who may overhear private information. Editor’s Note: Discussing private information in the presence of other patients in the reception area is a HIPAA violation.
Adapt Hand-Off for Children
When a patient is a child, I always bring the parent or guardian back to the exam room where I make the recommendations on eyewear. Sometimes with children, we are breaking bad news to a parent such as diagnosing amblyopia or possibly the need for bifocals. We prefer to do this in the privacy of the exam room because many times the parent will have a number of questions about the diagnosis and treatment options.
OD Prescribes and Educates, Opticians Reinforce Message and Sell
I generally let the opticians talk to the patients about any discounts such as second pairs or any other discounts. If a patient happens to mention their desire in the exam room for multiple pairs of glasses, I will sometimes say a general statement about how there are additional discounts for multiple-pair purchases.
OD’s Role in Hand-Off to Optical Dispensary: Keys to Success
Keep up to date with the lenses, treatments and frames that are being used in your office. You cannot sell if you don’t know your products.
Get comfortable talking about product, in fact, just as comfortable as you would be about talking eye health matters.
Make a physical hand-off to your optician or staff member and restate what you have told the patient.
Understand your power–that our recommendations are very powerful to patients.
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Yoongie Min, OD, is the owner of Northwest Vision Center, with locations in Columbus and Chillicothe, Ohio. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.