By Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC
July 17, 2019
Your opticians have a job to do caring for, and selling to, patients. That requires an undivided focus on patients and their needs.
Opticians are amazing professionals who provide medical devices that have a fashion influence. It is necessary when making ophthalmic frames and lens recommendations that they have a clear understanding of the prescription. Without that comprehension, our patient’s comfort and visual acuity may be impaired. Opticianry is a true calling that inspires trust in patients and enables practices to grow.
A strong optical team that is able to fully understand the doctor’s recommendations, and then work with patients to give them the products they most need, is only possible if the opticians are able to give each interaction with patients the needed attention. Here’s how to do that, so patients are better served and more products are sold to keep the practice profitable.
Creating a Busy, Yet Focused, Office
One distraction for opticians is fundamental for practice growth…being busy, or rather, too busy. When confronted with limited, or a frequently-under-staffed team, many opticians are faced with multiple roles.
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Often, opticians are responsible for not only optical retail, but administrative tasks like billing patients and assisting with pre-testing.
With so many responsibilities (many of which were not in their job description), it is not surprising to find many opticians distracted. When you create your schedule for seeing patients, it is essential to ensure that at all points everyday you have an adequate number of team members.
While cross-training is important for staff morale, and frequently necessary to help with absences, like vacations and illness, it is important to not rely on cross-training as a permanent solution for an under-staffed practice.
Help Opticians Build Patient Trust By Unburdening Them
It is essential for opticians to be as unburdened as possible from obligations that impede their ability to work individually with patients. It is difficult to build patient trust when dealing with the constraints that distractions produce.
We need trust for our practice to continue to grow. To accomplish this it is important for every practice to surround themselves with individuals who have similar goals, and focus as much undivided attention as possible on the patient.
During the hiring process, ask questions about previous roles the potential optician held: Were they able to keep the patient’s needs and business goals in mind through many distractions? If so, ask for a couple examples of how they were able to do that.
A Low Capture Rate May Mean You Have Distracted Opticians
We set ourselves apart from others by the approach and attention we show to our patients.
It is important to remember, patients have many purchasing options; we now are in a hyper-competitive field.
Calculate the capture rate. How often do patients, who originally showed interest in purchasing their eyewear in your office, end up buying elsewhere? It is important to consider the cause. Was it selection, price, lack of attention, or a combination of all three? If the cause seems to be lack of attention, it could be an indication that your optical staff is not able to give the needed care to each patient. That inability can be interpreted by the patient as a practice that does not need or value them.
What Can the Doctor Do to Help?
If information about lenses and eyewear is given to patients, it is important the prescribing doctor has a clear comprehension of the latest lens technology.
Some rely on the optician to analyze and recommend the best lens to provide optimum visual acuity for their prescription, but most opticians find it helpful when the prescribing doctor has made a suggestion, or even prescribed lens options, like anti-glare lenses or photochromic lenses.
Beginning the conversation in the exam room makes some of the lens terminologies familiar to patients before we begin lens and frame selection.
During the patient hand-off it is important the optician be advised of the conversation and any recommendations made during the examination, including those related to eye health, such as macular degeneration or cataracts.
Train Opticians How to Stay Focused in Talking to One Another & the Patient
Opticians, as well as every individual in the practice who interacts with patients, should develop a dialog with each other that is comfortable and informative. We should be aware that the conversation between professionals during patient hand-off is never private. Our patient not only hears the conversation, but more importantly…they feel the conversation.
That means they sense the respect and trust, (or the lack of) felt between professionals. The tone as well as the information itself will reflect the trust our patient has toward the optician.
Following the patient “hand-off,” and armed with the information provided by the prescribing doctor, it is important to establish meaningful conversation with our patient by asking if they have questions about the information given in the exam room.
This allows for a few minutes of “getting to know you,” and “getting comfortable with you” conversation before we begin the frame selection. It also makes the routine questions we ask about frame styles, work and hobbies have a natural, rather than forced, flow.
Signs the Optician’s Focus on Patient Has Been Dropped
Frequently asking our patients to repeat information they have previously given is a red flag to opticians and practice owners that they may have dropped their focus. Any time a patient is forced to repeat themselves, it makes them feel unheard and unimportant.
It is imperative that patients do not feel they are second best or that their needs are not vital to us.
Practice Keeping the Focus on Patients
In-office training and role-playing of optician-patient conversations encourages the entire team to provide feedback to one another, and rehearse needed changes in verbal exchanges. These kinds of exercises hone skills and create a sense of being on a team with a shared purpose.
It is important for every practice to support open dialogue between opticians, and to inspire every team member to provide ideas that directly impact–and improve–patient care.
Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC, is an optician at a practice in Bowling Green, Ohio. She also is a CE speaker and author. To contact her: TamiHagemeyer@gmail.com