By Shefali Patel, OD
June 14, 2023
Simple changes can vastly improve the productivity and efficiency of your office and how patients perceive your practice brand.
Here are a few changes I helped implement at a practice where I recently worked that made a huge difference, allowing us to deliver a modern, smooth experience to patients while boosting our profitability.
Embedding Patient Intake Forms Onto Website & Texting Patients to Fill Out Ahead of Time
If patients make an appointment for 10 a.m., they expect to walk in at 10 a.m. and be seen within a few minutes of their exam time. Most offices ask patients to come in 10-15 minutes prior to appointment time, but that typically does not occur. Usually, patients roll in around 10 a.m., and the last thing they want to do is fill out forms about their medical history, demographics and insurance information. Most people appreciate being able to fill out the forms at their convenience, so they can focus solely on their time with the doctor and opticians when they get to the office.
The goal should always be to optimize your time with patients in the exam room while still leaving them time to pick out new eyewear in your optical. You don’t want appointments that run so late that the patient leaves the exam room rushed to leave the office to get on with the rest of their day.
The time saved in eliminating in-office filling out of forms enables doctors to spend more time in the exam room evaluating the patient’s eye health and vision and educating them about the products and services. Patients appreciate quality time with the doctor in the exam room over spending half their time in the reception area filling out paperwork and answering redundant questions that you may also ask in the exam itself.
More time was also spent in the optical. Patients are able to take their time looking at frames. If 50-60 percent of patients daily opt for filling out forms before getting to the office, that’s the same percentage of people who will be spending more time looking at frames. In a day, hypothetically, if practices are seeing 30 patients, that is 15-18 patients that the staff can spend more time educating on better lens options, add-ons and higher-quality frames.
Online Contact Lens Ordering & Ship-to-Home Services
People today have a strong expectation for convenience and the ability to maximize leisure time. Implementing online contact-lens ordering enables patients to feel at ease when ordering their lenses, knowing they can do it from the comfort of their home, whenever they want. Online ordering and ship-to-home services allow for a more automated purchase process.
The goal of implementing this change was to provide patients flexibility when ordering lenses and to give the office the ability to remind patients when they are due for their annual visit and when they are due to order more contacts.
Capture rate is approximately 75 percent for contact lens wearers within independent private practices. About 50-60 percent of patients order an annual supply of contacts, so it is crucial to maintain, if not increase, that percentage. By creating a convenient process with minimal office visits (outside contact lens follow-ups or emergencies), we found that patients were 80-90 percent more likely to reorder.
Offices save time by implementing this change as fewer patients are calling to place orders and less time is spent by staff in the front office explaining rebates, supply amounts, benefits, cost and other details of the purchase.
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In addition to patient convenience, the practice is able to remind patients when they are due for their annual contact-lens visit. This allows for safe contact-lens habits and care and patients who are more likely to be compliant with their annual visit, knowing that if they visited us on time, that the rest of the year they will be able to order lenses from their home.
Posting Daily to Social Media & Mobile-Friendly Practice Website with Online Appointment Scheduling
As a Millennial myself seeking new businesses and services, I always check to see if the businesses’ websites have a mobile-friendly site and have up-to-date social media accounts. And if I can’t make an appointment directly on the site and at 11 p.m. or at 6 a.m., then chances are, that appointment won’t get made and I will seek another option.
By posting at least once daily to social media sites like Instagram, you are creating an ongoing, interpersonal relationship with these younger generations. Posting only once a month or less often makes a social media presence work against you, sending the message that the social media pages are just for show. In addition to posting to social media pages daily, you want to have a designated staff member(s) monitor and respond to Google Reviews.
Social media posts that allow followers to get a sense of the personalities and culture of your office are especially effective. That could include posts celebrating a doctor’s or staff member’s birthday or work anniversary or achievement of a professional certification. It also could include staff members trying on new merchandise and telling their own eyecare success stories. Educational posts with little-known eye health and vision facts also can grab followers’ attention. You want to avoid having every post targeted to sales messages.
The primary cost of maintaining up-to-date social media pages is time. Employee(s) can be cross-trained to have social media work comprise one part of a larger job in your office. It should not require more than an hour per day of an employee’s time.
Having an online scheduling and mobile-friendly website can require the investment in an upgraded site, but the return on investment for making this improvement is a significant increase in new appointments and savings in staff time. A site that is easily usable on a mobile device will capture more appointments, as will giving patients the ability to make appointments whenever they want without having to call. Staff time will be freed by not having to answer those calls and spend time on the phone.
Shefali Patel, OD, has practiced optometry in New Haven, Conn., for the last six years. She is currently in the process of purchasing an independent practice, which she hopes to open in the coming year. To contact her: email@example.com