Practice Management

Making Up for Lost Time: The Key Changes Fueling My Practice’s Shutdown Recovery

By Maria Sampalis, OD

July 1, 2020

After months of practice closures, your patients need you–and you need them. With patients returning to your office, you can both provide the care they need and maximize the benefit of their visits to your practice. Here is how I am doing it.

Our office lost around $50,000 from the two months we were closed, so the following changes are much-needed!

Increase Fees
The need to purchase personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies while limiting the number of patients in your office at one time means your fees may need to increase. In my practice, I have implemented a 10 percent fee increase for all of my services. This is a slight increase that most patients will not notice, but which could make a significant difference to my practice’s financial strength.

Extend Your Availability
There is a rush now for patients, who needed to see the eye doctor during the shutdown, to come in for care as soon as they can. That means the influx of patients doctors may be seeing now is likely to flatten over the next few months, especially if the dreaded second wave of the virus hits.

To optimize the immediate patient interest in visiting my office, I have extended my evening hours, and am also now available to see patients on Saturday mornings.

The Facebook “Boost” post Dr. Sampalis paid $50 to have run for five days in the news feeds of people within 30 miles of her practice. It resulted in the addition three new patients.

Market to Bigger Swath of Patients
Some practices that used to be your competitors have remained closed, and a small number, staffed by older doctors nearing retirement, may have made the decision to close permanently. With that in mind, I am now marketing to patients within a larger radius of my office. Using geo-location technology through Facebook, I was able to send a paid, or “Boost” post to people within 30 miles of my practice. This marketing cost me $50 for five days of my post appearing in the Facebook news feeds of people who fit my requested location parameters.

The Boost Facebook post resulted in three new patients, representing $1,200 altogether in additional revenue.

Give Preference in Scheduling to Those Planning to Buy Eyewear
After ensuring we have made time to see patients with sight-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma, we are giving preference to patients who tell us they want to visit our office to get new eyewear. To explain why we need this information, we tell patients that we will need to budget extra time for them to be in our office if they are interested in purchasing glasses. This is both honest (to help us plan for social distancing), and a help to us in making sure the people most likely to make a purchase in our optical are first in line to visit our office.

Getting patients, who need eyewear, in as soon as possible also is important to ensure they receive their eyewear in a timely manner. Following the shutdown, the optical labs I work with are operating up to two weeks behind their usual turnaround time.

Online Nutraceutical Sales Partnership
Concerns about health and well-being surged during the pandemic. To help my patients address those concerns–and to build another stream of practice revenue–I have started prescribing and selling nutraceuticals through an online partnership. My practice receives a percentage of the sales for each order placed by a patient I prescribed the nutraceuticals to.

Training Staff to Improve Capture Rate
If a patient says they want to buy eyewear online, I am training staff to educate the patient that we can offer the same price with value packages. Opticians are being trained to ask patients what their goals are in the purchase of their new glasses. Are they looking first for affordability? Is quality a top priority? The optician can then take the next step of helping the patient find something that is as close as possible to what they are looking for–within our optical.

Another approach I am training my opticians to take is to ask the patient where they purchased their eyewear in the past. Knowing that can tell us a lot about whether the patient values high quality or low cost more.

In addition, my opticians have been trained to talk to patients about the one-year warranty for eyewear which we offer. Glasses purchased in our office will be replaced at no cost to the patient provided they were not lost or stolen.

Showing patients you are interested above all else in determining their needs, and then serving those needs, gives both your patients and practice a much-needed post-pandemic boost.

Maria Sampalis, OD, practices at Sampalis Eye Care in Warwick RI. She is also the founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook. Dr. Sampalis is also founder of the new job site corporateoptometrycareers.com and www.corporateoptometry.com. She is available for practice management  consulting. To contact: msampalis@hotmail.com

 

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