By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
June 14, 2017
Summer is a busy time for many practices. If you are staffed up, and ready to capture a surge in exams and optical sales, you can prosper. If not, you’re more than missing revenues; you can be doing damage to your practice.
The more you think out how you will approach this key time of the year for handling the increased patient care, and the extra load on the optical and contact lens areas, the more satisfied patients and increased revenues you will deliver.
Summer is our busiest time of the year. Children and young people are home from school, and they have time for their annual exam. Also, adults often take vacation time during the summer, and use their more flexible schedule to seek care. Sales of sunwear and sports eyewear also go up, with more people taking to the outdoors for recreation.
Assess Staff Capacity
The first step to preparing for an influx of patients is making sure you have the staff to serve them. We have hired an extra technician, optician and front desk employee to help with the load, and are in the process of training them. In addition to the skills needed for the new employees to do their jobs, be sure to emphasize how you want your patients to be treated.
A busy schedule can mean overwhelmed employees. Explain the importance of delivering the kind of experience patients will want to return to, meaning one in which they feel cared for and listened to. Don’t let a busy schedule turn your patient care into an assembly line in which you rush to stay on time, and forget to give each patient the attention they deserve.
In our office, we have a commitment to “wow” every patient we serve, and that commitment is explained to new employees, and modeled by our long-time employees.
Click HERE to watch “Deliver the ‘Wow’ and Measure It, Too,” a video in which I explain how, and why, we deliver a “wow” experience.
We just reviewed all our office systems to make sure we are efficient, including having a first-year optometry student do an “efficiency evaluation.” She let us know how we’re doing by calculating the average amount of time it takes for our patients to check-in, get picked up by a technician, get their history and diagnostic pre-testing completed, and how long it takes for the exam with the doctor.
We evaluated the diagnostic preliminary testing process to make sure there is no wasted movement, or time, by having mini-meetings between technicians and doctors to discuss patient flow.
The efficiency evaluation by the optometry student was extremely helpful. We found out that our median and mean time for check-in was two minutes, but the median time to be picked up by the technician was five minutes.
We figured out that the technician was not getting paged to the front until after check-out. Since it is only a two-minute process, we have started paging the tech as soon as the patient walks in the door, before they start the check-in process. This should decrease the time for the patient to start the preliminary diagnostic process by a couple of minutes.
Facilitate Optical Shopping
Our goal is for patients not to ever feel rushed, and yet, to also not feel that they have long wait times for each part of the experience in our office. We don’t want to fall behind schedule, yet we want the patient to feel that they had enough time with us to have their needs anticipated and met, with enough time left at the end for optical shopping.
Ideally, you want the patient’s total time in your office not to exceed one hour, including time in the optical for shopping. If you can get through a high-quality comprehensive exam in 40-45 minutes, your patient still has ample time to meet with your opticians to fulfill your eyewear prescriptions.
With so many summer activities, like water sports, hiking, golf, baseball and camping, that can benefit from the eyewear you sell, it would be a shame–and a lost revenue opportunity–to not leave enough time for shopping.