Taking the idea back
The idea was great, and I saw how it worked in Dr. Basden’s offices. However, I was not so sure it would work in ours. After discussing the challenges with my office managers, we decided to give it a try. Once we were committed to implementing this process, we came up with a plan.
One of the most important—if not the most important—aspect of this system is educating and training your team. You cannot educate your patients without an educated team. Your team needs to know why they perform certain tests on patients and what information this gives the doctor. As they are performing the tests, they should communicate this to the patient.
Your staff needs to know which questions are important to ask in order to elicit complaints that could help the doctor when prescribing multiple pairs of glasses and lenses. Along with this is understanding strategies for products in your office. Once staff take a history and identify a patient’s concerns, they are able to start recommendations.
For example, in our office we have a contact lens flowchart based on a patient’s needs and prescription. My team is trained on this flowchart, and once they uncover a patient’s complaint or identify how the patient wants to wear contact lenses, they can easily start educating the patient on what is new with contact lenses and what solves are available. Once they relay this information to me, I can prescribe the best contact lenses to solve the patient’s problem.
Making it work
To train your team correctly, you need a well-developed plan. Our team’s education and training took a few months, which can seem like a long to time to someone who is impatient like me. However, this part was very critical to the process, so it was worth the wait.
Related: Why ODs need a business strategy
We began by having an after-hours meeting to review why we were making the change and what processes we needed. We laid out the plan to the team and discussed challenges and answered any questions. Over the next few weeks, we cross-trained one team member at a time to another position. For example, if a team member was a technician, we cross-trained him in the optical. When a technician or optical team member was not busy, they shadowed someone in another area of the office. This continued for several months.
We also conducted a few in-depth training sessions at night and even closed the office for an afternoon to train. I know what you are thinking: “If I close my office, I will lose money.” Consider it an investment; the amount you lose that afternoon will be repaid multiple times over once this process is implemented.
Patients come first
Overall, it took a few months to fully implement the entire process. We have had some challenges, but the gains far outweigh the challenges. I knew it was the best thing we had done when I received call from a long-time patient.
She called just to tell me she loved what we were doing. When I asked what she meant, she said she could not say what was different, but she knew something was better than it was before.
As for our sales, our capture rate has increased steadily since implementing this process. Our sales of premium lenses and other products have increased, too.
However, the best part is knowing the change we are making in our patients’ lives. Doctors and staff in our offices know why patients should purchase from us. We are our patients’ advocates. We sell them exactly what they need, and when there is a problem we will fix it. With this process, patients know this as well.
Our industry is changing, and technology is not going away—in fact, it will continue to increase and improve. Technology is great, and we must utilize it in our practices to create a better patient experience. However, our relationships with patients and the customer service we provide can never be replaced with online technology.