Running an eyecare practice can be complicated.
Running an eyecare practice can be complicated. Each visual system is a little different, although we feel like we say the same things over and over. There are insurance requirements that vary by patient, and there are regulations for more and more organizations telling us what it takes to do a “good job.”
There are many types of lenses with different levels of benefits, features, prices, and coverages. Sometimes our decision to prescribe a particular product may be influenced by whether or not we will get a rebate check.
But sometimes, I think we make things even more complicated by allowing too many forks in the road. The Six Sigma concept is all about reducing variation in each process throughout your business. Each decision that we allow in our system is another variation. How many choices can we eliminate and still take good care of our patients?
Here is an example of one choice we took away and how it benefited the practice, the staff, and the patients.
We already have a pretty good system in place for selling annual supplies of contact lenses, and our average supply ratio is above average. But our biggest problem is that we are too busy. When you are a service-based practice and you are too busy, some important things start to slip.
After an analysis of our system, we found that one big factor was the amount of time we were spending with patients in discussions about their contact lenses-number of boxes, rebates, shipping to home, shopping around, calling to let the patient know the lenses have arrived, dispensing them, pay now, pay at dispensing. It should not be so complicated.
So, we decided to simplify. The biggest change was free shipping for all contact lenses-plain and simple. The only downside is that if the patient buys less than a one-year supply, we have to pay for the shipping.
Now, no reason to wait to pay, no need to call to let the patient know the lenses have arrived, no return to the office necessary, and no chance the patient will call at closing time and ask us to wait 15 minutes until he can get to the office.
Until then, we offered free shipping if patients bought a year's supply, thinking that it encouraged them to buy the year's supply. I now believe it was counter-intuitive because it is too much to think about. Simplify.
Related: iPads in the optometry office
Before we made the change, we looked at every aspect of our contact lens process. Then we pulled the trigger. The result was a big increase in annual supply sales, plus a decrease in phone calls being made and fewer patients needing their contact lenses dispensed in the middle of a busy afternoon.
Megan, the contact lens manager says, “The patients love us making it easy for them. We tell them about the price of the contact lenses, explain they will be receiving them at work in a few days, and almost everyone is saying, 'Okay, sounds good.' No big deal."
How many unnecessary choices do we give our patients? Do we have to ask them to choose between the good, the better, or the best lenses? Do they have to decide if they are going to have the optional testing done today? Having a choice is what makes us great, but we have to draw the line somewhere.