What you need to know 4 stories from BCLA

May 30, 2015

Liverpool, UK-We have a roundup of what you need to know about information shared at the British Contact Lens Association meeting. Today’s topics range from reducing contact lens dropouts to understanding online shoppers to improving your communication.

Liverpool, UK-We have a roundup of what you need to know about information shared at the British Contact Lens Association meeting. Today’s topics range from reducing contact lens dropouts to understanding online shoppers to improving your communication.

Related: Myopia and public health

Minimizing contact lens dropouts

Professor James Wolffsohn and Ian Cameron, BSc.(Hons) MCOptom FBCLA DipCLP DipTP(IP), surveyed a group of practitioners to learn how they kept contact lens patients from dropping out of lens wear.

“Most of what works to keep patients is soft skills, such as better communication and listening,” says Dr. Cameron. “Nothing technical will help us.”

Related: Preventing lens dropout with presbyopia patients

Says Shelly Bansal, FBDO, (Hons) CL, FBCLA, one of the surveyed practitioners: “It starts at the beginning. It’s up to us to understand the needs of the patients. Your examination determines whether you can deliver on those needs. It starts from those initial conversations and being creative as a practitioner to deliver as much as possible. When you do that well, the patient has already bought in to the practice.”

Following is a list of suggestions from those practitioners surveyed to lower the number of contact lens dropouts in your practice:

• Conduct a thorough initial exam, including dry eye assessment

• See routine contact lens patients every six months instead of yearly

• Assign patients a “contact lens buddy,” a technician who is involved in the patient’s insertion and removal lesson and can act as an advocate and point of contact

• Send patients via e-mail videos of contact lens insertion and removal of lenses to act as a refresher

• Follow up quickly, within 48 hours, to learn if patients are experiencing any problems

• Prescribe specialty lenses to better meet patient needs and create loyalty to your practice

• Get involved in contact lens research to stay on the cutting edge and offer newer products to your patients so they know you’re cutting edge

• Listen to and understand patient needs and expectations

• Allow patients to feel that they are part of the decision-making process

Related: Dry eye and contact lens wear

Remember that if patients discontinue contact lens wear but remain affiliated with your practice, that’s a different form of dropout. Patients may switch to spectacles or other vision correction, or they may find that they are unsuccessful contact lens wearers. The key is keeping patients in your practice instead of them leaving to meet their needs elsewhere.

 

Online shopping

Convenience, cost, and it’s easy to do business. That’s why people, including your patients, go shopping online.

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member and Brooklyn practice owner Justin Bazan, OD, said that 75 percent of adults purchase online. (In fact, he said that everything he was wearing-everything-was purchased online.) Eyewear falls into the clothing category.

Most online eyewear purchases are readers, he says, with only about 20 percent of online purchases being prescription glasses.

Related: After Shark Tank, Frameri online optical finds success

Those who do not shop online cite a good relationship with an eyecare provider.

Says Dr. Bazan: “People are not purchasing glasses online because they have a trusted relationship with an eyewear retailer. That means that we need to work on and leverage those relationships.”

How to combat online sales? Dr. Bazan has some suggestions.

1. Create a buying environment, such as a luxurious office. Focus on making the sale right then and there, when patients are ready to buy. Create a setting in which they feel unrushed.

2. Carry styles patients fall in love with, not necessarily brands they know-those brands can be commonly found elsewhere and online. Evoke an emotional response: I need to have that now. If patients can find what you’re selling anywhere, then it becomes a commodity, and the only difference is price.

3. Offer similar packages. Once we identify what someone is looking for in terms of design and price point, Dr. Bazan and his staff offer a package. If someone is looking for one-hour service, that option is offered.

4. Educate your patients on the product you sell.

Related: Competing with online optical retail

5. Employ professional salespeople. Invest in your staff and their training. Professional sales training really helps to keep the sale in your office instead of moving to the Internet.

6. Stress service. Provide better service than anyone else. The service you and your staff offer should be better than anything your patients could receive from an online outlet.

7. Stress the community aspect. People love being part of their community and giving back. Make sure your patients know how you are part of that community. Point out how you and your practice gets involved.

8. Develop relationship with your patients. They are less likely to buy online if they have a relationship with you.

Related: Responding to a request for a PD measurement

“People buy online due to cost,” says Dr. Bazan, “and it’s the same for contact lenses. They have become a commodity.”

Encourage your patients to buy contact lenses from your practice by making it easier to purchase them purchase through your own website instead of an online outlet.

Also consider fitting contact lenses which aren’t easily available through online channels.

“We must accept that people are shopping online in increasing numbers. Our industry is included. We cannot continue to ignore it,” Dr. Bazan says.

 

Better communication leads to a better practice

Frequently it’s not what you say, but it’s how you say it.

Ian Davies, vice president of global professional affairs for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, says that good communication is important for three reasons.

1. Practitioners who communicate better generally have patients who are more satisfied

2. Good communicators are less likely to have their patients sue them

3. Good communicators drive better patient outcomes

Your initial interaction, as well as those of your staff, is most important. The patient forms an impression of you, your staff, and your practice in the first seven seconds. Do you look like you’re interested and welcoming to the patient when she enters the exam room? Or are you hunched over your desk and brusquely ask the patient to sit in the chair? Is your reception staff clear about how to interact with patients in those seven seconds?

“We think so much faster than we talk,” says Dr. Davies. “When we talk with our patients, it’s so much easier to keep thinking of a dozen other things.”

Related: Brien Holden on contact lens myopia management

Another consideration is staying present during communications with patient. Pay attention to the patient, not your laptop, tablet, or phone.

Keep in mind that as practitioners, we have our own language and way of describing things, says Dr. Davies. But is this something our patients understand? Use non-jargon language and give patients permission to ask if they don’t understand what you’re saying.

Communication is a two-way street. Understanding your patients’ beliefs-knowing what’s important to them-will inform their communication back to you. For example, asking a patient how she’s doing with her contact lenses may elicit a simple “Fine” if she hates wearing her glasses and is afraid that you’ll discontinue lens wear if she mentions a problem.

The same holds true for your staff. A busy day to your receptionist may not be a good thing-in her mind-because she’s spent her day talking with patients instead of getting the filing done. Your belief system tells you that helping patients (remember those first seven seconds?) is time well spent. This is where good communication can keep you aligned with your staff.

 

Achieving success in the digital age

Succeeding in practice is easy, according to Peter Ivins, BSc (Hons) MCOptom DipTp (IP). All you have to do is get patients to come in, convert them into spectacle or contact lens wearers, then keep them coming back to you to buy products and services. Simple.

As you know, that sounds a lot simpler than it really is.

Patients are really asking:

• Why should I come to you?

• Why should I trust you?

• Why should I come back?

Those answers come from communications within your practice and outside of your practice.

Related: How to handle a bad online review

Going digital with your communications is a game changer for small businesses like eyecare practitioners.

“It’s the best thing that happened to small independent practices because it allows you to compete on a level playing field,” says Dr. Ivins.

Digital communication is affordable, effective (can be targeted to your local area), and authentic (can be personalized and build trust and loyalty).

However, be warned that going digital isn’t a magic pill.

“Putting up a website and Facebook page won’t help your practice,” he says. “Just having a cool website doesn’t affect what happens in the practice.”

Dr. Ivins recommends following steps in order:

• Fix your practice first. Align with staff.

• Get a killer website. Don’t get Cousin Vinny with some IT experience. Do it professionally.

• Start gathering e-mail addresses from your patients. It’s critical that your database is populated with current addresses. Easiest way to do this is just ask. If nothing else, when you’re ready to sell, your practice value will increase with a current database.

• Start using electronic newsletters.

• Then look at photos, videos, blogs, and podcasts.

Related: HIPAA in the age of social media

 

Make sure you have a basic understanding of how digital marketing works. Make a commitment of time and resources. Commit that you’ll spend a certain amount of time each week to work on it, and budget a certain amount to spend.

Surround yourself with good support, Dr. Ivins suggests. Get help from outside agencies and suppliers when you need it, and you will need it. Contract for good IT support so you have someone to call when things go south, and they will go south. Consider investing in software as well.

Says Dr. Ivins: “Your website design should reflect the look, feel, and smell of your practice. If it were a member of your staff, you need to be proud of it.”

Your website must be mobile enabled (or impress your IT guy by calling it “responsive”). More than half of our patients are now reading on mobile (phone or tablet). Link to other media, such as YouTube and other sites.

“You want patients to do something: download something, make an appointment, or leave personal information (name, e-mail address, etc.) with you,” says Dr. Ivins.

Optimize your website for search, also called SEO, or search engine optimization. It improves your search engine rankings so people can find you. Without good search strategy, you’re invisible.

Consider adding the ability to make an appointment online-patients like the convenience.

“Integrating with online appointing has been hugely successful for us,” says Dr. Ivins.

Add social media to the mix as well. Social media requires more time because your accounts must be active with relevant posts at least a few times a week, if not daily.

“Facebook is the best social media choice to promote your practice, says Dr. Ivins. “Remember that Google owns YouTube, so having your own YouTube channel can help with your Google ranking.”

Regular communication with patients increases patient loyalty and helps them feel tied to the practice. In turn, that makes patients easier to service.

Dr. Ivins recommends communicating with patients via e-mail about once a month. Include relevant news, such as staff changes, as well as ongoing promotions, clinical information, videos, and animations.

Finally, be sure to measure what you’re doing. Analytics will help you to understand what works and what doesn’t. If it’s working, keep doing it. If it’s not working, stop doing it and try something else.

Says Dr. Ivins: “Embrace digital communication and all that it offers.”