3 Ways to Future-Proof Your Optical

How often do you upgrade your cell phone? For many, the answer is “as soon as a new model hits the market.” What about your wardrobe? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “every time I go to Target for ‘just a few things.’ Now, how often do you update your optical? Last year? Five years ago? Can’t remember?

“If [patients] don’t think we are modern and up to date, are they going to think that the doctor does a good exam? No,” says Donna Suter, who conducted several sessions on all things optical at SECO 2018. “Are they going to be convinced that they need to spend five hundred dollars on their eyewear? No,” she continues.

In this series of posts, we’ll explore three ways to update your optical to compete with big box stores, optical chains, and online sales. And getting there is easier than you think.

Update Your Processes

One of the biggest bottom-line boosts you can give your optical is to go paperless—and it’s not as daunting as it seems, according to Suter. Ordering frames, filling out paperwork, working with vision plans: all of those things take a lot of time. And “all of those can be solved by going paperless,” she notes. Mick Kling, OD, who also presented at SECO 2018, agrees. “If you’re not using technology to increase your throughput I really encourage you to do that,” he says. Work gets done faster, you’ll see more patients, and the practice will make more money. And when the practice’s profits grow, “secretly that’s how you get raises, right?” asks Suter.

Be Prepared for Challenges

Optical staff tend get hung up on the concept of going paperless because they are afraid of ‘bumps in the road’ during the transition period. “We don’t like to make mistakes as professionals,” says Suter. But the key to paperless success is commitment. Once you decide to adopt a paperless system, “move quickly out of training wheels all the way to paperless,” she advises.”There will be mishaps but [don’t] give up” What about those sticky notes? “If you need it in order to be professional, keep it, but know that you’ll have to give it up.”

Also, keep this in mind: it’s called paperless, not paper-free, notes Suter. Some practices get closer to that goal than others. “You may be in an office where there’s always going to be things that need to be printed out,” recognizes Suter. For example, a rural office without fast internet. “That’s not what I’m concerned about.”

“Going paperless does not mean walking away from something the patient sees as convenient.”—Donna Suter, Donna Suter Consulting

Tip: Never say to a patient, ‘this is our first day on this system so bear with us.’ “It’s like a surgeon who says ‘this is my first surgery,’” Suter quips.

Make Patient’s Say “Wow!”

Bringing your operations up to date shouldn’t stop with going paperless. “There’s never been more competition than now,” notes Samantha Toth, ABOC, another SECO presenter. The most powerful form of marketing in any industry is word of mouth, she says. “But you have to do something worth remarking upon—something to make [patients] stop in their tracks and go ‘wow, that was really cool.’”

“You need to turn the little things into ‘wow’ moments,” emphasizes Toth. “These are things you do every day and you many not notice, so you need to take a step back and look at it from a different angle,” she explains. In Kling’s office, that meant replacing the front desk with greeters and a coffee bar. The former front desk operations were moved to a separate area. It also meant privatizing the pre-visit experience by adding cubicles, where “all of the pre-visit stuff” takes place. That way, “there’s no discomfort from the patient or the staff” when having financial conversations.

And don’t be afraid to do something “crazy.” Toth recalls one practice that offers curbside adjustments—inspired by the local Outback Steakhouse’s curbside carry-out. The practice designated a special parking space, monitored it with a Nest camera, and outfitted staff with special shirts and a tool belt filled with eyeglass tools.

Stay tuned. In our next post, we’ll talk about easy ways to incorporate tech into your everyday.

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