By Amy Hellem
If there’s one thing that all specialty lens doctors agree on, it is this: Your staff is one of the most vital touch-points in your practice. This carries with it both responsibility and reward.
Properly training staff to affect your specialty lens practice in positive ways requires commitment as well as frequent review; but the rewards far outweigh the effort.
The Full Circle Experience
Consider the multiple impressions that your practice makes throughout the course of a single patient visit. Every impression, or touch point, is an opportunity to establish patient satisfaction and trust in whatever treatment is recommended. As you know, this is vital in the world of specialty lenses. Patients need to know that the extra time and cost are worthwhile. In short, they need to have faith in your way of doing things.
For better or worse, how well your staff performs directly impact patients’ perceptions about your treatment philosophies. In a study of 35,000 patients published in Journal of Medical Practice Management, researchers reveal that customer service – not the doctor’s clinical skill or treatment – is the reason patients complain about their healthcare experiences on the Internet.
Indeed, every touch point and every interaction is important—from the moment someone calls your office until they complete the exam and circle back to the checkout desk. There are multiple touches along the way.
The benefits of knowledgeable and expressive staff who can discuss concepts of specialty lenses from A to Z cannot be over emphasized. This might begin with your on hold message, or it may begin during appointment scheduling when your staff asks about existing conditions and previous treatments.
It should come as no surprise that patients test your staff, asking questions before scheduling appointments. They are testing you and want to determine how knowledgeable and up-to-date your practice is. In such cases, the patient’s opinion of your practice is only as good as his opinion is of the individual who answered the phone.
Start out on the right foot by making sure that staff members who answer the phone know how to respond to specific lines of questioning. It’s OK if they don’t know the answer, as long as they know how to convey their willingness and ability to find out.
Staff also plays a key role in determining appropriate POP materials that are in view of patients throughout the visit. It is essential that your staff keep these materials updated, organized and visible. This requires constant attention, as it can get messy quickly.
One of the greatest mistakes you can make in your specialty lens practice is to allow sales reps to put POP materials in your waiting rooms for products that you do not routinely use. Staff members can, and should, police this process.
Pretesting and history-taking are also key staff touch points. It is important to teach your staff how to properly engage new contact lens patients. For example, the tech can ask the patient how happy he is on a scale of 1 to 10. If the patient does not report a level of satisfaction of 8, 9 or 10 with their current lenses, the technician should initiate a conversation about more customized or advanced solutions, such as those that can be found in specialty lenses.
“Ideally, the patient should have three touch points with specialty lenses before the doctor mentions it,” says Steve Klein, OD.
With respect to clinical skills, your specialty lens technician must know how to identify irregularities on corneal topography. And if they can’t get a good topography they should at least know that this might be diagnostic in itself.
Helping patients understand that specialty lenses are the best choice for their eyes doesn’t end at the exam chair. Even after you explain the lenses and why you’re fitting them, your staff must have a very good working knowledge of the fitting systems, the costs and the agreements required. In other words, the patient experience ends right back where it began—at the front desk.
The Power of the People
Value your staff and they will value you and the products you recommend. Empower them. Make them feel important. When your team feels that their job is important, it keeps them engaged and involved. This in turn helps you build a specialty lens practice that you can be proud of.
Amy Hellem is an independent writer and researcher who specializes in ophthalmology and optometry. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of Review of Optometry and Review of Cornea & Contact Lenses and directed the custom publishing division for Review of Ophthalmology.