“Hey Doc, what new contact lenses do you have?”
How many times have we heard this question, or some variation
of from our patients? The question is simple, but how we answer it
makes the difference between whether we have a thriving, growing
practice that embraces change or whether we just plod along.
It’s key to keep in mind: Our patients are consumers, as well as patients. They come to us for their eye health needs first and foremost, but they are also shoppers. They expect us to offer them the finest products and services that maximize their visual performance and maintain their eye health, and they expect us to provide the highest level of service.
Patients have access to “Dr. Google,” meaning that they come in for an exam equipped with information about vision problems they are having and about products that may help them.
Practices in many healthcare specialties face this same challenge: If our practice doesn’t offer the most innovative products that best meet our patients’ needs and even exceed their expectations, they will think we are stuck in a time warp and seek care elsewhere.
Present Innovation, Don’t Wait to Be Asked About It
Recently, I had a long-time patient, a contact lens wearer, come in for a routine exam. It had been a year or more since his last visit, and he had been wearing the same contact lens design for at least that long. He was happy enough with his lens but, of course, he asked me, “Is there anything new? Or better?”
Too often, we as optometrists will respond to a question about new products from a contact lens wearer with something like, “Well, if you’re happy with your current lens, you should stick with it.”
What message does that send our patients? What does it say about the practice of optometry? What would you think of a car dealership that still only sold 2010 models?
Yes, it’s quite possible that the contact lens worn by the inquisitive patient is, in fact, the best option for them. But, what if you took time to learn about newer product offerings and made the best of the bunch available in your practice? What if you then took the time to show your patients the features and benefits of each of these newer designs, and how they may be an improvement over what they are currently wearing?
Even if that patient leaves wearing the same contact lens design he came in with, he comes away seeing your practice as one that offers the latest and best products and that cares about its patients and their vision needs enough to show them all the options available. In our experience, that patient is more likely to come back, and to recommend your practice to their friends and family, as a result.
Train to Explain
With all new technology, we strive to be early adopters.When new contact lenses come out, we learn about them, and we try them out on staff and patients to see how they perform.
Maintaining a focus on innovation requires training. We have office meetings on Wednesday afternoons during which we discuss what new lens designs are coming out and what new equipment we may be purchasing. It’s important to get feedback from the staff on how the new technology will fit into the practice, and it is vital that they “buy in.” Our technicians and doctors are trained to take time to explain this new technology, mindful that our ultimate goal is to find innovative ways to improve patient care.
Patients often come into the office and ask about a contact lens they saw advertised on TV, or they may bring an article from a newspaper or the Internet about something new being developed. We must be able to explain why these new innovations are either good for them or not the right choice.
That's all part of having the best answer to that "simple question."
David Geffen, OD, FAAO, is director of optometric and refractive services at Gordon Schanzlin NewVision Institute in La Jolla, Calif. To reach him: firstname.lastname@example.org.