- October 19, 2022
- Posted by: New School
- Category: General
Just to start out on the same page, we are not covering a really important factor: location (or as they say in the real estate business, “location, location, location”). The reason we are NOT covering this significant issue in this article is found in the first word of the title: Easy. Fixing the location is a little harder and more expensive solution. So let’s get on to the things that are easier and less expensive to fix.
- Appearance – of your building’s exterior
Let’s face it, most of our patients don’t have the knowledge and training to know if our clinical skills are great or poor. They DO have the ability to look at your building as they drive by and say, “that’s a nice building” or “that place sure needs a new coat of paint”. The appearance of your practice’s exterior, as well as your signage, will have a large impact on the community’s perception of your level of quality and expertise. So clean up the outside of your building, trim the bushes, and make sure that your exterior is a good reflection on your practice. For much of the community it will be the only factor they consider when thinking of your practice. Invest in a great sign, it is a one-time advertising expense that should last for many years.
- Appearance – of your building’s interior
Your interior will also have a huge impact on your patients’ perception of your practice quality. Outdated displays, unkempt work surfaces, and cluttered reception area detract from the desired impression of professional competence and fashionable appearance. An investment in the interior of your practice will have immediate returns in higher average sales and patients referring their friends to your practice.
Dim and uneven lighting makes a practice look gloomy and dirty. Great lighting makes a practice shine! Your dispensary in particular needs great lighting to show off the products you feature to your patients. Visit a local jewelry store and see how they light their display cases, they make the jewels dazzle with bright lights and mirrors to look as attractive as possible.
- Doctor-driven dispensing
In most eye care practices the doctor refracts the patient, and then turns the patient over to the opticians to choose lenses and frames. Big mistake! The doctor should also prescribe or recommend products to solve the visual needs of the patient. As an example, if the doctor prescribes a pair of computer glasses for an office worker the chances are much higher that the patient will purchase than if the patient hears about computer glasses for the first time from the optician. Patients tend to feel that the doctor is caring for their visual needs, while the optician is just trying to “sell” something. The doctor must determine how the patient uses their eyes in their everyday life and offer solutions for those needs.
The hand-off is the most important part of the dispensing process. It is simple, and yet often overlooked or done poorly. After the examination, the doctor should introduce the patient to the optician and tell the optician what has been prescribed for the patient while the patient is present. This transfers the authority from the doctor to the optician, and re-states the solutions the doctor has prescribed for the patient’s visual needs. Now the optician only needs to fill the doctor’s prescriptions and answer any questions about the prescribed products rather than having to “sell” products.
Many practices do very little marketing, instead relying on word of mouth and Managed Vision Care (MVC) plans to bring them patients. The “classical” number to expend on marketing is about 3% of gross revenue. Chains spend as much as 15% of gross revenue to build patient traffic. While word of mouth is a great way to build a strong patient base, unless your practice is already at capacity you should also have a vital, planned marketing plan in place to insure a consistent stream of patients.
- Managed Vision Care plans
Most independent eye care practices receive about 80% of their revenue from Managed Vision Care plans (MVC’s). The reimbursement levels for some of these plans is very low, and in many cases not profitable for the average practice. It is very important to carefully choose which plans to join, or which plans to keep if you are already a provider. A good way to evaluate a plan is to audit ten patients from an MVC. Look at the total reimbursement your practice received from those ten patients, including exam fees, medical, dispensing, etc. Divide that total number by 10, and that is your average reimbursement per patient. Look at your hourly costs to keep your practice open, and compare that to the hourly reimbursement level you get from an individual MVC to determine if that plan should be maintained.
This is the easiest place to get off track in most practices. You need to maintain a careful balance of enough staff in place to give great service, but also insure that your practice maintains efficiency. These are the days of doing more with less.
- Product mix
Maintain an inventory that reflects your practice’s positioning and demographics. If you are a “high end” practice, then make sure you have the high end products that your clientele will demand. You should also have at least some products in lower price points to insure that you don’t lose patients that need to watch their expenses. If you have a “value” practice, display products that look great but meet your patients’ desires to get a “bargain” for their money, while still carrying some higher priced products for those that may decide to spend a little more for a better product. And always carry a sufficient amount of product to meet the needs of your entire patient base, from children to senior adults if your practice sees these age ranges.
Evaluate your pricing yearly. Make sure your pricing reflects your positioning, and always make sure that your pricing is at least as high as your maximum reimbursement rates from your best MVC plans. Having an area for “bargain” or discounted products is also a great idea to move older products and make room for the great new products your vendors will bring in, without having to take a hit on returns while giving your patients an opportunity to save money.
These are relatively easy fixes that will have a large impact on your bottom line. To those that implement goes the prize!