Do You Prescribe Product From the Chair?

Eric White, O.D., divulges the details for getting on board with the highly successful Doctor-Driven Dispensing strategy

in today’s world, being in private practice has increasing challenges. It is becoming even more important to go above and beyond to make our patients feel like family.

I have done a few things I would like to share with you that have helped my practice grow. I feel the most important pearl I can share I learned from Pete Kehoe, O.D., past president of the American Optometric Association. This is Doctor-Driven Dispensing.

Once you start this simple concept, your patients and staff will love you for it.

In essence, Doctor-Driven Dispensing is prescribing from the exam room. Patients come to see us because we are the doctor, and what we say they generally will listen to.

In the past, I would do the exam and then give the patient off to the optician, and they would review and go over with the patient what they need. This is nothing negative toward opticians—they are an important part of all practices—but patients can have a tendency to feel that they are being upsold on premium products with the optician. Whereas, when I prescribe them and explain why I’m prescribing them, the patient is more apt to get those premium products.

Today, my per-patient revenue is now over $600, which is well above the national average.

4 Specific Steps

Here’s how I do Doctor-Driven Dispensing.

  1. Set the Tone. Our office staff is a team and we all work together. From the time the patient walks in the door—and is greeted and offered coffee, tea, or water—until they walk out the door, every step is important to put the patient in a good mood. Remember, happy patients spend more money…and this is a business.
    When my staff is doing the pretesting, they explain each test (and why we are doing it) and make notes of the patient’s work style and lifestyle conditions.
  2. Say Hello. When I get the patient in the exam room, the first thing I do is literally take a minute and say “Hi,” and ask about their family and vacations plans. This relaxes them and shows them they are family, not just another patient.
  3. Prescribe Products. After I do the refraction, we talk. I prescribe what they will need and explain why. This takes literally five minutes.
    My office is 95% digital, 95% no-glare, and 40% Transitions lenses. I always prescribe the best products because our patients are family and we always give our family the best products available. I also always prescribe Transitions and no-glare on all computer and reading glasses, because our phones are computers too and I want them to be comfortable when they use their phones. At this point in the discussion we also talk about multiple pairs and the possibility of contacts too—even for part-time wear.
    If there is resistance, I am there in the exam room to explain and discuss, as their doctor. Always remember the power of the pen. Patients are more receptive when they know they have your full attention.
  4. Reiterate the Choices. After this, I do the health checks. When I finish the exam, I walk the patient out to the optical area and restate to the optician exactly what I am prescribing with the patient listening. The optician then reiterates this to the patient before starting frame selection.
    With the patient hearing the prescribed products three times, they are much more likely to get what I prescribed because they know I prescribed it—and why.
    By taking literally a few minutes to do this in the exam room, you have informed your patient and made your staff’s lives so much better. This will, in turn, make your office more money.

One Simple Follow-Up

At the end of the day, I email the patients who had a comprehensive eye exam. It takes me 15 minutes, and the return has been incredible. I send it from my personal email.

In the email, I write a personal thank-you note. I simply cut and paste a paragraph thanking them for coming in, asking for referrals, and then asking them to write a review of our practice on Google and/or Yelp. In today’s world, positive reviews and social media are important elements to grow a practice.

I also add a personal line about what we talked about in the beginning of the exam—vacation planned, what their kids are doing, or something so they know it is me sending it, not a third party.

By sending this simple email, I get to know quickly if anything was not right—and immediately we can fix it. But, more important, I reach patients when they are happy, and that’s one of the reasons my Yelp score is one of the highest in the country.

I also find out instantly if we have a bad email address, which means we don’t miss that patient when we send marketing email blasts.

If you do these two simple pearls—Doctor-Driven Dispensing and email follow-up—you will notice growth in your practice…without ever spending a dime.

—Eric White, O.D.