Article

PATIENT OVERFLOW?

3 corporate O.D.s share their expert strategies for accommodating walk-in patients

How do you accommodate walk-ins when you have an already busy patient schedule? That’s a common question in optometry, and it’s definitely a situation O.D.s have to deal with if they work in corporate optometry.

Corporate optometry settings get a lot of foot traffic because many of these opticals are located in retail locations (malls, shopping plazas, etc.). Furthermore, they benefit from the national marketing efforts of their optical brand. Subleasing space in corporate optometry can be very lucrative, and being able to handle the large patient volume and accommodate walk-ins as well is important for the success of your practice.

We asked the members of the Corporate Optometry Facebook Group how they accommodate unexpected walk-ins when their schedule is already busy. Here, some strategies they’ve set in motion to work in patients on the fly, and increase revenue for their practice.

ANTICIPATE + LEAVE ROOM.

Determine a set number of scheduled patients whom you can see per day, in order to accommodate the inevitable walk-ins. Train all staff members on a predetermined protocol for fitting in a walk-in as needed.

Leave certain appointment times open during the day to handle the walk-ins and the surprise patient calls. A common example would be to leave one morning spot and one afternoon spot open for walk-ins.

ANDREW BLANKENSHIP, O.D.

PUTTING IT IN PRACTICE:

“An O.D. can only see a certain number of patients per day given how many exam rooms they have. For me, I limit myself to 35 patients max per day. If a patient walks in, and if the schedule allows it, we’ll of course work them in. If not, we book them for the next available.

“I don’t have to worry about losing the walk-in, because where I am there’s not much competition. All the O.D.s are booked out two to four weeks, so the chances of that patient going elsewhere for a walk-in are zero.”

—Andrew Blankenship, O.D., owner, Angelo Eye Center next to a Walmart Optical in San Angelo, TX

ACCOMMODATE, WITH A SMILE.

Walk-in patients are a nice revenue boost for your practice. Don’t view them as an inconvenience to your daily schedule; look at them as a practice builder. Those patients are willing to make purchases—in fact, they sought you out to do so.

Patients will remember that you accommodated them and made them feel welcome, and that is likely to increase patient retention and loyalty. Thinking outside the box to be able to accommodate these patients is important to your business.

For instance, walk-ins can be escorted to the optical to pick out glasses first, then come back to have an eye exam when your office is able to fit them into the schedule.

JOSEPH ALEXANDER GOWEN, O.D.

PUTTING IT IN PRACTICE:

“I am a big fan of walk-ins in our practice. If we are slammed, we let the walk-ins know there will be a wait, have them fill out their paperwork and go look at frames until they are called back. Occasionally, they will schedule for later if they can’t wait, but most don’t mind waiting, and we always prioritize our scheduled appointments. The only time we turn away walk-ins is right before lunch or at the end of the day.”

—Joseph Alexander Gowen, O.D., leasing from Eyemart Express in Pueblo, CO

ANALYZE WITH KPIs.

Develop key performance indicators that will help you create a walk-in schedule. Evaluate your typical patient flow and map out the busiest times in your schedule, then come up with an action plan for walk-ins.

Have business metrics that can help guide you in planning a daily schedule and invest in technology that can create practice efficiency to accommodate those walk-ins.

Typically, corporate opticals can have one to three walk-in patients a day, depending on the day of the week or time of the year. If an average patient transaction is $80 and there are seven walk-ins a week, the total extra revenue for the practice is $560 a week.

That equals an average of $29,000 of extra revenue annually from walk-in appointments.

PUTTING IT IN PRACTICE:

“Over the years, we have tracked the approximate number of walk-ins, no-shows, extra-time patients, etc., that happen throughout the day. We leave openings for walk-ins based on that metric, and we usually are very good at breaking even on accommodating everyone and filling the time completely. Walk-ins are a practice builder. It’s rare that we get behind or work over. It just takes time to figure out your metric and plan it.”

—Sean Deak, O.D., subleasing from Walmart in Shelbyville and Greensburg, IN

Corporate optometry practices have a wide range of patient demographics who come to us for affordable, convenient, and reliable care. The offices are designed to see a high volume of scheduled patients, as well as accommodate walk-in appointments. Using these strategies, you can learn to work in the walk-ins, increase your revenue, and elevate your corporate practice. COT!

MORE ONLINE

Join the “Corporate Optometry on Facebook” group (facebook.com/groups/corporateoptometry ).