It’s a topic that we learn about while in school and yet it is not routinely brought up during continuing education. I’m talking about finalizing contact lens prescriptions. Specifically, I’ll speak to the patient’s experience when a doctor finalizes the prescription over call and/or text, and why a doctor should consider moving away from this practice.
Based on conversations with colleagues, we tend to care more about the lens fit, health considerations, and benefits to the patient, and less about the process of finalizing the prescription. The problem is the finalization process matters as a part of the patient journey and finishing with a *thud* can give your patients a poor impression of your care and also make them less likely to be shoppers in your practice.
Consider this, too; online “prescription renewal” services like ExpressExam available via 1-800 Contacts are attempting to redefine how patients receive an updated prescription. If you do not agree with the quality of care these services provide, then you need to make sure that the patient journey in your own office emphasizes your expertise and care for the patient, while also being convenient.
Reasons why calls and texts are a good idea
The call/text concept for finalizing a prescription comes from a good place, for example, this may be a patient who left the practice with a new lens and wanted to confirm that the vision or comfort was improved. Or it can be a situation where the doctor fits a patient into daily-replacement lenses and has them leave to “try it before they buy it.” Lastly, these communications can be a convenience to the patient, avoiding the need to have them return to the office for a second visit.
Reasons why calls and texts are not a good idea
The problem comes from the perspective of patient experience. Think of their goals: to receive good care, buy contacts, and move on as quickly as possible. Finalization via call/text can affect each one of their goals.
- It adds a level of uncertainty to their care without the in-person guidance from the doctor. What the patient might wonder: “Did I make the right decision saying I liked these lenses? I wonder what the doctor would’ve thought… I wonder if there’s another option, but I’m not sure how to ask now.” are all potential questions in the patient’s mind that your staff are not always going to hear.
- It prevents them from buying their contacts right away. Your patient may think: “Now I’ll have to get the Rx and order online? How do they give me my Rx now? I guess I have to stop back in the office to buy?”
- It drags the ordeal out over time. Will your patient say: “It would’ve been nice to be done at once… I played phone tag a few times and when I would call back it would take them a while to get answers…”
A simple change that may save you a lot of time while making patients happier.
Make the switch to finalizing the patient in the preferred lens the day of the exam (within the proper guidelines) with the caveat that they could always return the contacts or switch back if they don’t like them.
This allows you to test whether your patients find value in calling you to finalize their prescription. If you offer, “we can finalize these today, but if you have any problems at all, then let us know”, you may find that virtually no patients call with a concern.
The intention doesn’t change with this approach, in that patients can still “choose their contacts”, however, your patient communications could decrease substantially. Sure, returning and swapping contacts may be more of a hassle than a call/text to finalize, but you may end up with only 1 return for every 100 communications that have now been avoided.
Lastly, it prevents wasting time and effort on patients who were unlikely to convert to the new lens regardless. Many practices use the “try it before you buy it” approach to converting patients to dailies, however, they make the mistake of taking this approach with ALL of their patients when it’s likely not necessary. They’d find that by talking price up-front and allowing the patient to buy that day, those patients who would’ve converted later after “trying it” just commit to buy in-office regardless, and many of the patients who only “tried it” because they received free lenses still do not convert.
By eliminating the post-fitting call to finalize the contact lens prescription, not only are you likely making life easier on your staff and your charting more simple, but you’re also meeting the needs of your patients by completing their customer journey the same day as their visit.