Throughout most of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Jane Strong, OD, of Strong Vision Center in Fairfield and Spring Cypress, Texas, was able to keep most of her staff working, at least on a part-time basis. One saving grace throughout the dramatic drop in patient volume was that many patients still wanted and needed to purchase contact lenses.
Dr. Strong’s practice hosts an online contact lens reordering portal, Yourlens.com, powered by ABB Optical Group. Patients can order their contact lenses directly through Dr. Strong’s website and have their order shipped directly to their front door. The process saves the staff members multiple steps, including receiving the order, unpacking it, shelving it, calling the patient and ultimately dispensing it.
INCENTIVE FOR NEW HABIT
Indeed, Dr. Strong had been encouraging contact lens technicians and the checkout team to use Yourlens.com to enter orders even before the patient left the office. But as so often happens, changing routines can be a challenge.
During the COVID-19 slowdown, Dr. Strong says that she had some staff members work at home, while one or two people would come into the offices each day for a few hours. She or one of her associates could see emergency care patients, and staff members attended to other matters—including taking orders for contact lens refills.
Team members began to appreciate the convenience of the Yourlens.com option in a new way. Initially, the practice had the contact lens inventory on hand to fill some patient orders and arrange curbside pickup. But they also became much more adept at putting these orders into Yourlens.com and explaining to patients what they were doing. She believes that new habit is going to carry over. “Anytime that a patient orders anything less than an annual supply that we can dispense during the visit, we’re going to plug the order into Yourlens.com and inform them, ‘I’m sending you an invitation, and you can reorder your contact lenses right here.’”
LIMIT SHOPPING AROUND
Dr. Strong says that even patients who ask for their prescription are entered into the Yourlens.com system. “Patients may want to shop around because they believe our prices are higher. So if they see that they can order their contact lenses through our site, with no fuss, and that our price is competitive, most will choose us,” she adds. The order will go through without having to verify anything, reducing the amount of time it takes for them to receive their lenses. “They won’t even have to make a phone call,” she says.
CAPTURE CRITICAL SALES
For the foreseeable future, patient volume will likely be lower in both of Dr. Strong’s practice locations. That makes it even more important than ever to capture sales with existing patients. Each incremental sale is important, and using Yourlens.com could help her regain those refill orders that patients might otherwise place elsewhere.
Simplifying the tasks for the front desk team is also important. As Dr. Strong’s practices reopened, the front desk staff has the added load now of greeting patients at the door, taking their temperature, having patients wash their hands and leading them right into the pretest rooms. In fact, Dr. Strong removed the chairs from her reception area to discourage patients from bringing family members and to remind the staff to attend to patients immediately.
History questionnaires are either filled in online or the questions are asked by the technicians during pretesting, so the patient arrives in the doctor’s exam lane faster. “We’ve had to move around some responsibilities,” she says.
To simplify the process during check in, the practice had signed up for a trial of ABB Verify, the online insurance verification program business solution from ABB Optical Group, the week before COVID-19 forced the reduced hours. Ensuring that patients and staff are aware of their managed vision benefits before the exam starts, notes Dr. Strong, is an important step.
Dr. Strong opened her practice as one location in 2003. About five years later, the practice in this oil-enriched suburb of Houston was busting at the seams. “We were trying to grow, but we were losing patients because we could not physically fit them all in and our waiting list was growing. So we had to decide whether to pack up and move everyone to a larger location or open a second one,” she says.
Another location about four miles away was a good fit. Although it means twice the rent and utilities, she was able to recapture her patient base. Now, as many practices are scheduling far fewer patients every day to keep the in-office census down, she at least has two locations that can be operating.
This period of time has allowed her and her staff to reimagine the practices and the space a bit. For example, the now nearly empty reception area can be used to highlight new services or diagnostic equipment, like the RightEye eye tracking system. “Our part-time doctor is interested in doing a sports vision clinic, so this might be the perfect opportunity to begin to introduce that.”