Active listening and doctor-driven dispensing will connect you with your patients.

When you think of memorable experiences you think of positive times filled with joy and laughter. It could be a game-winning shot, a vacation, a childhood memory of your parents or even just enjoying a loved one’s company. You tend to remember the times that you felt something.

Creating a memorable patient experience is no different. The way a patient “feels” about the experience will reflect directly to your bottom line. People will generally either really love something or not, and there is no room for in between or being average in today’s competitive market. Achieving this includes everyone involved throughout the patient’s journey. Yes, think of the patient’s entire experience with you and your practice as a journey. It is not a single appointment or transaction but a journey that can evolve over 20 to 30 years as the patient continues to see you and refer others to your office.

Here are some ways to make a memorable patient experience:

Active listening involves paying attention to patients from the moment they call for an appointment. Train your staff to take notes during this initial touch point. When patients call the office because of negative experiences elsewhere, have the staff ask probing questions to understand what type of experience they are looking for.

This will give you a “blueprint” of their expectations when the patient is in your exam chair. You will be able to address the pain points that guided them to your office. Provide a personal approach by facing the patient while talking, and be sure to maintain eye contact.

Many times patients will tell you what they want; it is your job as an eyecare professional to recommend the best options and help guide them to the best personalized solution. Active listening establishes the patient/doctor relationship and aligns an active approach to the patient’s healthcare. When patients feel like they are a part of the decision-making process it will create a memorable experience that will make your office stand out from the rest.

Whether you own your office or are an employee, doctor-driven dispensing is a way to not only create a memorable experience in the optical but also a way to create patient loyalty by educating patients about products. The clinical findings from the examination should be aligned with the eyewear lens options that you recommend and the specific artificial tears that you prescribe to that patient, for example.

This goes back to active listening. You are the authoritative voice and experienced professional of that office, so “customize” your presentation and educate patients about why you are recommending a product and how it is different from what is available from online retailers.

Maintain eye contact when discussing personalized eyecare. Doctor-driven dispensing is an art that is frequently ignored by many ODs. Asking different questions will create a “wow” experience for the patient: “They never asked me those questions before. Maybe I wasn’t getting the right exam or eyewear that I should have in the past.”

Storytelling can be influential because it touches emotions, which creates memorable moments. It makes the patient interaction a human experience. Storytelling can be formulated from active listening to understanding what the patient likes to talk about and transitioning it to an assessment/plan strategy for that patient encounter. Storytelling by itself can be a powerful way to be memorable. Be yourself. Being authentic will connect with people. Letting them know that your family member has the same issues with progressive lenses and what specific product you prescribed creates more value for your office than competing on price.

Competing with online retailers can be as simple as expanding on what we do, alleviating the problem of impaired vision. The key phrase is “The whole story begins with you” when the patient is involved in something for a bigger purpose. Whether it is a local charity event or mission trip, your office can participate. Use your email database and social media platforms to educate your patients about your involvement in the community and how they can be involved by donating old glasses or how you can do a promotion for free eye exams for those in need through your office.

The patient experience is not over at the end of the exam. Making a follow-up call to a patient can make a lasting impression, whether it is a follow-up on corneal abrasion or a call to see how their contacts are performing. This discussion has more impact than you think in making your business successful and developing the critical doctor/patient relationship.

Following up after one week, one month or six months will create a memorable experience. Simply set reminders in your EMR system to have your staff follow up on progressive adaptation or simple satisfaction with services or products. Let your patients know that you remember specific personal information, which you can document in their chart. Job information and children’s names can be a starting point for their next exam. Your EMR system can be a great way to reactivate patients by sending birthday texts/emails with special promotions.

Your unique style makes you memorable. Humor is a great way to achieve this. Don’t be afraid to use it as a different approach to patient care because humor will make you likeable and approachable to new patients. You want patients to feel comfortable, and being funny is one way to do it. Also, everyone likes getting compliments so use them to make people feel comfortable enough to ask questions and to further enhance the doctor/patient experience.

Your personality, humor, empathy and attention to detail are your signature to the world. They speak volumes; use them to create a memorable experience that no one can mimic because “you” are unique . . . and your patients will see that as well.

Maria Sampalis, OD, of Sampalis Eyecare in Cranston, RI, is founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook, and the Corporate OD blog. She offers strategic planning services through Corporate Optometry Consulting.


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