Eye Care practices today have no shortage of competitive pressure. This is especially true on the dispensary side of the business. Internet sales, brick and mortar competitors down the street, you name it. They are all anxiously waiting to receive your patients and your prescriptions so they can sell them a pair of glasses. This is why, it’s a delight to see patients you saw in the exam chair a couple of days earlier, back in your dispensary shopping for a pair of glasses. This is a testament to patient loyalty and also to the patient’s perception of your dispensary selection right? Well sort of, these return visits present a double edged sword. They are a great thing, but they are also an indicator that your patients are running out of time on the day of their exam to visit your dispensary. They also represent an opportunity to improve scheduling strategy.
Our studies while working with hundreds of eye care businesses across the country show that in the best eye care practices, only 50% of patients that walked out on the day of their exam come back to the dispensary at a later date to shop for a pair of glasses. In a glass half full kind of way that’s a great thing, but the flip side is that the other 50% are going somewhere else with their prescription. Another interesting statistic is that these patients spend about 25% less on average in the dispensary than they would have on the day of their original visit. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The recommendation that you made in the exam room happened a few days earlier. It doesn’t carry nearly the amount of weight that it did when the patient was handed directly to your Optician. On these return visits the process typically starts with frame selection instead of lens selection, another contributing factor in the lower revenue per purchase result. We have a really great infographic that provides some statistics on patient flow and how it affects revenue. Here is the link.
Furthermore, the patients that do come back to shop are coming back at a time that’s convenient for them, not necessarily for your Opticians. These patients are no longer being controlled by the schedule. We normally see typical increases in return patients during the lunch hour and from about 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. This causes yet another challenge because your Opticians are completely occupied with patients from previous days so you can’t make an effective hand-off of the patient you have inside your exam room. We call this the self-perpetuating cycle of missed hand-offs.
Walk-ins are going to happen irrespective of how efficiently your patients flow through the office. Because of this, it’s important to take daily dispensary walk in patterns into account when developing your schedule template. Build a tally sheet (or download ours) for your Opticians so they can keep track of when patients “walk in” to your dispensary throughout the day. The tally sheet should be divided into hours so you can count how many patients walked in each hour of the day. Use the tally sheet to keep track of patient walk ins for a period of a couple of weeks. That should give you enough information to establish what the typical daily pattern looks like.
Once you have an established pattern, use that information to make adjustments to your schedule template. Let’s say for example that you have a high “walk-in” rate from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. You should offset this by reducing the number of “Glasses” patients you put on the schedule from 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm to help your Opticians keep up with incoming demand. You can book more medical patients or contact lens patients during this time to alleviate the congestion in optical. The flip side is also true. You can schedule “Glasses” patients more heavily during times when your dispensary is experiencing lighter traffic. Counteracting the typical daily walk-in pattern with sound scheduling strategy will help you reduce those occurrences when you try to make a warm hand-off to the Optician but fail because your Optical is full of patients.
Developing a schedule template that takes dispensary “walk-in” traffic into account will help you increase your dispensary capture rate and revenue per patient by ensuring that patients have a great chance to receive one-on-one service from your Opticians. Go out and capture that extra 25% you are leaving on the table, by trying this technique. Let us know how it goes. We love to hear your success stories.