This post is sponsored by Essilor.
The success of an optometric practice revolves around the relationship and handoff between the optometrist & optician. What are you doing in your practice to foster this relationship? How do your patients perceive the relationship? Do your optometrists and opticians speak the same language? The handoff between the optometrist and optician is a powerful interaction that will create loyalty, increase your bottom line, and lead to happy team members. Dr. Darryl Glover sits down with Dr. Sabrina Gaan, Optometrist, and Christine Howard, Optician, to learn their secret sauce to success.
Dr. Darryl Glover: Today, I’m super excited because we’re discussing a topic very near and dear to my heart. It is a topic that can change the way you practice but, most importantly, helps your practice elevate. It revolves around a relationship that can increase loyalty and ensure your team members are happy in the office. Today we’re going to talk about the power of the handoff, and I have two experts here that have really mastered this. We’re going to dive deep into what they do in their practice and get the skills and tips that have made their practice stand out more than any others around them. I want to welcome two experts, Dr. Sabrina Gaan, and we also have a fantastic optician, Christine Howard.
THE OPTOMETRIST & OPTICIAN RELATIONSHIP
Dr. Darryl Glover: Christine, I’d love for you [to share about] prior to Dr. Gaan coming in you you’ve probably seen some gaps with some doctors right? I know there are a lot of great doctors out there — all doctors are great, let’s just put that out there — but some of us need a little bit more when it comes to this handoff. Maybe you can break down some of the gaps from an optician standpoint that you’ve seen when it comes to handoffs. Because I think that’s powerful; I think sometimes Opticians or eyewear consultants don’t want to speak up and say “hey Dr., if you do this way that may make the patient happier, make them more loyal, and make it easier on us as well.” So maybe you could walk through some of the gaps or challenges that you experienced prior to Dr. Gaan coming in, and then we could build from there.
Christine Howard: One of the biggest things is just communication. Dr. Gaan and I might not say a lot of words, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an understanding there and that we are on the same page. I’ve worked with doctors where I literally have a piece of paper with their prescription and kind of have to guess and navigate how we’re going to modify that prescription to fit the patient’s best needs. Sometimes talking to the patient isn’t very helpful because they don’t know. They’re like, “I have no idea what just happened in the exam room.” So definitely clear communication and having an understanding of what your goals are as a practice is really important. That way, if everyone’s on the same page, then you’re all working towards the same goal, and it makes it a lot easier.
Dr. Darryl Glover: So it’s more of a unified approach, right? Understanding that your doctor is your partner, your doctor, your advocate. Your doctor is your friend, your family. So how do you combine that unified approach to make it easier for the patient? I love those tips.
Dr. Sabrina Gaan: let’s kind of take that perspective from the doctor. Sometimes we’re having conversations with our eyewear consultants, our Opticians, and we’re telling our patients what we prescribe, but sometimes there’s that gap where the eyewear consultant or Optician may not convey that message. Where are the gaps that you’ve seen you know before [working with] Christine and becoming that dynamic duo?
Dr. Sabrina Gaan: Well, sometimes you hand them the prescription, and you say, oh, they’re looking for, um, you know, an Eyezen lens or Progressive, and then you find out that later they gave them something completely different. They gave them a single vision, or they talked them out of what I already talked them into, and that’s really frustrating as the doctor.
Dr. Darryl Glover: Yeah, and I think that’s something that is lost in a sauce when it comes to the doctor-patient handoff. I think everyone in the office should shadow a patient through the entire journey. Imagine what it looks like if your eyewear consultant or optician sits in the exam lane with you while you’re talking to that patient, while you’re prescribing from the chair. They now understand the communication, the dialogue, the language, the words that you’re using, so when they go to the eyewear area, they’re all on the same page, and I think that’s something that can really change the game in regards to how we practice day in and day.
SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE
Dr. Darryl Glover: When it comes to speaking the same language, do you have specific codes in your office? Or certain words that you use or specific words that you don’t? I’m a firm believer that if you’re not speaking the same language, then it’s going to be a disconnect between the doctor and the optician, but most notably between the doctor, optician, and patient as well. So are you saying the same thing regarding no glare or anti-reflective coating or photochromic lens versus Transitions®? Or are there certain words that you don’t use?
Dr. Sabrina Gaan: Christine knows I want 100% anti-reflection in my office, right so that’s kind of a no-brainer. I don’t even have to say that to her because she already knows that. As far as Transitions®, she’s a Transitions Change Agent, so I mean, she’s gonna always bring that up. Plus sun protection and all that jazz, but with her, it’s really just like, “hey, this [patient], you know I talked to them about having first-time progressive, they’re a little hesitant” or something like that…then she’s like “I got it” and then she usually will close that sale no problem because she knows I’ve already spoken to them about it.
Christine Howard: When I speak to the patient, I oftentimes will say that “Dr. Gann prescribed X Y and Z,” and that just makes it easier. Nobody really questions an MD when they prescribe a medication for a patient to solve whatever health issue they have at hand, so if we use that same kind of language in this situation, I think it really resonates with the patient a lot.
OPTOMETRISTS DON’T RECOMMEND, WE PRESCRIBE
Dr. Darryl Glover: Something that you just mentioned, Christine, is the word prescribed. I’ve said this a million times on this podcast we cannot recommend anything. As doctors, we prescribe. And Christine, you get it! As you said, you go to your PCP, you’re not going to take a “recommendation” they’re going to prescribe something.
I think sometimes we get bogged down by thinking about the patient’s pockets or sounding like a salesman, but in reality — I hate to say it, you guys — but indirectly, we do sell. But we sell by finding a solution for the patients, right, so you got to change your mindset in regards to what’s taking place when you’re communicating with the patient. You’re just giving them a solution, and there is going to be some type of sales component to it, but the best way, in my personal opinion to convey that message is really to talk about the features. Don’t just say anti-reflective coding. [Instead, share] what that anti-reflective coding does. Does it reduce glare when driving at night? Does it cut down on that starburst? Or make things more comfortable?
Give your patients real-life experiences and educate them on how this will elevate their lifestyle day-in-and-day-out. I think that’s huge, and when we do that in my practice, we tend to see more of a conversion, but most importantly, we make patients feel more comfortable. They don’t feel like they’re getting pushed into a specific lens option because we’re trying to sell them something directly. Instead, we’re giving them a solution that will accommodate their lifestyle.
Dr. Sabrina Gaan: [Yeah], you literally say “you get 15% better vision at night when you drive when you have the anti-reflection, so you have to have that on your glasses, and the patients always agree…it’s just “this is what you need,” and I write it on the prescription, so it’s already printed out so when Christine gets it.
Dr. Darryl Glover: Christine, when you get it, do you read it back and reinforce what’s written down by Dr. Gaan? What does that conversation look like?
Christine Howard: I’ll return to whatever the patient’s issue might be. Maybe it’s struggling at the computer or whatnot, so I’ll then say, “Okay, Sam, I see here that you’re struggling on the computer, so these lenses that Dr. Gaan has prescribed for you are going to address that eye strain…” I’d bring it back to what their problem is and how what we’re giving them is going to solve that problem.
USING BRAND NAMES WITH PATIENTS
Dr. Darryl Glover: I want to kind of circle back both of you mentioned some branded names, Eyezen in particular. How important is it to have that language and speak branded-name solutions in that exam and on the floor when you’re talking to your patients, and what does that look like in your practice?
Christine Howard: It helps to know that’s the product you’re gonna use you should know that that’s the repetition is key. Oftentimes the first time a patient hears something they don’t really hear it, so if they hear it once or twice in the exam room then they hear it once or twice out on the optical floor then they’re really starting to hear it. It starts to resonate with them, and I will say many times I’ve mentioned the word Varilux, and patients who might not even really understand what it is they’re like “oh I’ve heard of that, I’ve seen a commercial”, so it already gives them a sense of yes, this is a legitimate, good product that is going to help solve my problem
Dr. Darryl Glover: I love it, and I think it’s critical to really leverage our partners out there. Essilor is just a fantastic organization. They do a lot of marketing for us, and that brings patients into the exam room, and all we have to do is pick up, you know the the ball and continue going. I mean, if they’re already blasting to the masses about Varilux or Eyezen or other incredible lens technology that they have, and we’re now leveraging that technology in our office, let’s just tell our patients about it. Because [then] they’re coming in educated about it, don’t sell them short give them the resources and tools that they need to make a difference.
THE OPTOMETRIST-TO-OPTICIAN HANDOFF IN ACTION
Next up, I’d like to walk through a scenario of what doing a handoff in your practice looks like. I’ll be patient.
Dr. Darryl Glover: One of the main buzzwords you’ve hit on several times today is really “relatable.” Again patients are coming to you because you’re the expert. How can you make that conversation more relatable where they see themselves in you and understand that you understand what they’re going through?
There’s something for every patient, and you can find a solution for every patient that walks through your doors. But you have to communicate, you have to find what’s relatable, and most importantly, you have … [meet] patients where they are.
WHERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ESSILOR PRODUCTS
Essilor’s product suite will make your patient handoffs that much easier. Learn more about them at essilorusa.com and find more information on the products mentioned at the links below:
EyeZen® — enhanced single vision lenses that help reduce exposure to blue light and are clear in color and appearance.
Varilux® — the most advanced progressive lens technology in the market.
Transitions® — adaptive lenses built to adjust to changing light conditions.