Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
Are you wondering if other practices are charging for adding pupillary distance (PD) to prescriptions and adjusting glasses purchased online for free? If so, how does this fit into your mission statement and strategic goals?
I’m reminded of my neighbor’s college-age daughter and my banana nut bread. She loves it so much that she asked her mother to get the recipe. I gladly provided it and her mom thought I had left out the “secret sauce” because her daughter prefers mine to her own.
Internet glasses shoppers
Throw out the advice that the customer is always right. There are three different ways to provide a PD measurement to patients who take their prescriptions, purchase eyewear from somewhere else, and then bring the eyewear to you for adjustments.
- Financial Impact
If your cost of goods is calculated properly and it is 33% or lower, then your complimentary services are not hurting your bottom-line. This metric suggests that patients who want to purchase eyewear are waited on promptly. Consumers express displeasure by leaving the building. Patients are less likely to become annoyed when they are attended to, so employees should always provide a patient with a PD.
- Employee Morale
Disney business leadership courses often emphasize the importance of employee happiness. Often, providing PDs and adjustments to patients who purchased eyewear elsewhere annoys optical employees. The emotion attached to the task is the real issue. Mac Anderson (founder of Simple Truths and Successories Inc.) might say you can’t send this optical duck to eagle school.
So, do your employees have a bad attitude or should you “fire the patients”? This speaks to office culture. How does your practice’s core values suggest this issue be handled? If your office charges patients who are late for exams a fee, then I suspect that charging patients for PDs is something that in all fairness might be considered
On the other hand, the auto refractor used during pre-testing provides a PD without overloading busy opticians.
Your employees wanting to drop tasks without a change in job description might mean that both they and you need to re-read your employee policy manual or handbook. If it is not legally, morally or ethically inappropriate the question becomes one of office harmony and profitability versus what an employee wants to do or his or her preference.
- Your Practice’s Brand
If you haven’t thought about your practice brand, here is your chance. An Internet search of healthcare branding advice confirms that both big and little issues influence the patient.
Adjectives like “friendly” and “helpful” describe someone who does something for nothing. In Louisiana and other Gulf states the word “lagniappe” could be used to describe the practice of giving a patient who pays for an eye-health examination their PD and adjusting eyewear purchased somewhere else.
Especially in Louisiana, “lagniappe” is a way of thanking customers for their patronage. It came from the Spanish word “la ñapa,” which means “free bonus.”
In a book published in 1883 by Mark Twain, there was a section regarding the custom of giving patrons something for free when asked for lagniappe. There are still grocery chains and bakeries in 2018 that pass out cookies and donuts to children with their parents. Deli departments offer samples of meats and cheeses to patrons while their orders are being cut, weighed and wrapped.
It is said that shopkeepers tried to put an end to the practice of lagniappe in the 1800s, but the people strenuously objected. They had no choice but to keep giving a little something extra. (It is not certain whether this story is true.)
Although the tradition of a free gift is not nearly as widespread as it once was, it is still observed in optical dispensaries. Stop giving patients their PDs (which are not by law included in their prescription) and they may join their ancestors and object strenuously.