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Life Long Patients

Offering ‘cradle to grave’ care, and developing patient loyalty over a lifetime, could be the answer to building your optometry practice.

When asked, “What is the earliest age you typically fit a patient with contact lenses?” most practitioners won’t answer that question with a hard fixed number. Rather, they’ll say, “When the patient and the patient’s parent agree that the child is responsible enough to take care of them.”

On the other end of the age spectrum, have you ever considered the upper limit to fitting a patient with contact lenses? Parameters allowing, and given patient willingness and ability to comply with wearing instructions, most practitioners would probably answer this side of the equation with, “There’s no upper age limit – as long as patients are appropriate candidates”.

Putting together both halves of these equations gives us insight into a different way to think about practice building. When business is soft, most of us instinctively wish we had more NEW patients. A better strategy, for all but a very young practice, would be to think, “I wish I could get my own patients to come back more frequently”. With that thought as a foundation, it makes sense to consider the power that contact lenses have to align patients, from cradle to grave, with your practice.

it makes sense to consider the power that contact lenses have to align patients, from cradle to grave, with your practice

Providing Value

So, getting back to fitting younger patients, after working together with the patient’s parent and agreeing that contact lenses are a viable vision correction alternative, and after deciding on the best clinical recommendation for this patient, you should next formulate a practice building strategy focused around keeping this patient in your practice – forever. To do that, you must meet the most basic need that is inherent in any consumer or patient transaction. That need is value.

Globally, the value the patient (and in this case, also the parent) receives must be high enough to ensure they desire to continue wearing lenses and return to your practice to do so. Under this “value umbrella” live things like comfort, vision, convenience and perception of favourable long term eye health. With those indices leading the value charge, it makes perfect sense to fit this patient with daily disposable lenses. All day comfort, sharp vision, ultimate convenience and excellent prospects for long term eye health make this the perfect solution for this young patient. As they wear lenses day after day, year after year, and continually and constantly experience the ongoing high value proposition of daily disposables, they become more and more aligned with your practice. Each positive “lens day” experience adds currency to your patient loyalty bank.

For older patients, the same logic applies, and for wearers who are trying lenses for the first time, this value concept is perhaps even more important. With added time constraints beyond your younger patients having to do homework or soccer practice, adult patients need a contact lens solution that just works. They favour a fitting process that is expeditious and successful and want their lens wearing experience to be a seamlessly integrated part of their life – not an additional layer of something to worry about and tend to.

Lifelong Loyalty

Taking this long term view – doing things that lock patients into your practice with the intent of building life long loyal relationships is at the heart of a successful practice. Thinking in terms of fitting patients “today” vs. “patient for life” is a short term strategy that makes your practice more vulnerable to competition. The practitioner down the street or the internet dispenser trying to persuade your patient to leave your fold will have a tougher bond to break when you form that bond with value driven contact lens modalities that forge a “patient for life” mindset.

Dr. Gary Gerber is the founder and president of The Power Practice, a practice building and consulting company with a mission to make doctors more profitable and efficient by introducing innovative strategies and techniques.