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REPUTATION IN OPTOMETRIC PRACTICE

Picture of man with bag over his head and lists of things that add or subtract to your reputation.

Reading time 3:56  

WHAT MAKES OUR REPUTATION

I learned in childhood that reputation is important.  As a result, we need to protect it.  Every action, reaction or response goes into making up our reputation. Our honesty, integrity, reliability and expertise are also contributors.   What we stand for and how we treat others on a daily basis are an integral part of our reputation. As we begin to practice optometry, we realize again how important our reputation is in building a practice and creating loyalty from our staff and patients.

Our words and actions have tremendous impact on every person we meet.  And it influences all future encounters with that person.  But, the consequences are more far reaching than with one individual.  It can also affect all the other people who know and interact with that original person.  In this day of social media, reputation can be harmed by bad reviews, disgruntled patients or former staff. What took us a lifetime to build, can be torn down so quickly. 

WHEN OUR REPUTATION IS DAMAGED

I recently read a book written by Tina Seelig titled: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.  In it she expressed the importance of our reputation and the problems inherent with trying to recover from damage to it. Her metaphor was so well done that I wanted to share it with you.  She says,  

“… every experience you have with someone else is like a drop of water falling into a pool.  As your experiences with that person grows, the drops accumulate and the pool deepens.  Positive interactions are clear drops of water and negative interactions are red drops of water.  But they aren’t equal.  That is, a number of clear drops can dilute one red drop, and that number differs for different people.  Those who are forgiving only need a few positive experiences- clear drops- to dilute a bad experience, while those who are less forgiving need a lot more to wash away the red.  Also, for most people the pool drains slowly.  As a result, we tend to pay attention to the experiences that have happened most recently, as opposed to those that happened a long time ago. 

This metaphor implies that if you have a large reserve of positive experiences with someone, then one red drop is hardly noticed.  It’s like putting a drop of red ink into the ocean.  But, if you don’t know a person well, one bad experience stains the pool bright red.  You can wash away the negative interactions by flooding the pool with positive interactions until the red drops fade, but the deeper the red, the more work you have to do to cleanse the pool.”

What a great mental image that creates.  It is such a perfect way to think about how our every interaction either contributes to or takes away from our reputation. It stresses how easily our reputation can be contaminated. But, it also gives us some hope that even with a setback to our reputation, we can recover, though it may take a lot of work.  

WHAT WE CAN CONTROL

Despite our best efforts to offer great care and treat people with kindness, we must accept that we can’t always control how others will perceive what we do. No matter how hard we try and how much we want to control their appreciation for our efforts, the simple fact is -we can’t dictate their reactions.  We can only control what we do every day and adopt an attitude of always doing our best. We must remember that every encounter is important.

And when a problem does arise, we must acknowledge the feedback and be grateful the individual made us aware of the problem- whether real or imagined.  Reassure them that you will look into the issue and make changes, if possible or appropriate, to guarantee this doesn’t happen in the future. Fighting back, being defensive, sarcastic, or insulting are not going to change the situation. In fact, those responses will only make it worse. Ignoring the situation is likewise unproductive.

WHAT WE CAN DO

We need to be aware of the experiences our patients have in our office. Our staff must also realize what an important role they each play in creating that experience. Staff behavior, attitude and interactions influence the reputation of the practice.

Honesty and integrity must be at the heart of all interactions with people.  When you are saying or doing something to “make an impression” it will often fail to create the desired result.  People pick up on insincerity and false or forced responses.  You have encountered people like this.  I am sure we all have.  We recognize that they are saying what is expected of them or what they think we want to hear. But, their actions and responses contradict what they are saying.  We know when someone is not authentic.  We don’t trust these people. 

So the best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself. Be consistent, fair and honest in all your dealings with both staff and patients.  But, remember this also extends to people you encounter in your daily life- your hairdresser, the server in a restaurant, the store clerk, someone in your church, the plumber you called in for help.  They can all influence your reputation in the community.  If you treat people well and are appreciative of their work and efforts, then you leave a positive impression.  However, if you are rude, demanding, unappreciative or entitled, the impression you’ll give is not one you desire.  You’ll never know when you may encounter that person again. In addition, you never know who else that individual may influence. A negative impression from one individual may affect potential patients in the future.

THE GOLDEN RULE

Treating other people as you want to be treated is good advice for anyone.  It enriches your life in so many ways. This principle is called the Golden Rule for good reason. It has withstood the test of time and is found in almost every ethical tradition and religion.  Adopt the Golden Rule in all your dealings with people, whether it is family, friends, patients, staff or just acquaintances.  Treating others with kindness and being fair and honest becomes your default position. You don’t have to think about it anymore. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not have problems, but it does lessen the likelihood. It will serve you and your practice well.  Hopefully, that combined with good care, will serve to protect and enhance your reputation.

How do you handle difficult situations in your practice?  What do you do if a patient approaches you in person?  Or in print?  How do you train your staff to handle awkward situations they encounter or to calm down an angry patient?  Are there set procedures in your office?  In the comments below, please share your ideas of what has worked for your practice.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF PHONE CALLS

Woman on phone in office

Reading time 4:25

Communication has changed a lot in the past twenty years and continues to evolve.  Text communications, e-mail and social media can all be overwhelming.  But, right now, I would like to talk about an old standard- the phone.  Though more and more of our patients are using alternative methods for communicating with our offices, the phone is still important and we can’t ignore it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PHONE CALL

The initial impression of your office may be the person who answers your phone.  They are also the first line of communication with your patients for a variety of other reasons.  As such, it is wise to review some basic rules for the phone.  Most millennials and Gen Z’s prefer texting over talking.  But when they are working for you, they need to be adept at both.  

Be sure that your employees realize how important this interaction is to your practice.   But even more important, show them your appreciation when they do it well.  Dealing with the public and their unexpected demands is difficult. We all know that first-hand.

We have all had both good and bad experiences when dealing with patients on the phone.  Sometimes it is a real battle to stay polite.  But, the importance of representing your office well in all patient interactions cannot be stressed enough. 

THE CHALLENGES OF PHONE CONVERSATIONS

When answering the phone, especially in a medical office, we need to remember that we’re dealing with many types of patients.  Our patients are of different ages.  They may not have English as a first language. Therefore, they may be difficult to understand or can require a lot of repetition of information.  They may have hearing impairments.  And let’s not forget- they all have different temperaments.  Some are polite and kind, but others are abrasive, difficult or angry.  To handle all these different needs requires a unique skill set. It can be a minefield if handled improperly.

It seems to me that the excessive number of unsolicited phone calls we all receive have given most people a short fuse on dealing with any phone calls.  That is unfortunate for those of us who do have to conduct some necessary business on the phone.  People can be rude, demanding and entitled, especially on the phone.  But, that makes it even more critical to have the right person answering the call and representing our offices.  We must also be certain our staff has the right kind of training and support.

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR PHONE CALLS

The following are some basic rules to consider when speaking on the phone. These guidelines are also applicable to leaving messages on an answering machine.

  • When answering the phone, greet the caller warmly.  Then give your name and the name of your practice. Follow this by asking how you can help the caller.
  • Smile because it does make a difference in the sound of your voice.  It makes it more pleasant, welcoming and friendly. I must admit I never believed this until I called my sister at work.  My sister, Chris, hates talking on the phone.  She views it as a distraction. I asked the person answering the phone to transfer me to my sister.  I heard laughing as she said “This is me.”  I didn’t recognize her voice! Her boss had instructed her to smile when she answered her phone.  She usually sounds brisk and bothered. This time she sounded friendly and helpful.  I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. It really does work!
  • Speak slowly and clearly.  Your volume shouldn’t be too loud or too soft.  For your voice to be clear, it is helpful to not have the phone too close to your mouth.
  • Your office staff is often required to make many calls to confirm appointments or let people know their glasses or contacts are in.  No one likes these tasks. There is a tendency to rush through the calls just to get it done.  The message is repeated over and over with each new phone call and becomes faster and less understandable as the calls go on.  Remember though your staff has made this call many times, for the person currently on the phone, it is the first time they have heard it.  Try and make it sound professional, friendly and fresh.
  • Ask if it is alright to be put on hold, and listen to the answer before doing it.  What’s the point of asking the question if you don’t care about the answer?  Above all, be sure to thank them if they agree to be placed on hold.  Some businesses give an option- like transferring them to a voice mail to leave a message and then calling them back as soon as possible. Consider what options work best for your office and patients.
  • Evaluate what you have on your hold system.  Is it music, educational or a long running commercial for your office?  How would you feel about listening to it? If it’s music- is it too loud or abrasive?  Sales oriented messages can be annoying, especially if they are repeated over and over. Be sure what the patient hears represents your practice well.
  • When a patient is speaking, be an attentive listener. Take notes if needed.  Try not to interrupt before they have finished what they are saying.  Ask questions to clarify what they need.  If the patient is rambling, then be polite.  Try and guide them so you can find out what they need and then provide it.
  • Don’t argue. Slang and profanity are not appropriate. Avoid too much technical jargon. Don’t chew, eat or drink while speaking on the phone.  Instead of saying “I don’t know”, tell them that you will check on the answer and get back to them.  And then, be sure and do it.
  • Front desk personnel are good at taking down long strings of numbers.  Dates of birth, social security numbers, phone numbers and insurance numbers are a few examples.   Because they are so good at this task, they assume everyone else can do this too. Many people can’t. The numbers most commonly given to patients on the phone are the office phone number, office hours or appointment times. So give numbers in small groups with pauses in between.  And remember, it is helpful to repeat the numbers as well. 
  • End the conversation with a positive and friendly closing like “I hope you have a good day”, “Thanks for calling” or “We look forward to seeing you.”.  Other general information can be given as you conclude the conversation. 

A FINAL WORD

Phone manners are important.  Be sure that your patients, or potential patients, end the call feeling that they are important to your practice. Don’t miss the chance to make a great impression.  Being successful on the phone often requires the combined efforts of a therapist and an actor. Just be aware of how you sound to the person on the other end of the phone.  Treat them as you would like to be treated.

Leave your comments below on your feelings about effective phone communications.  Do all your staff share in phone duties?  What are your pet peeves about phone calls?  What experiences have you personally had?

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POSITIVE FEEDBACK CAN ELEVATE PERFORMANCE

Man and woman talking at work

Reading time  4:10

Sometimes we forget how important positive feedback can be to our staff. We assume that they know how much we appreciate what they do and how much they contribute to our practices.  But the fact is, it’s important to share what we are thinking with our co-workers and not just keep it to ourselves.  I had this confirmed after a conversation with my nail tech, Nancy.

Nancy shared with me how pleased she was recently when she received some compliments from the owner of her salon. To make it even better, it happened at a staff meeting.

These two small compliments had a major impact on Nancy’s self- esteem.  This feedback meant so much to her.   She said that in fifteen years of working as a nail tech (and being very good at her job), it was the first time a boss or owner had ever complimented her.  How sad is that?  But, it also started me thinking of how I interact with the people I work with.  I have always tried to be good about giving feedback.  However, there is always room for improvement for everyone.

EFFECTS OF POSITIVE FEEDBACK   

Getting positive feedback helps everyone.  Who doesn’t appreciate having their contributions noticed and valued?  Aside from our basic needs, we all want to know we have worth. We want our efforts to make a difference.   Think about how you felt the last time you got an unexpected compliment.  I’m certain it lifted your spirits and made your day a little better.

So how do we find the behaviors and actions that are deserving of praise?  First of all, quit looking for only the faults or negatives.  It’s really as simple as that.  Start looking for the positive. It just requires a change in attitude and a fresh perspective. You will find that there are many more positives.  And the natural consequence of noticing what is good, will be an increase in that type of behavior.   There is a quote by John E. Jones III that says it better.  “…What gets rewarded, gets repeated.”

SHARING POSITIVE FEEDBACK

The problem in a busy office is often the timing.  It’s difficult to find a moment when the employee and doctor are both free at the same time. But, waiting to give the compliment often means it gets forgotten and is never given.  

I have made a habit of writing down the relevant information (person, date, situation, etc.) so I don’t forget.  Then, I made it a priority to share this information with the person involved.  The sharing can be done daily, weekly or monthly. Find what works best for you.  But, don’t abandon it just because it may not be convenient to share the feedback at the moment the event happens. 

I love sharing unsolicited compliments from patients with the staff person involved. And there are so many other things that you can notice and comment on as well.  If you train yourself to look, you will see your staff do many wonderful things for you on a daily basis.  Some of these things include: handling irate or difficult patients, anticipating problems and intervening before they occur, helping a co-worker and just pitching in to help the office run well.  

It does require an effort to train yourself to make these observations, but it is so worth it. It helps the person involved, but it also makes you feel better when you share the compliment with them.  To know that you have helped someone, or made them feel better is a wonderful feeling.  And don’t downplay the difference it makes in the culture of the office as a whole.   When your staff knows that you see them and that you notice what they’re doing, they give you even more to see.

PROMOTING POSITIVE FEEDBACK

I also like to save a copy of these shared positive comments. Reviews are often skewed toward problems and deficits.  Looking at the compliments and all the times he/she has gone above and beyond the expected helps you to give a more balanced annual review.   Why not share all the good things and acknowledge the progress they’ve made along with the areas they need to work on?

One office I worked in had another great idea for sharing positive thoughts.  They had the entire staff participate by writing down any positive thing they saw a co-worker do.  It could be anything from how they worked with a patient, a good idea they shared, just being kind or going above and beyond what’s required.  The comments were placed in a basket and shared out loud at the next staff meeting.  It taught the staff to look for the good in their co-workers and created a more positive environment for the whole office.  A secondary benefit was that it encouraged this type of behavior in all other staff members.  Acknowledging good performance really does work.

I have also seen the use of a bulletin board located in a staff area for sharing positive feedback.  Employees are encouraged to post a note with a compliment for a co-worker on the board for everyone to see.  Either way achieves the same result. Teamwork and positive feedback become an important part of the culture of your office.

I suggest that you could take this system of praise a step further.  For every positive comment, points could be earned.  When they reach a certain number of points, the employee could pick from a list what type of reward they want.  It could be a financial bonus or time off.  They could earn an hour at a time and build it up or use it for an early end to the day, a longer lunch, or a late start to their day.  Of course, this would need to be arranged just as they do vacation time. Or the reward could be a gift certificate, flowers, a special lunch or anything else you can think of. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant.  The possibilities are endless. Ask your staff what rewards they would like. Giving your employees choices allows them to pick what is the most meaningful reward for them. 

WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK?

We all know that there are times when negative criticism is needed. But, if you have negative criticism, deal with it privately.  Negative comments are often best handled when you have taken time to think about what you will say rather than in the heat of the moment. Words can hurt and are not forgotten.

Constant negativity creates a toxic environment that can infect everyone. It generates job insecurity and defeat. We will deal with the effects of negativity in a future blog.  

IS THE POSITIVE FEEDBACK WORTH IT?

Some would argue that there is no reason to reward someone for doing their job.  To those I would point out that there are a lot of ways to get a job done.  It can just meet the minimum standards or it can be done with extra enthusiasm, efforts and ingenuity.  Allow and encourage your staff, and yourself, to excel and be the best you can be.

Being grateful for a good and committed staff and then showing your appreciation frequently helps a practice grow.  It builds trust and connections with your staff.  As a result of that, it also evolves into a natural connection with your patients.  There is no down side that I can see to being appreciative, positive and kind. 

How do you promote excellence in your staff?  How do you show your appreciation on a daily basis?  Share what has worked in your office in the comments below.

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NAMASTE

Person showing hand gesture for Namaste

Reading time 3:44

I’m sure that you have probably heard the word Namaste at some time in your life.  When I learned the actual meaning of this word, it became a new favorite of mine.  I think it has great application to the practice of optometry and to life in general.  On this last day of the year, I would like to explore it further. 

THE DEFINITION

If you look up the definition – there are many different versions.   Listed below are some of the simplified meanings.

  • I bow to the God within you.
  • The spirit within me salutes the spirit in you.
  • The divine in me recognizes and honors, the Divine in you.
  • I greet that place where you and I are one.
  • I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and peace.

You don’t have to be a yoga enthusiast or a Buddhist to realize what a nice and universal sentiment Namaste expresses.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful goal to exemplify this feeling when we interact with our patients and others?  You don’t have to say the word itself out loud.  But just thinking it could make a difference in the warmth of your greeting to another person.  When we recognize and value the other person’s uniqueness, we begin to make a connection based on respect and compassion.

THE NEW YEAR APPROACHES

As this year draws to a close, I find myself becoming introspective.  The holiday season is over and I find myself settling back into my routines.  I have never been one to do resolutions for the New Year.  Like most people, I generally don’t keep them.  Making resolutions seems to put me under extra stress trying to fulfill them.  Consequently, the guilt when I don’t stick to them just makes me feel worse.  At this point in my life, I don’t need stress or guilt.

I prefer to dwell in possibilities- to be a better person, to challenge myself to grow and to surround myself with positive thoughts and people.  I don’t think we are ever too old to stop challenging ourselves.  

THE CHALLENGE TO COMMUNICATE

So if I was to make a resolution it would be to work on communication. Improving our ability to communicate is a total win for us, our families, our staff and our patients.  Communication is something we must do every day and it can always be improved.  It doesn’t cost us anything.   However, it does require us to listen to ourselves with a critical ear.  

We need to try and hear ourselves as others hear us. What is the tone of our voice?  Are we being clear and concise?  Do we avoid medical jargon?  Or when faced with having to use medical terms, do we at least attempt to define it for our listener?  Are we speaking in a condescending fashion?  Do we respect the person we are speaking to?   And do we hear what they are saying?  Do we listen to their questions, concerns and fears?  Are we responsive to their needs and do we do our best to address them?

Improving our communication skills is definitely doable.   I think we all went into optometry to help people.  To serve our patients well, we need to be able to communicate with them.  Having a rapport and connection with our patients not only improves their compliance, but also creates loyalty.

When I started practice, I felt like I had to like all my patients and that all my patients had to like me in return.  It took me years to get past that misconception.  Of course, it is unrealistic to feel I will hit it off and make a connection with everyone I meet.  We all know some patients can be demanding and unreasonable.  Some can even be obnoxious, rude and unlikeable. But, I still do my best to give them all quality eye care that meets my highest standards. I strive to communicate well with them all. 

LESSONS FROM YOGA

In my limited exposure to yoga, I learned many things that have helped me in practice. Stretching to relieve tension, breathing to calm and center myself and slowing down to appreciate the world around me are valuable lessons from yoga. These practices help me put everything in perspective-no matter what has happened during the day. 

 But the philosophy and underlying respect and valuation that is expressed in Namaste is my favorite lesson from yoga.

IT COMES DOWN TO RESPECT

I may not say it to people, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be in my thoughts as I talk and deal with people all day long.  It puts me in the right frame of mind to handle almost anything.  It all comes down to respect.  It doesn’t matter your age, sex, race, religion, sexual preference, or any other label we place on each other.  Respect and valuing a person for their uniqueness can be extended to everyone without judgement.  We want other people to offer the same courtesy to us. We want others to see the special skills and abilities that make us truly unique.  Why not offer the same gift to others?

So, on the last day of this year, I say to you Namaste and hope that this New Year is filled with happiness, prosperity and personal fulfillment for you.

How are your communication skills?  Do you seek to improve them?  How do you approach the beginning of a new year?   Do you set goals for yourself or your practice?  Do you re-evaluate and modify them as the year goes on?  Write your ideas in the comment section below.  Let us know what you feel at the beginning of the New Year.

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WHAT IS A PATIENT?

Different types of patients in reception area

Reading time 3:34

WHAT IS A PATIENT?

“A patient is the most important person in the institution- in person or by mail.

A patient is not dependent on us- we are dependent on them.

A patient is not an interruption of our work- it is the purpose of it.

The patient is not an outsider to our business- they are our business.

The patient is not someone to argue or match wits with.

The patient is a person and not a statistic.

It is our job to satisfy them.”

William E. Lower, M.D.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation

February 1921

WHY OUR PRACTICES EXIST

I first became aware of this quotation in 1975 when I began working at the Cleveland Clinic Department of Ophthalmology.  Dr. Lower was one of the four founders of the Cleveland Clinic. This was part of his speech at the dedication of a new building in 1921.

In recent years, I realized the similarity to a quotation attributed to  Mahatma Gandhi in 1890.  I suspect that the Dr. Lower quote was a paraphrased version of the Gandhi quote. For your reference, I have also included the original quotation at the end of this blog. Both quotes eloquently express the reason for a patient or consumer based business to exist in the first place. To be successful, we must serve the public and satisfy their needs, for without them our practices would cease to exist.

Most importantly, what was true in 1890 and 1921, is still true today.  It is something we should never forget. 

AN AVERAGE DAY

It is so easy to get caught up, or bogged down, in the day to day running of our practices.  We wish for those early days when all we had to do was see patients.  For example, now we also hire, train and supervise our staff, handle insurance claims and endless paperwork, and negotiate with vendors. Meanwhile we also need to plan for the future and deal with anything else that might come up in the course of a normal day.

GETTING BACK TO THE BASICS

Sometimes, it’s just important to get back to the basics.  Stop for a moment and remember why we chose optometry as a career and what we want to achieve.

Reflecting on our underlying goals doesn’t make all our problems and concerns go away.  But, it does put them into perspective and gives us a chance to clear our minds.  It’s an opportunity to just reboot ourselves. In other words, we can dedicate ourselves again to creating an office that truly serves the patients and answers their concerns. But, we can also create an office that is a source of pride and satisfaction for the doctor and the staff.

We need to recognize the importance of the doctor and staff in this equation. If there are ways to decrease stress and tension in the office, then that should become a priority as well.  If we aren’t personally happy, we can’t serve others to the best of our abilities.

MAKE IT A TEAM EFFORT

Include your staff in identifying problem areas and trouble-shooting solutions. Their inclusion sends a message that everyone is a valuable member of the team.  Each person is then invested in the success of the practice. Remember this is an on-going project.  It does not happen overnight.

Meanwhile consider sharing this quote with your staff as a reminder of the reason we all come to work each day. It can also be a challenge for what you want to achieve.  It could be displayed in a patient care area as well. It makes a clear statement to your patients.   It shows your commitment to quality and personalized eye care. In other words, it stresses how important your patients are to you.  Sometimes that message gets lost for the people who need to know it the most.

A FRESH START

Taking the time to find our original motivations can reinvigorate us. Certainly, it can also inspire us to reinvent ourselves and become even better at what we do. Taking care of our patients becomes the most important part of our day. To paraphrase- our patients are “…the purpose of our work.”  When our patients know how much we value them, it helps to distinguish ourselves from other practices.  By making sure patients know and feel how much we care, we can only hope that they will continue to give us “…the opportunity to do so.” 

Everything becomes easier when we concentrate on the “why” we chose to practice optometry.  It might even bring back some of that idealism and enthusiasm that seemed in endless supply when we graduated and started to practice.

For your reference, here is the original quote from Mahatma Gandhi.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.  He is not dependent on us.  We are dependent on him.  He is not an interruption of our work.  He is the purpose of it.  He is not an outsider in our business.  He is part of it.  We are not doing him a favor by serving him.  He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

Have you ever surveyed your patients to see where your practice is succeeding and where they think you can improve?  How do you keep yourself charged up and enthused about what you’re doing?  Share your ideas with us.  In the comments below, let us know what has worked for you in your office.

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EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE IN AN OPTOMETRY OFFICE

Picture of a refractor

Reading time 4:29

Any optometric office has certain basic pieces of equipment that allow us to provide vision care. If these instruments are not in proper working order, then it becomes difficult to do our job.  Therefore, the maintenance of our instruments should be of the utmost importance.   

“THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY”

After graduation, I worked in a large clinical practice for twelve years. Then for nineteen years, I was in a two doctor partnership. But, in the twelve years since then, I have actually worked in many different settings.  This allows me to have a unique perspective on how different offices operate.

Every practice I have worked in has incorporated new technology at different rates. This is influenced by the priorities of the doctor/owner and the needs of the patients that practice serves.  Those decisions must be made by the doctors and I’m not here to advise, criticize or judge anyone on their choices.  However, I do have some observations to make on the state of repair, or disrepair, in some offices.

HERE’S TO THE GOOD

 I was lucky because my first job out of school was in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Ophthalmology. This was in 1975. There were twelve ophthalmologists on staff.  I was the first and only optometrist on staff.  At that time, there were very few optometrists and ophthalmologists working together. 

We had a residency training program that had twelve residents and also several fellows in different specialties.  As a result, we had a full complement of technicians, receptionists and all the other people necessary to run the department.  

In a department of this size, it stands to reason that we had a lot of examination rooms and even more equipment.  We had the best and most advanced technology available. Our equipment was well-maintained and checked on a routine basis.  

The leadership of the department had the wisdom to keep all our equipment in good working order.  Any time something was out of alignment or not working properly, it was placed on a list.  We had an excellent repair person who came in once a week and took care of everything on our list. After that, if there was time left over, he would start to do routine maintenance and calibration on all the equipment room by room.  In this way, every piece of equipment received routine care, calibration and maintenance.  I realize that this level of maintenance is the exception rather than the rule.

It’s not possible or practical to have someone on retainer for a regular sized office.  But, the lesson I learned about equipment maintenance has stayed with me throughout my career.  We are an equipment dependent profession.  We must not neglect its maintenance.  And yet, what I have seen in many offices has surprised me. 

AND NOW THE REALITY

When I do work for other doctors, I never know what I will encounter. Keep in mind, I don’t object to using old equipment. I’ve used old Greens refractors. Those refractors were built like tanks and I doubt they will ever wear out.  Old non-contact tonometers can be a challenge as well.  But, the point is that it’s not the age of the equipment that bothers me- it’s the state of repair. 

THE COSTS OF EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTIONS 

The sad state of repairs I have seen in some offices both amazes and frustrates me.  I know we all get good at jerry rigging equipment to make it through the day. I’ve been guilty of this too.  We all learn some basic repairs so we don’t have to shut down the office when something breaks.  But, working with equipment that is not functioning well is annoying and inefficient. 

When you have to fix equipment or move patients to a different room it reflects badly on you.  It makes you look cheap and/or inefficient. That’s not the way you want your patient to remember your office.  

DOES ANY OF THIS LOOK FAMILIAR?

Some problems I’ve encountered are: 

  • Binocular indirect ophthalmoscopes (BIO) that have shorts in the cords and flicker off and on.
  • Project-o-chart slide with a shadow over half the screen.
  • Slit lamp tables that don’t move easily or won’t stay in place and have to be held in the proper position. 
  • Phoropters that won’t lock in position.  When the patient leans against it, it moves.   
  • Stereopsis books that are unglued and falling apart and the glasses are missing a lens.  

True, these are minor problems, but they still look bad.  In the next room there may be a fundus camera, an OCT or an automated perimeter. These new technologies could impress your patient, but not if basic instruments are falling apart in your exam room. 

The patient may not say anything to you, but don’t believe for a second that they don’t notice.  What would you think if you went to a doctor who had instruments not working properly?  Patients do notice and believe me, it doesn’t leave a good impression.

SUGGESTIONS FOR AN EFFICIENT OFFICE

We are all anxious to have the newest technology in our offices. It improves the care we offer to our patients.  But, we can’t ignore the stable utilitarian tools we have used for years or let them fall into disrepair. They have saved me on more than one occasion.

Everyone needs to establish a good relationship with a company that provides equipment maintenance and repair.  Then when you do need a repair done, you know who to call and know they will respond. Previous experiences with them means you know they are reputable and the job will be done well and promptly.

Make a checklist of all your equipment and the recommended intervals for maintenance.  Have someone train you, or your staff, in some of the basic repairs.  For example: eliminating shadows on manual projectors, calibrating your instruments and doing some basic cleaning and maintenance are all simple.  Learn to write down whenever something needs a repair and then when you do have to call someone in, you can have everything  repaired at once.  Having a list means you don’t have to rely on your memory when a repair person is called. You can tell them all repairs that need to be done at once. 

MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION

Do you have back-up equipment to allow you to continue to see patients if something goes wrong?  Do you have back-ups for bulbs, fuses, paper or anything else required for the proper functioning of all instruments? Make your life easier and your day go smoothly. Be prepared.

Look at your office through your patient’s eyes.  They notice the little details more than you think they do.  

How do you handle routine equipment maintenance in your office? Does your staff know how to troubleshoot minor repairs?  Is there a plan in place if a major malfunction occurs?  Let us know what you do in your office by writing in the comments below. 

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SOCIAL MEDIA DO’S AND DONT’S FOR OPTOMETRY

Reading time 6:15

We know social media participation is important to our practices.  And of course, we want to do it well. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.  For every inspired post you create, how many more times did you struggle to find something to say?  The fall back post is always something about the importance of routine eye exams, or the latest frames in your office.  

I will try and share some helpful hints for improving social media participation.  Included are ideas that help you make a bigger impact on your audience.  Converting visitors to your page into patients in your office could be a secondary benefit.

SOCIAL MEDIA ENHANCES YOUR BRAND

You want your pages to have a personality that reflects what a patient will experience in your office. For example, if your office is casual, then the content should not be formal and stiff. If your office is friendly and open, then your content should be interesting and engaging. Consistency across all means of communication is important to your brand.  You don’t want a patient to enter your office expecting one thing and then experiencing something different. 

Today it can be difficult to make a connection with our patients when they are in our offices.  We no longer have the luxury of time to talk to our patients, share common interests and develop a rapport.  That is one way social media can be an asset to our practices. It allows patients to learn more about us in the informal setting of social media. 

It is well known that we relate better to people than to an impersonal business entity. On social media, we can showcase ourselves and our staff as individuals. Or share our hobbies and outside interests.   We can feature the charities we support and show our community involvement.  This information may also be available on our websites.  But, our patients are more likely to be on social media than on our websites. 

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT THE SAME AS ADVERTISING

One of the biggest problems with social media is we try to treat it like conventional advertising. That is a big mistake! Experts in the field of social media marketing stress that social media is different.

In traditional advertising, the message is what the owner chooses to convey.  But, that doesn’t work on social media platforms. With social media, the emphasis should always be on what the consumer wants and finds interesting.   Social media requires that we orient the content on our pages in a different way. Content needs to reflect the interests of the consumer.  The format needs to have a strong visual appeal. It should be engaging and entertaining. 

You want to create a connection with your audience.  You want visitors to your page to like, comment and share your content.  Comments allow you to begin a conversation with the visitor to your page.  But, sharing increases your audience.  Shared content allows your posts to reach many more people and introduces your practice to a new group of potential patients. But, sharing content will only happen if you provide interesting and engaging content on a routine basis.

THE RULE OF SEVEN

You also want visitors to come back to your page to see new posts. Studies have shown that one exposure does not usually convert a visitor to your page into a visitor in your office.   In marketing, there is the Rule of Seven. It says that a consumer must hear the advertiser’s message at least seven times before they take action to buy the product or service.  Other studies have suggested different numbers of exposures. Some say more than seven and some say less.  But all agree that increased exposure to your brand will convert more people from a visitor to a patient/consumer. Don’t let that number discourage you.  Instead use it to inspire you to create better content.

CREATING CONTENT

So to maximize the sharing of your posts and encourage returns to you page, content must be interesting and unique.  The types of posts should vary and include photos, illustrations, graphics and videos.  You don’t want all your posts to look the same.  The posts should stand out and capture the reader’s attention.  Content topics should also vary. Alternate between educational information, sales oriented material and miscellaneous posts to inspire or grab their attention. Fun and entertaining input is also essential.

Don’t make your whole purpose, and all your content, sales oriented. That is a huge mistake!  Readers on social media are very savvy to over-selling. They will not stay on your page for long, and they definitely will not return, if all they see are frames and posts instructing them to have an exam or buy glasses. Think about your own response when you see one ad after another. Do you seek out more of the same? You know you don’t!

If the thought of trying to create your own content does not appeal to you, then consider delegating. Do you have a staff member who is creative and loves social media?  They can be a good resource for your practice. They can take your ideas and put them into an interesting post for social media. Keep in mind, there are also social media subscription services who not only create the posts, but post them for you as well.  Our company has a service that we are proud of and encourage you to check it out.  https://whatsinfocus.com/services/#Communication

CONTENT OVERLOAD

There is so much content available to us.  People can pick and choose what they want to spend their time on.  Make sure you’re providing content that appeals to your target audience or they will not visit your page and spend the time reading it.

 We have become a society obsessed with scanning and rejecting content faster than ever before.  Think about what you do when looking at social media.  What makes you stop and examine something?  What makes you return to a site?  You can learn from other people’s content. Always be observant and try and incorporate the ideas of what you find interesting when designing your own content.  But, also be careful to not violate anyone’s copyrighted material.

PROMOTE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES

To encourage visits to your social media pages be sure to have signage in your office.  Put you social media information on your business cards, receipts etc.

Ask your patients to visit your pages. It never hurts to ask them.  They may not even be aware you have a page.  Don’t be passive and sit around hoping patients will find you on social media.  Encourage them to go to your pages and then reward them with great content.

Contests are also a great way to increase engagement. Read Facebook’s rules on contests to be certain you are not in violation. Rather than having people fill out a raffle ticket- liking, commenting or sharing can earn a person entries into a raffle.  For example, a like could be worth one point. Sharing is more valuable to you and could be assigned a higher value like two entries per share.  Since commenting requires more than just a click, it would have the highest value. This encourages people to interact with your social media page. 

If you are having a contest, you can get creative with the prizes.  Personally I don’t like it to be something from my office like a discount or free frame.  People view this as self-serving.  Patients interpret this as you just trying to get them to buy another pair of glasses because they will still have to pay for the lenses. There are many potential problems when patients want to use their insurances. It can get complicated.  It is not quite the enticement you may think it would be. 

Be creative and come up with something that will appeal to your patients.  Gift certificates to other local businesses can show your community involvement.  Tickets to movies, concerts or games can have high appeal.  

You can find great items on Zulily, Haute Look, QVC and other internet sites. Items that tie in with your frame lines can be a natural like purses or wallets from Vera Bradley, Coach, Kate Spade and other designers.  If you look for good deals, you can get a great gift that would impress your patients and still not break the bank.  You don’t have to do this every month, but doing it now and then can boost the activity on your page.

NOW TAKE ACTION

Take the time to look at your social media presence and come up with a plan on how to improve and expand it.  Share your knowledge about the eye and vision. Remember your excitement when you first learned about the eye and use that when you create content.  Your patients will find it interesting too, especially when you put it in a way they can understand. 

Remember social media is not a static entity.  It changes quickly and requires you to post fresh new material on a regular basis.  It can be an effective tool to help build your practice. But for it to be most effective, you must promote it to your patients and fill it with information they will find interesting. Ask your staff and patients for content ideas.  Be creative. Let your social media pages enhance your patient’s experiences with your practice.  

If you would like to learn more about social media mistakes that are commonly made here is a link to a Forbes article on that topic.   

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/05/01/12-social-media-mistakes-that-will-drive-followers-away-from-your-brand/#6f2da4e6855a

Do you use social media to market your practice?  If so, how did you decide which social media platforms to use?  Do you vary your content from one platform to the next, or use the same content?  How often do you post?  Leave your comments below and share your suggestions on how to use social media effectively.

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TOXIC ENVIRONMENT IN AN OPTOMETRIC OFFICE

Reading time 5:38

THE TOXIC OFFICE

I am posting this blog five days after Halloween. But in keeping with the Halloween theme, I decided to write a blog about something I find scary in a practice. Toxicity.  Not the obvious type of toxicity with drugs, but rather a toxic environment.

We are health care providers.  Though most of our efforts are on improving the health of our patients, it doesn’t mean we can ignore the mental health and well-being of our own staff.   And, for that matter, our own health. 

In my more than forty years of practice, I have worked in a large clinical setting and in a partnership private practice.  I have also been doing fill-in work for many different optometrists and opticians.  It has given me a unique perspective on the relationships between staff and doctors.  I am still confused on why anyone chooses to work in a toxic negative environment when they could make small changes and create a positive one.  It has never made any sense to me. And yet, I have seen it happen over and over.

LEADERSHIP AND TOXICITY

There are many factors that determine the environment and culture of an office.  In my experience, the strongest factor I have seen is the leadership of the practice. The leader sets the mood for the office. Leaders guide by example. They show us how to treat our fellow workers, as well as the patients who visit our offices. As a leader, we need to be aware of the example we set.

There is a hierarchy in most practices and it is necessary to some degree.  Someone has to be in charge and make the big decisions.  But their management style affects everyone who works with them.   Employees may try to counteract the undesirable aspects in an office, but it will fail unless the leadership gets on board.

CREATING A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT

Every practice is different.  And every solution different.  But, there are some common elements in practices that have positive cultures.  One of the most important factors is how we treat our staff.  I’m not talking about salary, bonuses, vacation, and other benefits.  Those things make a difference, but they are not the most important factors in how an employee feels about their work and why they stay in a position.  Studies have shown that employees will stay in a job, even when the pay is lower, if some strong basic needs are being met.

These basic needs include:  being heard, being appreciated, and knowing that what they do makes a difference. If people feel these needs are being met, they will become a good and loyal team member.

I know meeting basic needs won’t solve every problem, but it is an excellent place to start.  Treating our employees with respect and valuing their contributions and their ideas has no bad side.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved- doctors, staff and patients.  It’s also a win for our families.  If we leave our office less stressed out and tired, we can bring a positive energy home to our family instead of a negative one.

DAMAGE ON A PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL

As I pointed out, I have worked in different settings.  When the office environment deteriorated, I did everything I could to make it better.  I put up with toxic environments for years trying to make them improve. But, one person alone can’t change a bad situation.

I stayed too long and felt myself become a different person.  I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I had no joy, no love for what I was doing.  No energy to even care anymore. Even my family noticed the changes and expressed concern for me. 

I love my career choice and taking care of people.  Fact is that I still do.  I am good at what I do. But I experienced first-hand what a lack of respect and trust can do a person- what it did to me.  Not being heard and not being valued stripped everything away from me. Being constantly bombarded with negativity damages a person at a basic level. Toxicity is detrimental to your practice on so many levels and not just in staff turnover.  And there is no reason for it.

There is no doubt in my mind that toxic environments change people in a negative way. The literature also supports these harmful effects.  It is well-documented that it is not only a psychological change, but also has many physical manifestations.  

SOME ADVICE TO CREATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT

It is beyond the scope of this blog to identify all possible contributors to a toxic environment. Books are available that cover the topic better than I can.  But, as a start, I would like to share some of my observations on what I have seen.

  • Never correct or criticize an employee in front of their co-workers and absolutely never in front of patients.  It is humiliating and robs a person of their dignity.  You have made it impossible for them to be effective in working with patients or fellow workers.
  • If you are angry, take a moment before dealing with the problem.  Words can hurt and can’t be taken back.  Consider what you want to say and how to express yourself in a constructive manner rather than a destructive way.
  • Don’t play favorites or compare one staff member to another. This is the antithesis of creating a team.  Appreciate every team member for their own unique skills and abilities.  When you start looking for the good traits in everyone, you may be very surprised at what you learn. And when you find those skills, you’ll see that they can complement and inspire those of other staff members.
  • Do you notice all the good things your employees do?  The times they go above and beyond what is expected of them. Do you notice when they correct a behavior you asked them to change? If you only notice the shortcomings, the mistakes and never the things they do right, you will have a problem on your hands.  

POSITIVE VS.NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

Bosses who only use negative feedback don’t realize that it won’t get them what they want. No matter what your staff does, you will always find something wrong.  Soon staff members will just give up.  What’s the point if you only see the negative and always find something else to criticize?  

When you choose to lead with positive feedback and notice all the little good things, you will get more and more of that behavior.  We all will repeat a behavior that gives us positive feedback and a sense of being valued and appreciated. It’s a good feeling.

Constructive criticism is necessary, but there is a right and wrong way to do it.  Remember that even if you try and balance criticism with positive feedback, we only hear and remember the bad things.  Everyone knows this.  Think about all the positive reviews you’ve received and that one nasty one that you just can’t forget.  Our staff experiences the same response.  

Try and make the critique into a conversation.  Share your observations and the problems you’ve noted and then ask them if there is something you can do to help them bring up their performance.  Include them in the solution. Outline the changes that you expect and need.  Establish a time table to re-evaluate performance.

Distrust, micromanaging and not being consistent creates an apathetic and defeated staff. Training your staff, encouraging them to learn, fostering their skills and then empowering them to perform will give you a talented, motivated and happy staff.

AIM FOR A TOXIC FREE OFFICE

There is so much in our daily lives we can’t control, but creating a positive environment is something that is in our control.  It encourages each person to rise to their highest level. And it will be noticed and felt by every patient who enters your office.

Obviously, staff selection and training are also important to a cohesive work force and a positive environment.  But recognizing that part of the problem may be a toxic environment, allows you to begin to find the solutions.  Deciding to make a change is an important start.  Your life will be better for it.

What do you do to foster a positive office setting?  How do you interact with your employees to give them positive, as well as negative feedback?  Share your ideas on what has worked for you in your office.  Your comments and ideas may help someone else find a way to make their office environment more desirable. 

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TAKE A LOOK AT READY-MADE READERS

Reading time 5:09

ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO LEARN

During my first year on staff at the Cleveland Clinic, I learned a valuable lesson from a first year resident in ophthalmology. I was responsible for teaching the residents the basics of primary eye care. That included optics, refraction, contact lenses, low vision, and anything else that came up.

 I was fresh out of school and ready to tackle the world.  Little did I know how much more I had to learn. 

One of the residents was asking me about ready-made readers and what I tell my patients about them.  I considered for a moment and then said I would say that custom glasses are better for you.  

The resident had an interesting addition to my response that I had not considered before.  She said that she first reassures patients that ready-made readers won’t hurt their eyes, but then points out that custom made pairs are better.  It’s a small distinction, but an important one. Keep in mind this was in the 1970’s long before transparency became such a priority in communication.  As it turns out, trust and honesty have always been important to building a practice.

Her argument was if you try and convince people that ready-mades will harm their eyes- it’s a losing proposition in many ways. For example- you have just completed a full exam and pronounced their eyes healthy except for presbyopia.  Then the patient asks you about the ready-made pairs.  Let’s say your response was negative and you told the patient how much harm ready- made readers can cause their eyes. 

But let’s take the story further.  What if that patient has actually been using readers for years and just doesn’t tell you about them.  You just pronounced their eyes healthy. And in the same breath, stated they will harm their eyes with ready-made readers.

You have just lost this patient’s trust and respect.   You now look like a liar and an opportunist trying to sell them expensive glasses.  Once you lose a patient’s trust on something so basic, it’s hard to ever get it back.

DEVELOPING PATIENT TRUST

The resident’s response made so much sense to me that it changed the way I speak to my patients.   I want my patients to always trust me and know that I will always be honest with them. I want my patients to come to me for advice about their eyes and not go somewhere else. This conversation took place in 1978 long before Google, the internet and social media.  This was a time when patients were not playing as active a role in their care as they are today. I think honest communication is even more important now.

Now when I am asked about readers, I confess that I actually have several pairs laying around my house. I use them for emergencies if I don’t have my progressives on. 

I do tell my patients that ready-made readers won’t hurt their eyes. But I point out the reason they are cheaper is the quality of the lenses and frames are not as good as what we use in custom eyewear.   I explain that readers may have increased aberrations and distortions that can result in headaches and eye strain.   

I also point out that ready-mades assume that a person’s correction is the same in each eye and that the patient has no astigmatism. Then I honestly share if I think their prescription might create any problems for them in using ready-made readers. I offer my opinion on whether they will work for them. But, I never say or imply that they will harm themselves.  

Most people treat ready-made readers as disposables and have multiple pairs.  Almost everyone knows someone who uses ready-mades. And most people who use readers will also admit they have some pairs that give them a headache or eyestrain.  This supports the information I give my patients about the decreased optical quality of these lenses.  

AN OPPORTUNITY TO EDUCATE

The public has a basic distrust of us because of the high cost of premium optical products.  They look at the ads and wonder how the cost of glasses can be so different from one office to another.  I believe patients want to understand why there are such discrepancies. If you don’t use this opportunity to educate them, their natural conclusion is that the doctor is making a huge profit. 

This is where transparency can be helpful.  The less explanation you offer, the more they will assume the worst.  I know that others may disagree about discussing the cost of these glasses.  But I feel my willingness to discuss the wide range in pricing helps patients understand the differences and builds their trust in me as their doctor.  

I often use the analogy that there are different qualities of TVs, computers, and cars.  People understand that. They know that there is a difference in the quality and reliability of a reputable product versus a cheaper one.   We have all learned this through painful and expensive lessons.  We know we get what we pay for.  

This discussion also allows you to offer the importance of proper frame selection, optical measurements and adjustments of a frame to best serve each patient.  And that can lead into information on warranties and how your practice stands behind any glasses you dispense.

RESPECT YOUR PATIENTS

When you’re honest, you keep your patients’ trust. You don’t look like you’re just trying to make money off an unnecessary expense. Realize that patients may not have the money for new glasses now.  Presenting them with options in an honest and open way allows them to make choices and understand the differences. Demonstrating the difference in the readers vs. their custom made set shows your willingness to help them make the right decision.  Often they will notice the difference themselves and make the right choice. You can also offer them other options such as multifocals, computer glasses and contacts.

CONTACT LENS WEARERS AND READY-MADES

Something else to consider. What advice do you give contact lens wearers who are beginning to notice presbyopia? They may be just having a little intermittent trouble at near.  They’re not ready yet or don’t want to be refit in mono-vision or a multifocal contact.  Don’t you tell them to pick up a pair of ready-made readers? 

Don’t be a hypocrite. What do you imagine your patient will think when they know that you told their relative or friend to not wear any ready-made glasses?  Now, for the contact lens wearer, you’re telling them to go get a pair. Honesty and consistency are always the best.

MAKING A DECISION

In my practice, we always had some readers on hand to use with people in our office.  Patients could use them to fill out forms if they forgot their glasses. Ready-mades were also useful if a patient needed to read something while they were dilating.  We would even loan them out if our patient had to return to work. We wouldn’t charge the patient anything if they returned the glasses in good condition.   If the readers weren’t returned, the patient was then charged for them. Our patients appreciated this and did not abuse this benefit.

We also offered ready-made readers for sale. I got tired of seeing so many patients using readers and buying them outside my office.  Since people look at them as disposable anyway, there is not a lot of adjusting or repair required if you decide to inventory them.   You can also offer better readers or ones with anti-reflection coatings.

It has always bothered me when someone else makes a profit off of readers when I am the most qualified person to see to my patient’s visual needs. Though I don’t have the data to prove it, I really don’t think we lost many sales of custom eyewear by having ready-made readers available.  If a patient wants ready-mades, they will just go somewhere else and find them if they’re not available in your office.

I know that my ideas may be controversial or unacceptable to some. Everyone has to decide what works best for them. But, I do hope that this blog at least makes you think about what, and how, you answer your patients’ questions.

How do you handle questions like this in your practice?  Do you place yourself in your patients’ position and try to imagine what they’re thinking? What is your opinion on having ready-mades available in your office? Leave a comment below on how you handle the question of ready-made readers with your patients.  Or leave a comment on the best ways to communicate with your patients. We would love to hear your ideas.

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SOCIAL MEDIA-WHICH PLATFORM IS BEST?

Reading time 5:24

Let’s talk about the social media platforms used most often by optometrists.  This discussion will center on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  Of course, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ are also used by optometrists, but with less frequency.

There are unique characteristics and demographics for each social media platform. Therefore, each platform has different pros and cons to consider when deciding what will work best for your practice.  For example,the creation of content, frequency of posting, and exposure are just some of the factors to consider.

I am by no means an authority on social media. But I have read and researched a lot on the subject and have looked at hundreds of different doctors pages.  So even though I am not an authority, I have formulated some opinions on what works well and what doesn’t.  

TIMELINE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

It still amazes me that something as new as social media has changed our world in such a short time.  It is so much a part of our daily lives that it is hard to remember a time when it didn’t exist.  Of the major platforms in use today, LinkedIn began in 2003.  Other platforms followed:  YouTube in 2005, Facebook and Twitter in 2006, Google+ and Tumblr in 2007, Pinterest and Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. 

There are platforms that are post based formats like Facebook and Twitter.  The image based platforms are Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr. The video-based platform is YouTube. 

My personal recommendation is to not spread yourself too thin.  As you take on more platforms, you create additional pressure on yourself to keep them all up to date.  Therefore, I recommend that you select one and when you feel comfortable, then consider adding another.  

When you’re deciding where to start, consider running an informal survey of patients in your office.  Find out which platforms are the most popular with your patients and put your efforts there. Or, if you are trying to attract a certain type of patient demographic, choose the platform most likely to attract that group. A good source of this information is:  https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-demographics/    

FACEBOOK

For marketing a practice, I feel that Facebook is the best place to start. It is still the largest platform boasting 1.4 billion daily active users.  It has a wide age demographic as well.  If you are looking for people in an older demographic (30+ years and older), then Facebook is the platform to choose. 

Facebook’s format lends itself well to educational posts with information about eyes and vision. But, it is also excellent with general information such as: changes in office hours, trunk shows or events, and new frame lines.

Yet, the most important function Facebook has is its ability to entertain and engage visitors to you page.  Frequent use of posts that are funny or inspirational helps entertain and encourage people to return to your page. Engaging with readers comes when you use games, challenges, or ask questions to start a conversation.  Keep in mind that it is called social media for a reason.  Therefore, the ultimate goal is to get people to comment or share your content with their friends. 

Since we can’t always spend extra time with our patients while they are in the office, Facebook can help us make that connection. In other words, social media can let your patients know you on a more personal level.  One thing that I have noticed that tends to get the most comments on doctor’s pages is personal information about the doctor or staff. For example share staff birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, graduations and weddings if your staff feels comfortable with sharing this information.  Personal information like this is generally well received.  We trust people we can relate to. We find it much easier to be loyal to a person than an impersonal business entity.  

INSTAGRAM

Instagram is also popular with many doctors. Instagram has more than a billion users.  71% of Americans age 18-24 use Instagram.  As a result it is the best platform to reach the patients who fall into the millennial age group.

This is a visual platform which I feel is appropriate for a visual profession.  It is an excellent place to show pictures of your office and staff.  You can also feature frame lines you sell, though I would not suggest that this be the only thing you show. Only using sales oriented content will not inspire people to return to your page. Vary your content.

Study other Instagram pages to get ideas.  Be creative and show your staff in action. Show your work in the community.  Feature things you care about like a charity you support. You could provide links to your blogs if you have some on your website.  You could salute different holidays or celebrations.

Content should be predominately visual and entertaining.  Instagram can educate, but since it is a visual scanning platform, you would not want to use many posts with a lot of text to read. 

Though the visitors to your page can like and comment, it does not tend to promote a conversation as much as Facebook does. You can use some of the same content on both Facebook and Instagram. Get your staff to create content by taking interesting pictures throughout the day.  Have them take pictures of what they think is fun or interesting in the practice.

PINTEREST

Pinterest is under-utilized by most practices. It allows you to share what you like including hobbies, fashion, and crafts. Pinterest has 200 million users every month.  It reaches 83% of all women 25-54 years old in the United States.

This is an easy platform to use.  Whereas, Facebook and Instagram both require you to create content, Pinterest does not.  If desired, you can create original content, but most people pin content from other pages in Pinterest. Once you create boards, you do not need to add pins on a regular basis.

It is another visual platform and a great way to show the personal side of you and your staff.  Not only can you have boards that feature eye-related information, but you can create boards that highlight your hobbies and interests. 

Another advantage is that this platform can be delegated to your staff. I would bet that there is someone on your staff who enjoys Pinterest.  Ask them if they want to create and maintain your boards. 

However, I would tell you to be cautious.  Just as anywhere else on the internet, there is good information mixed with false and misleading information. I see some bad information on some doctor pages. Above all you want your page to reflect accurate advice and answers that a patient would receive in your office, so check questionable pins.

We can help you there.  What’s in Focus has a curated page:  https://www.pinterest.com/whatsinfocus/boards/.   Therefore you could direct your staff to that page to get started and know that it has all been checked. We have a wide variety of boards that cover a lot of different topics- some related to eyes, but others that might be of interest to your readers.

We also have a free resource on our website about Pinterest with information on how to get started. https://whatsinfocus.com/resources/

CONCLUSION

I hope that after reading this you stop to think about how you can improve your social media presence.  Social media can be fun for you and your patients. There are some basic rules to follow.  

  • Post regularly to your pages. 
  • Have good, interesting and varied content to keep visitors to your page entertained and willing to return to see more.
  • Respond to comments or questions promptly. Start a conversation.

Creating a social media persona that is caring and fun can convert visitors to your page into patients. It can also build trust and patient loyalty. Social media can be a valuable tool in marketing your practice. 

If you are overwhelmed and would like help in developing and posting content to Facebook, check out our subscription service:  https://whatsinfocus.com/services/#Communication   

How many social platforms do you use in your practice?  Which platform works best for you?  How do you find content?  What content seems most popular with your patients?  Leave your comments below and help other optometrists make social media work for them.