Tasting Every Item On the Menu
Patients rely on our expertise to provide the very best recommendations for their eye care needs, so it’s critical that we stay on top of the developments and advancements in our field, keep our staff educated, and pass information on to our patients. That’s why when our 22 practices closed to non-essential care during COVID-19, we used the downtime to ramp up on product knowledge.
About a year ago, we introduced lens menus for the different vision plans to help guide patients through our product offerings. It was a great concept—patients could see all the different options within each lens category and, with our guidance, decide which features were important to them and best for their lifestyle. Later, when we looked at the product utilization across the practices, we noticed some trends within the categories. For example, in some locations, sales of a certain product were significantly higher than in others—it became clear that staff familiarity with the product led them to recommend it more, and unfamiliarity to recommend it less. We recognized a need to educate our staff on the features and benefits of all of the products available, so our patients would be presented with more choice.
The COVID-19 downtime provided an excellent opportunity to engage our staff in formulary training. For help, we called on our lens representatives, who conducted training on their products via ZOOM calls. They offered recommendations about which products they like the best and provided comparisons between products and brands, which is very helpful when you’re guiding a patient who may need to switch brands but wants to maintain the same experience.
For those practices considering making adjustments to their formulary, I recommend engaging your lens representatives. Get their opinions about the different products; then, talk to your staff to see if they agree. Those “on the front lines,” the opticians interacting directly with patients and hearing their feedback, have invaluable input to share about the products you’re dispensing. Get samples from your reps and try them out yourself; encourage your staff to do the same. Train the staff regularly, and then follow up—no one remembers everything the first time.
Once you have decided on the products you’d like to offer to patients, the lens menus are helpful to communicate your offerings. The VSP formulary includes virtually every lens product on the market, so it can be overwhelming to patients to navigate all of their choices. It is our job to guide them through that process. As I see it, the more informed we are about the options available, the more confidence patients will have in our care and the more effective that care will be.
Dr. Dorsett is a partner at Vision Care Associates in South Dakota and Minnesota and a VSP Ambassador.