Here’s an idea that might increase traffic to your practice as well as explain information to your patients, justify fees and emphasise the health-care aspects of optometry rather than just vision correction care.
Optometry practices are increasingly showcasing their equipment and technology on their websites. Some devote an entire web page to showing instruments and explaining what they are and their uses.
This shows the public that your practice is up to date with the latest clinical technology for detecting, diagnosing, monitoring and treating eye disease within your scope of practice, and that your practice isn’t limited to checking vision and prescribing spectacles. It can also help justify why you need to charge extra for services provided using this equipment, especially for items not covered under Medicare.
Three practices that are doing this in a visually-appealing and easily understood way are Gerry and Johnson Optometrists, Graham Lakkis Optometrists and Collins Street Optometrists.
Link to Gerry and Johnson Optometrists website
Each of these practices has a page on their website showing small images of equipment and brief explanations of what the instruments do. The key is to use simple terms that the public understands.
Kate Gifford practises in Brisbane and is the president of Optometry Australia. She explains on her Gerry and Johnson Optometrists website that corneal topography is ‘mapping the front of the eye’ and an OCT is ‘an ultrasound of your eyes’. She also has images and simple explanations of digital retinal imaging, anterior eye imaging, corneal pachymetry, visual field testing and eye pressure measurement.
‘We do it to showcase our technology and the value of our eye examination services,’ she said.
Dr Graham Lakkis is senior fellow in the University of Melbourne Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences. His practice is in the Melbourne suburb of Keilor East.
The website for Graham Lakkis Optometrists lists treatments and procedures and explanations of the technology used to perform them, including OCT, corneal topography, GDx glaucoma diagnosis, autorefraction and digital visual acuity, ultrasound pachymetry, visual fields and slitlamp cameras.
Link to Lakkis Optometry website
Lakkis says he has this information on his website to emphasise the health-care aspects of the practice, not only the refractive error correction care.
‘It also lets patients know the range of health problems that can be detected and assessed during an eye examination. Many people are unaware,’ he told Equipment.
Gifford agrees. ‘Patient feedback directly on the website is minimal, but I’m sure it’s part of what gets them to pick up the phone and book an appointment because we know that our second biggest source of new patients is through a web search, and if they’ve come to us through word of mouth, our biggest referrer, then they have most likely checked us out on our website before walking through the door.
‘The patient of today will have done their research on you before they walk through the door. It’s essential to have a good website for prospective patients to get a sense of what their experience will be in your practice.
‘It’s also essential to continue communicating to your patients between their eye examinations to build loyalty and reinforce that they made the right choice in coming to see you. This can be achieved through regular website updates, blogs and use of social media.’
Explain your technology
Gifford believes the best justifications for consulting fees are the time spent with your patient and your explanations of technology. ‘A leaflet or website description is no substitute for a discussion with your patient about how use of technology assists management and preventative eye care,’ she said. ‘Including this information on your website primes your patients for what they can expect but the technology itself is most impressive when it’s well explained.’
David Southgate who works at Collins Street Optometrists in Melbourne says the practice tries to be as transparent as possible about fees and procedures.
‘It’s important the patient sees the reasons for the procedures, in order to appreciate their value,’ he said.
Link to Collins Street Optometrists website
Collins Street Optometrists also has images and brief explanations of digital retinal photography, OCT, corneal topography, slitlamp biomicroscopy and gonioscopy, and automated perimetry for visual fields and keratography on its website. Visitors to the site can click on links to read more detailed explanations.
Southgate says having images and explanations of equipment and technology on the practice website, and discussing them in the consulting room help patients understand why the optometrists perform the tests they do.
‘Setting fees has to be fair for both the patient and the practice, considering the investment in our equipment. The demographics of the practice mean our patients are less concerned about cost and more interested in being sure we look after them properly; generally they don’t want to skimp on their health care,’ he said.
‘Showcasing the equipment on the website makes consultations easier because we can point patients to the relevant section on our website where they can read about how procedures are done and why. Previously we gave patients paper hand-outs but now we can point them to the website.
‘Showing the patients their retinal images and OCT images on a large screen, in conjunction with pointing to the related areas on a model eye, also helps with explanations,’ he said.