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Notes for the Front Liner: Good service based on a good system

istock_000011686181_smallDuring the usually busier months in the beginning of the year, it is vital that we continue giving a great first impression with each patient walking though our doors. 

Practice systems and patient flow form a vital part of this impression as it depicts the “IQ” of the practice.  Losing a patient’s job tray or making them wait too long without regular updates, shows indifference.  

Systems and processes are designed to maximise the use of time and minimise errors in the practice.  We can’t afford to justify shortcuts due to staff shortages, while underestimating the internal marketing power of a happy patient.

The following points are guidelines to ensuring excellence in patient care:

Patient phoning for an appointment

When answering the phone call of the patient wishing to make an appointment (with a smile in the voice – of course), use those few more seconds to get all the information needed for medical aid confirmation.  Even when there is no medical aid, ensure that you record the correct contact detail to be able to contact the patient when needed.

Ask the patient’s email address and forward the patient information sheet to be completed and returned on the day of the visit. Prepare the patient card with all the information at hand.  Prepare a job tray that’s clearly marked with the patient’s name and time of the appointment. 

Medical aid contribution confirmation and preparation

Confirming the patient’s membership and the contribution of the medical aid towards their spectacles one day prior to the visit, will enable you to quote the patient accurately and ensure that the correct patient payment is calculated.     

Confirming appointments

Phone the patient the day before to the appointment to remind him/her of the time, date and the name of optometrist they are going to see. The patient is also reminded of the following:

  • To bring ALL existing eyewear “to be cleaned, checked and adjusted”.  
  • The payment conditions of their medical aid.
  • Unless they are coming in for a contact lens examination, no lenses should be worn on the day of the appointment.

If you are making use of a sms system to remind patients, keep it short and to the point

– as in this example:

Dear Mr. Jones, We are looking forward to seeing you at 11:30 tomorrow morning for your appointment with Mr. Ross.  Please remember to bring all your existing eyewear. 


Dear Mr. Jones, We are looking forward to seeing you at 11:30 tomorrow morning for your appointment with Mr. Ross.  Please remember that you should not be wearing your contact lenses. 

Patient arrives

If the patient arrives on time, follow the procedures below.  If the patient does not arrive on time, call him/her no longer than five minutes into the appointment time:

Mr. Jones, this is Karen calling form Foureyes Optometrists.  You have an appointment with us for 10:30 and it is already 10:35 and we are concerned.  Are you okay? 

This will give the patient the opportunity to reschedule or to inform you that they are “just around the corner” and give you time to manage patient schedules. 

  • New patient

Collect the pre-prepared job tray. Ask the patient for the patient information sheet that was sent to them or ask them to complete a new one.   

  • Existing patients

Confirm that all the patient information is correct before you print the labels.  Don’t just ask them if “anything” has changed.  Read the information out load and get confirmation for each line.  Any errors in the patient information creates difficulty in the accounts department as invoices may be rejected by the medical aid and it might be impossible to contact a patient if the telephone numbers are incorrect!

Print two labels – one for the new Patient card and the other for the job tray.  The patient will now be pre-tested. 

If the optometrist is ready for the patient, take the patient through to the consulting room. If not, inform the optometrist that the patient is ready and give a clear indication to the patient of how long it will be before he/she will be seen. 

If it’s more than 5 minutes, start the sales process by showing them some of the latest fashion frames and sunglasses available or tell them about your current promotions. 

Whatever you do – keep the patient informed of the timeline!

Invoicing and quoting

Paying attention to detail during this part of the process is vital as it affects Medical Aid payment (or non-payment), turnover and accounting.  Ensure that all quotes are signed and that all patient portions are paid before the order is placed.  Use the correct codes and tariffs to ensure that the claim will not be rejected due to a careless error.

If a patient does not belong to a medical aid, at least 50% deposit should be paid before the order is placed and no goods may leave the practice before it is fully paid for. 

Ordering and follow-up

Once the prescription and frame selection have been finalised, the order is now faxed/phoned/emailed/sent/logged online/taken to the lab of your choice.  If you have an on-site lab, the frame stays behind in the patient’s job tray and only the lens order is sent away.  If you order complete jobs, the frame is sent with the order.

The level of customer service provided by your practice, depends largely on the thoroughness of the follow-up process.  If you have promised a patient that his/her new spectacles will be ready at a given time, write it down and have it ready!  Do not allow the disappointment following a delayed order to spoil the good first impression created by the rest of your team.

Record the ready-date (in red) on the job tray label and on a wall-chart kept close to where the job trays “awaiting lenses/specs” are kept. If your computer system does not print a “Late Job Report” every morning, this chart must be used to ensure that jobs are tracked daily.

Most contact lens companies have an online ordering system.  These processes cut out the “middle man” and allow you to check the order status.  Alcon has Easy Online and Cooper Vision has Eye Supply. 

Urgent Jobs

Record urgent jobs (including contact lens orders) on the wall-chart in RED.  Use a RED job trays for urgent jobs only.  Communicate with the lab or check the online status regularly to ensure that the job will be ready on time.  Keep the patient informed of any changes!

Final Checking

This procedure is often neglected due to time constraints.  However, in my opinion it is considered one of the most important functions in the practice as the perception of the service rendered in your practice is formed by the quality and correctness of the product they receive and pay for.

Please ensure that you check the patients name, the prescription, the frame detail, coatings and tints and of course, pd’s and seg heights.  Also ensure that it is clean and aligned and that all screws are tight. 

Informing the patient of the ready job

I personally prefer this message to be conveyed via a phone call. 

Good afternoon Mr. Jones, this is Karen calling from Foureyes Optometrists and I have good news…  Your new spectacles are ready for collection and those lenses came out very nice and thin!  We are open till 6pm today.  The amount payable on collection is R980.00…

or via sms:

Dear Mr. Jones, Your new spectacles are ready for collection at Foureyes Optometrist. The amount payable on collection is R980.00. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

If the patient fails to collect their glasses or contact lenses within one week, follow it up with another phone call.  You may even offer delivering it at this stage.  Follow this process every week.  

Keep a tight grip on collections.  If a patient fails to collect within 3 months and there is money due on the account, credit the amount of the frame on the patient’s account and put it back into stock to cover the cost. 

Patient collecting

The practice should have a cupboard, or a shelf marked “Ready for Collection” where ready jobs and contact lenses are placed in alphabetical order until it is collected. 

On collection, take the patient to the dispensing area or a consulting room to have the frames fitted properly and the use of their spectacles explained.  Ensure that you are dispensing the correct pair! 

Check the frame fitting, nose pad fitting, temples tips, pantoscopic angle, pd’s and seg height. Then do lens education.  Often a patient cannot adapt to his or her new lenses because nobody told them how to use it!   Explain to the patient to “read with the nose” when using a multifocal; to mind steps and teach them how to clean their lenses.  Hand each patient a detailed brochure explaining the use of their spectacles as well as how to take care of their lenses. 

Before leaving the dispensing area, take out the invoice in the tray and discuss payment.  Even if there is nothing to be paid by the patient, confirm that the medical aid should cover the cost but, should there be a shortfall, they are liable for it.

The patient portion needs to be paid before they leave the practice.  To ensure that your patient is aware of this fact, use these words: “How would you be paying today Mrs. Jones? Cash or credit card?” Allowing a patient to leave the practice with a mere promise of payment is irresponsible!

When dispensing contact lenses, mark the lenses left and right.  Offer solutions and inform the patient that you will contact them on time when they are due for their next order.  Make a note of the date in the contact lens management book.

Greet the patient by saying: “If there is anything else we can assist you with, Mrs. Jones, please do not hesitate to call me or one of my colleagues.  Here’s my card with all our contact detail.” 

Please don’t say: “if you have any problems, Mr. Jones… call me!”

Remember this quote from Jon Herstein: When I think about great service, it’s about how you take every interaction you have with the customer and use that as a way to improve their perception of your organisation.