Last month, we talked about the importance of making a good first impression over the phone. But today, many people will form their first impression of your practice from your website. About 97% of internet-savvy consumers today use the internet in searching for services.
The first step in making a good impression online is, of course, to be there. As the saying goes, 80% of success is just showing up. You need to be present wherever people go to look for an eye care practice. And yet, 20% of practices still don’t have a website. Is your practice one of those? Increasingly, consumers are looking at a business’s Facebook page instead of their website, so your presence in social media is important as well.
People spend an average of just 15 seconds on a website, so it’s important to make a good impression fast if you’re going to convert web-surfers into patients. Like you practice itself, your website should be attractive and inviting. It’s not a good idea to create the website yourself or have your nephew do it, unless he is an expert web designer. This is one place where spending a little money will pay off.
If you’re creating your redesigning your website, it’s a good idea to look at the websites of other offices in your area. What draws you into certain sites more than others? Show your designer examples of what you like. Good web pages have a large, engaging visual to focus attention and a clean, uncluttered look. Your logo should be attractive too. A good home page will have relatively few words but clear navigation to other pages.
Since one of the first things consumers look for is office hours, it is good to have them on your home page or an obvious link to another page that shows them. Your phone number should also be in a prominent place. And on every page of your website, it’s a good idea to have a “Make an appointment” button, which can link to an interactive scheduling page, or a form that gives you the patient’s contact information.
Another important aspect of a website or Facebook page is keeping it updated. This is most important on your Facebook page, if you want people to keep coming back. Staying current online is the hardest part for many practices. An announcement of a back-to-school special that is still on your home page in December, or a Facebook page where the last entry is from early 2018 make a bad impression. There should be somebody on the staff who has it as their responsibility to keep the site and your social media up do date.
There’s no doubt about it: creating and maintaining an online presence can be a chore. But it is one of the key places for forming the strong first impression that brings in new patients, so it is worth your attention.
It is instinctual for us to make judgments about whether the people we encounter are friends or foes. This instinct was vital to us in prehistoric times, but it persists today. We make judgments about other people in as few as four seconds, and we can finalize those impressions in as few as 30 seconds. And that’s as long as it may take for people to form a judgment about your practice. Are you making those four seconds count?
The two most likely places where potential patients will form a judgment about your practice are the over the phone and on your website. So it’s important that your practice show itself at its best at those contact points. This month, we’ll talk about your phone impression.
According to Albert Mehrabian, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, tone of voice accounts for about 40% of the impression we create when we meet somebody in person. Over the phone, the percentage doubles to 80%, with only about 20% of the impression created by the informational content of the conversaion. Obviously, what we say is less important than how we say it. The most important aspect of any conversation we have with potential or current patients, then is to be cheerful and welcoming.
Some common-sense advice can help create the best first impression. Frankly, it’s the sort of thing your mom might tell you:
As I said, this is nothing more than common sense. But it all counts toward that favorable impression that we only have four seconds to make, and it may be the most important four seconds of the patient’s experience with the practice. That isn’t really fair, but it’s reality. Mom knew a thing or two, didn’t she?
According to a Harris Poll survey conducted over the summer, 93% of parents know about the flu. That’s reasonably comforting, though one wonders what’s going on with the other 7%. But it’s mainly of interest as a point of comparison: according to the same poll, 65% of parents are familiar with the term “myopia,” but only 33% know what it means.
That’s a bit disturbing, considering the threats myopia holds for children. The immediate effects include poor performance in school. And in the same survey, 56% of eye care professionals agreed that left untreated, myopia increases the risk of irreversible vision loss later in life. The longer-term effects (particularly for children with 5.00 or more diopters of myopia) can include retinal holes and tears, retinal or vitreous detachment, glaucoma, cataracts, and myopic macular degeneration.
About two-thirds of eye are professionals also said that they have seen an increase in the prevalence of childhood myopia over the last five to ten years. The statistics bear this out: 40 years ago, 25% of Americans aged 12 to 54 were myopic. Today the number has risen to 42%.
Fortunately, tools are available for myopia management, including atropine eye drops, soft multifocal contacts worn in the daytime, or rigid contacts worn at night (ortho-k). There is also a type of eyeglass lens that can slow the progression of myopia by addressing peripheral hyperopia, which is seen as a stimulus to further eyeball elongation. Unfortunately, lenses of this type are not yet available in the U.S.
There is strong reason to believe that good myopia management can decrease the risk of vision problems later in life. One study found that a one-diopter increase in myopia is associated with a 67% increase in the prevalence of myopic maculopathy. And conversely, reducing myopia progression by 1.00 diopters is associated with a 40% decrease in the prevalence of myopic maculopathy.*
Clearly, more parents need to understand what myopia is, and the implications it holds for children’s vision in both the near and long-term. That’s all well and good for the patients who bring their children to your practice, but what about the ones who don’t? There are a number of things you can do to create awareness in your community, like speaking about the problem at PTA meetings, providing vision screenings at health fares and other community events, and, of course, asking patients if they have children who are in need of an eye exam. Spreading awareness of the myopia threat will help families in your community – and it will help you practice, too.
*Bullimore, Mark A. and Brennan, Noel A., “Every Diopter of Myopia Control Matters.” :Optometry and Vision Science, June 2019
In August, the FDA issued a recall for the online vision test developed and marketed by Visibly (formerly Opternative), because the company had not received authorization from the agency. The authorization process requires that the device be “at least as safe and effective,” or “substantially equivalent” to a legally marketed device. Last week, the AOA announced that it has requested that the FDA also recall 1-800-Contacts’ ExpressExam online vision exam, on the grounds that it is “strikingly similar” to Visibly’s already-recalled test.
“Ocular telehealth” can mean many things, from an app that performs a simple vision screening to a comprehensive remote-controlled exam with direct doctor-to-patient communication. The Visibly approach occupies a space in between: the test is self-administered online and takes approximately five minutes. The results are submitted to an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist in the consumer’s state, and a prescription is issued within 24 hours. The test appears to be popular among consumers: before the recall, Visibly was marketed in 39 states, and the company claims to have conducted hundreds of thousands of tests with a satisfaction rate over 96%.
The approach is controversial in the professions, for obvious reasons. One of the biggest concerns is that patients will see the brief online test as a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam. It’s little wonder that professional organizations at both the state and national levels have lobbied against allowing this type of test.
It’s unlikely that Visibly or other companies with similar approaches will give up easily, and government generally supports efforts that increase accessibility and reduce the cost of health care. However, some form of ocular telehealth could conceivably benefit private practices by providing easier access for patients. Over 250 eye doctors, mostly ODs, are already using a system called EyeCare Live, which enables app-based acuity, Dry Eye, SPEED, Amsler and Halo tests, and facilitates secure communication between doctor and patient.
But there’s no substitute for being there, and patients need to understand that. They need to know how important it is to have a comprehensive, face-to-face (or eye-to-eye) examination. We’re already fighting the battle against online operators in the optical; in the future we may have to do it in the exam lane as well.
California has created many of the iconic products and technologies that have spurred the digital revolution, which, in turn, has exposed us to large amounts of blue light. So it is appropriate that the California State Senate has designated October 10 as Blue Light Awareness Day, as a way of calling attention to the issues associated with blue light from digital devices and other sources.
Noting that there are 80 million digital devices in California, and they are used up to nine hours per day by state residents, the Senate resolution cited a number of concerns about blue light, including:
Based on this information, the resolution states, “Given the growing body of research around the breadth and scope of potential eye and systemic health impacts related to blue light exposure, the State of California encourages citizens, particularly children, to consider taking protective safety measures in reducing eye exposure to high-energy visible blue light.”
It is good that voices outside our industry, like the California State Senate, are helping to raise public awareness of concerns about blue light. However, it is in only in our practices that this awareness can be turned into action. It is very important that we provide all patients (or their parents) with information about blue light, and introduce them to products like epik™ BLUE (also known as UVhp™). If you need materials to help inform your patients, please contact your GSRx sales rep, or call us at 800-833-4779.
If you have teenage kids, you know that hormones affect both physiology and behavior. They can also affect our vision in several ways at those times in our lives when hormonal activity is high.
Adolescence is, of course, prime time for hormonal activity. It’s the time when arms and legs are growing, and so are eyeballs, which can cause blurry vision and contribute to the development or progression of myopia.
For women, hormonal changes throughout adult life can affect vision, particularly during pregnancy and menopause, or while taking birth control pills. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause dryness, leading to blurry vision and dryness. Estrogen can also make the cornea less stiff, which along with dryness can change the way the eye refracts light and make it difficult to wear contact lenses. Middle-aged men and men with low testosterone may also experience and decline in visual activity.
Conversely, the eyes can also affect hormone production. The recently-discovered intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are believed to signal the brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycle. These sensors are stimulated by blue light in roughly the range of 460-485nm. Because digital screens emit significant quantities of light in this range, it is generally believed that prolonged use of digital devices at night can delay sleep.
Vision and hormone levels are both moving targets throughout our lives. This fact gives us yet another reason to encourage patients to have annual eye exams.
It’s the time of year that kids dread and parents look forward to: back-to-school time. Research has shown that about 80% of learning through the first 12 years comes from vision, so back-to-school is a time when parents should be thinking about their children’s eyesight.
Unfortunately, not enough of them do. Only about 50% of kids have had an eye exam by the time they graduate from high school. It has been estimated that up to 80% of kids who get a vision screening at school do not get a follow-up eye exam, and these screenings miss a lot of problems. Many parents think that a school vision screening is a substitute for an eye exam.
Kids’ vision problems can affect several aspects of learning, including reading comprehension, eye-hand coordination (especially important for sports), attention span, and the child’s overall confidence at school.
Parents need to understand the importance of frequent eye exams for their kids. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children should have their first eye exam at about six months, another at age 5 or 6, and annually after that.
Parents should also be alert to the warning signs that a child is having vision problems. According to the AOA, these include:
· Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
· Avoiding reading and other close activities
· Frequent headaches
· Covering one eye
· Tilting the head to one side
· Holding reading materials close to the face
The full list can be found here.
At back-to-school time, parents are thinking about their children’s education, so it’s a great time to teach them about the importance of excellent vision in learning. You can do it through your website, your Facebook page and other social media. (By the way, if you’re interested in effective and very affordable social media, we’ve got it! Call us at 800-833-4779 or talk to your GSRx rep to find out more.) GSRx’s prices also mean that you can make kids’ eyewear affordable for parents and profitable for your practice.
Mark Twain once said, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In our industry, everyone talks about blue light, but we’re doing something about it. GSRx offers two proprietary solutions that work on different principles and provide different levels of blue light reduction.
PrevaBlue® is an anti-reflective coating with a difference. While it eliminates reflections through most of the visible spectrum, it has a special layer that actually reflects some blue light in the harmful range away from the eye. The blue light reflection peaks at about 460nm, then declines, allowing the frequencies that help regulate the circadian cycle to pass through.
Because it intentionally reflects light in certain frequencies, PrevaBlue® won’t provide the same light transmittance as Infinity® or Infinity Clear Non-Glare, meaning that there will be more residual reflectance. However, it may be a good option for people who want anti-reflection and some blue-light reduction, but don’t want to pay for both.
GSRx’s other blue light treatment, UVhp™, AKA epik™ Blue, works through absorption rather than reflection. UVhp lenses are infused with an substance similar to the melanin in the iris. This approach provides superior blue light control, absorbing 99% of blue light at 400nm, and continuing to absorb a significant percentage of blue light up to 450nm.
Blue light-absorbing lens materials sometimes get a bad rap because some products have a pronounced yellowish-brown tint that people with good taste find unattractive. However, UVhplenses are virtually clear, delivering the best combination of protection and cosmetics available today. UVhp is available in Polycarbonate, 1.60, 1.67 and 1.74, with CR, Trivex® and Tribrid™ coming soon.
GSRx can’t do anything about the weather, no matter how much we’d like to – we’re in the desert, after all, and it’s July. But with PrevaBlue® and UVhp, we can do something about blue light for you and your patients.
As we’ve all seen, concern about the effects of blue light is increasing among eye care professionals and patients alike. We feel strongly that every patient who uses digital devices should be educated about these effects, and an appropriate solution should be recommended. GSRx has an outstanding blue light filter lens: UV Hyper Protection, or UVhp™. But to help you communicate the message of blue light protection, we’re giving it a separate consumer-facing name: epik™ BLUE. To avoid complicating the ordering process, the UVhp™ name will not change in our price book and on our menus.
UVhp™/epik™ BLUE has outstanding blue-light filtering properties. It blocks approximately 90% of blue light rays between 400 and 420nm, and about 45% of the harmful range overall. The lenses are virtually clear, without the brown or yellow tinge found in other in-mass blue filtering products.
To aid in communicating the message of epik™ BLUE to your patients, we’ve developed an infographic, a patient brochure and a poster. But the most effective communication is a face-to-face conversation with the patient. Patients should know that blue light contributes to Digital Eye Strain, and may play a role in sleep disorders and AMD. Blue light protection is a prudent step for both adults and kids.
For more information and to order epik™ BLUE sales aids, please contact your GSRx rep or call Customer Service at 800-833-4779.
GSRx has received VSP’s “Unity Independent Lab of the Year” award for the second time. The award was granted for GSRX’s “exceptional quality of work, superior service, sales volume and overall performance in 2018.” In recognition of the award, VSP Optics will donate $2,500 to the GSRx Foundation to provide funding for projects initiated by GSRx partners to support visual health.
In announcing the award, VSP’s director of business development, Todd Riley, said “Our partnership is rooted in making the needs of ECP’s a priority, and that mindset has paved the way for a successful year.”
We are honored to receive this recognition for the second time in five years. As the supplier of the complete line of Unity products, along with GSRx’s exclusive epik™ lenses and Infinity® coatings, we are proud to be your one-stop shop for VSP and private-pay patients.