Expanding Practice Makes a Big Splash
When Eyes on Main Vision Center expanded and opened its second location in Findlay, Ohio six years ago, it entered uncharted territory. The practice had operated in a rural town—Ada (population roughly 6,000)—since 1954, but the more suburban Findlay (population roughly 40,000) required a whole new operating and marketing approach.
“We opened the office cold—not a single appointment booked,” notes Duane Wires, OD, the owner of Eyes on Main, who purchased the Ada practice in 1984 immediately after graduating from optometry school. “The Findlay practice alone will do more than $1.25 million this year. The growth has been amazing.”
Dr. Wires gives at least some of the credit for the new location’s success—as well as the continued success of his long-time office—to new marketing/outreach initiatives implemented by the practice two years ago. The cornerstone of these programs has involved working with patient communications platform provider Solutionreach. Solutionreach offers text, email, voice, video, web and social media tools to eyecare practitioners seeking new ways to engage patients in today’s mobile, wireless world. Services include appointment reminders/confirmations, recall, referrals, birthday wishes, online review monitoring, revenue management, surveys, newsletters, targeted care campaigns, and more. All capabilities can be customized based upon a practice and its patients’ individual needs.
“A dentist who is our neighbor has been using Solutionreach for years with great results,” Dr. Wires recalls. “I liked the idea of engaging our patients using mobile technology.”
According to Dr. Wires, a big selling point for Solutionreach was the company’s partnership with Eyefinity, makers of the OfficeMate® practice management software system. Eyes on Main uses OfficeMate®, and the arrangement with Solutionreach enables the practice to use applications such as “Eyewear Notifications,” which sends patients either a text message or email (or both; depending on individual patient preferences) when their eyeglasses or contact lenses are ready for pick-up.
The practice also uses a feature called SR Voice, which is an automated phone-messaging system that reminds patients of pending appointments or when they are due to make an appointment for an annual eye exam by calling them either on their cell phone or landline (or, again, both). Dr. Wires says the system’s natural-sounding voice appeals to patients who may be put off by robo-calls they receive from telemarketers. Solutionreach allows each practice to customize the voice system by enabling a member of its staff to record the message for the automated reminder call.
“We only recently started sending out postcards for one-year past-dues,” notes Dr. Wires, referring to patients who have gone more than a year without an eye exam. “Before that, it had been more than a year since we had sent out a recall postcard. The savings in staff time and cost is huge. We used to spend $200 to $300 a month in postage. The savings there pays for the system, and that doesn’t include the savings in the cost of making the cards and devoting staff time to send them out.”
Interestingly, Solutionreach was not the foray into mobile marketing for Eyes on Main. The practice had been using a similar system from another provider for a year prior to engaging Solutionreach, and while Dr. Wires liked the system, he found it had one major weakness: its appointment reminder text message system only recognized patients’ “yes” or “no” responses.
“If patients had additional comments like, ‘I may be late,’ or, ‘I’d also like an appointment for my son,’ or ‘Can I reschedule?’ the system didn’t recognize it; it forwarded the message into our practice email, which meant we had to take staff time to check the email all day,” explains Dr. Wires. “It was a real pain. But, the Solutionreach system recognizes patient comments when they respond to our text messages, and that enables us to address their needs right away.”
He says this seamless and customizable communication system has been particularly important given the diverse patient base at Eyes on Main. At the practice’s Findlay location, most of the patients are under the age of 40 and relatively tech-savvy. At its Ada location, however, most of the patients are older.
“Some of them don’t even own a cell phone, much less know how to text or email,” Dr. Wires says of the Ada patients. “So they really like the landline phone call-service. We can customize the way we communicate with these patients so that they are comfortable and the system is still automated on our end.”
Patients at Eyes on Main are so happy with the automated communications services enabled by Solutionreach that they received a unanimous “like” in a recent survey on the practice’s Facebook page. And, speaking of social media, Solutionreach can integrate its communication system with a customer’s practice website and social media, so that new patients researching optometry practices in their area can request an appointment with just a few mouse-clicks.
“Nobody uses a phone book anymore, that’s for sure,” jokes Dr. Wires, (before adding seriously), “Now we can recruit new patients through Facebook or our web site. They can request an appointment and we can get back to them immediately. Not a day goes by that we don’t get a request. We’ve had phenomenal growth at our Findlay location, and I think our efforts with Solutionreach are a big reason why. We love it in both our offices.”
Dr. Duane Wires graduated from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1984 and purchased a small practice in Ada, Ohio. One year later he built a new structure for what is now The Village Vision Center, and has been actively forging relationships and improving the quality of his patients vision ever since. Dr. Wires has never been one to accept status quo and continuously strives to invest in patient care, state-of-the-art equipment and the latest in technology.