PCP (and Endocrinology) referred patients are worth far more than the typical optometry customer!
Medical referrals mean higher dollar value, repeat visits and patient loyalty.
What’s The #1 Reason Optometrists Get A Miniscule Amount of Medical Referrals From MD/DO Physicians?
Most people think they are glasses and contact lens doctors. The reason is plain and simple. Optometrists are very excluded from the medical community. They do refractions and make people see well. The profession has done a poor job teaching the medical community they have a major stake in providing medical eye care.
Ophthalmology gets way too many medical referrals from other doctors for things optometrists are 100% capable of taking care of like:
- Foreign bodies
- Red eyes
- Diabetic eye care
- Flashes and Floaters
- Eye pain
- Glaucoma management
- Macular Degeneration Management
- And more
What really happens is a patient goes to urgent care for a painful red eye. Then, they make a referral to the local ophthalmology clinic. At this clinic, the optometrist at the ophthalmology practice is the one who actually sees the patient.
It’s time we educate the medical community in our neighborhoods that OPTOMETRISTS ARE THE PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS and ophthalmologists should only be referred to for surgery or other complex speciality cases out of our jurisdiction and skillset.
Every one of your competitors is doing the same things to acquire patients
Google ads. Yelp reviews. Facebook ads. Blog posts. Appointment reminders. HOW DO YOU STAND OUT? More importantly: What can you do differently? All of these marketing tactics are very expensive to execute, and many times you have no clue what’s actually working, you just continue to pay the bills and pray for more high-value patients. The offices with the biggest budgets are rewarded with the most patients.
Wouldn’t you rather court referrals from other local doctors by befriending them and educating them on what you do….then see the flow of patients arrive without spending a dime on internet ads?
Medical patients are better for your private practice
Selling glasses is somewhat easy. You do a comprehensive eye exam and then the optician does their part. Obviously, there are vision plans involved, and the other politics of competing online, etc. It’s a straightforward transaction. However, patients are not loyal when you just do great exams and glasses. There are always multiple optometrists in town doing great exams and providing fashionable eyewear the community is happy with. Medical patients tend to stick around longer in your practice and spend more though.
How would you feel as an eyecare patient if you had to go to the optometrist for eyewear/contacts and to the ophthalmologist for medical eye care? It’s annoying to have relationships with more doctors and it’s a waste of time. All patients want a one-stop-shop.
It’s pretty clear, the value of a medical optometry patient far exceeds routine vision exam ones. What’s really sad about routine patients is if they decide to buy their retail goods (glasses and contacts) online or at another practice, that patient visit brings negative profitability to you. Your cost of labor brings you in the hole with no retail purchase.
Medical patients always need ongoing care. The more times they enter your office, the better bond you build with them. Additionally, every time they enter your office it’s another chance to sell retail goods. Now, I know you make good profitability on glasses versus just collecting copays and deductibles. However, if you are reliant on one stream of income, you are really screwed if there is any market volatility. Times change, and you must have several revenue streams in case one goes down.
How do I teach MDs around me to refer me, patients?
You will have to take a few hours outside of your dark optometry lane, cushy office and time away from Netflix to WANT TO CONNECT AND NETWORK with MDs in your geographic region. It’s going to take an in-person visit to the MDs clinic for 15-30 minutes, or today, a Zoom call may suffice. You will have to do your research of what MDs are in the area with a Google search and then do the work to call the MDs to make appointments to court referrals. These docs already have referral patterns to ophthalmology and it’s just a matter of your introducing yourself, what you do, and why you are a good alternative fit who will treat their patients well.
A simple piece of mail to each medical office introducing yourself with a fancy brochure in your area is not going to work.
This brochure is of your typical optometrists and it’s exactly how you DON’T want to appear. Present yourself as a medical oriented optometrist and not a glasses and contacts one. PCPs and other docs don’t care if you sell glasses. They want to know you will treat their patients medically, provide a great experience and deliver good results.
*Sending doctor letters of mutual patients is not enough to establish more referrals.
These letters are typically received, quickly viewed, and scanned into an EMR. There’s no emotional connection.
You must realize that MDs don’t really know the medical scope optometrists are capable of today. MDs don’t know that ALL optometrists are not created equal. An optometrist doing 40 eye exams at the chain in the mall is very different from a private practice OD seeing 15-25 patients a day. They have the time, skillset, equipment and personnel to treat medically. They have worked hard to expand their knowledge through continued education after school.
They don’t realize that the optometrists within the ophthalmology clinic are usually the one seeing the patient. When you are making these calls to MDs and trying to establish referral networks, you will have to teach them the OD is the one seeing the patients, so they may as well just refer to you instead.
In order to really establish a medical referral network for yourself, you have to reach out to 15-25 different practices in your area. It’s a probability game to get a solid 3-10 practices who will religiously think of you when they need to refer out a medical eyecare patient for help. Some of the practices you may reach out to and have meetings with will say, “yes, we’d love to refer” and never do so while others will actually DO IT. The more people you have meetings with and teach them about your practice, the more luck you will have in getting referrals.
You must have a process to get the referral pattern started.
Now, there’s some secret sauce to this approach here: ↑
That’s why you need to reach out to the 2 experts of Rise Optometry who developed this approach to get the gritty details. They have a proven framework and method of madness to get you meetings and get you referrals.
Co-founders, Sean Hanlon and Steve Nasson, developed this program you are reading about (yes, I stole these ideas from them with their permission), to give optometrist the leverage they need to grow. They’ve worked with hundreds of ODs and MDs over the past decade in various ways from equipment sales to consulting, all to make practices successful.
Why would an MD refer to you? Come on, they have lots of choices in your community.
It’s fairly easy to build a networking relationship with another doctor. You don’t have to romance each other by going to baseball games or sharing a box of cookies. Sometimes it just comes down to knowing, liking and trusting someone. All doctors are busy with their families and with practicing. To establish professional relationships, it really comes down to shaking hands or meeting over Zoom and chatting for a little while with friendly conversation.
Medical referrals begin with market research
You can’t get medical referrals for your optometry practice without first doing some Google research to figure out which practices are good prospects in your area. You may be surprised at how many urgent care clinics, primary care, pediatric, endocrinology, and other practices are near you. Don’t forget community hospitals and concierge docs too.
Many times it’s not the doctors you need to influence to refer to you, it’s the staff. Many offices have referral coordinators. They are the ones that work with patients in the office to get them to an eye doctor near them. If your business cards or practice name is not in the drop-down menu in the EMR, then you probably are not getting any medical referrals from them. Sometimes, it’s that simple.
Part of the Rise Optometry program includes getting an app for your phone that allows you to conduct research and record your results. If you want referrals from certain MDs, it’s best you participate in some of the same insurance panels. An app is a great way to keep track of this. An app also allows you to record notes about each MD so you can keep track of their personal info.
How do you convey to MD referral sources that you do medical optometry?
An easy starting point is mentioning very very little about doing refractions and routine eye exams. It’s pretty obvious you provide these services anyways, right? All optometry schools today are very heavily medically focused. Most MDs don’t know optometrists have prescribing rights…they sadly just think optometrists do refractions and sell glasses and contacts.
When you approach an MD practice and want to court referrals from them, providing a simple 1-page sheet to them easily relays the message of what you do to them.
How do I make appointments with MD practices and other referral sources?
Have you heard of the telephone? It’s really cool. Okay, sorry to joke around but it really just amounts to you picking up the phone and asking to chat with the doctors at these locations. When you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s really that simple.
Here’s the good news.
Those 2 guys with cheesy smiles you saw above, well, they are actually highly professional and highly skilled at setting up these appointments for you. Plus, they coach you and guarantee you are successful in establishing referral relationships. They have developed a whole program around this. It’s their business and they take it extremely seriously. They know ODs should be owning the medical eye care market.
There’s always a gatekeeper in every practice. They answer the phone and have been trained to say “NO” to all sales calls and people wanting to talk to the doctor. How are you going to get around this? You need a professional training.
So, once you get the meeting and circumvent the gatekeeper, you also need to ensure the doctors attend the meeting. It’s very easy for docs to blow these things off. Don’t worry about these things though. Sean and Steve of Rise Optometry will guide you along every step of establishing quality referral relationships.
How will you schedule your first appointment with an MD referral source?
It may be daunting for you to contact other practices and medical clinics to court referrals. You may feel like you are a nuisance calling and getting in the way of their daily operations. However, don’t feel like this. All clinics get patients with eye problems and need a place to send patients. But these clinics just take the easy way out to refer patients and send to the people they know, like and trust.
If you are not someone they know, then it’s a 100% chance they will not refer to you. Rise Optometry is quite an awesome program because they ensure your success. They will actually make your first several appointments for you with referral sources. They know making these “cold calls” and appointments is not easy. Sometimes, it’s nice when someone just does it for you.
Start getting medical referrals or continue getting beaten up by vision plans
I don’t want to sound grim here, but vision plans are the shittiest thing ever. They pay you $40 and unless you make a retail sale, you ain’t going to make no money.
Medical optometry alongside routine vision and retail sales is the best formula for optometry practice success. Many routine patients turn into medical patients as they age. Newer practices in the 1-10 year age range really struggle to gain medical patients as their patient base tends to be younger. That’s why it’s really important for newer practices to be proactive and go seek referrals.
For more mature practices, they need to be just as proactive and go after referrals too. They tend to have a whole suite of ophthalmic equipment such as OCT, Visual Field, Topographer, Optomap, fancy slit lip cameras, IPL, Lipiflow and other tools to really nail medical visits with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
So, are you going to continue with your $10 vision plan copays or go out, be a go-getter and start seeing medical patients? The cost to get started with the Rise Optometry program is very little and it pays off with as few as 12 patients. Remember, all medical patients are annuity. They will continue to come back to you year after year….it’s not one and done.