If you’re looking for an edge in your optical, consider the words your opticians use every day. In this episode, Bethany interviews Mark Hinton, an optician and founder of eYeFacilitate, a consulting group focused on growing optical sales. Together, they explore the impact of language and communication on optical sales discussions and outcomes. They discuss the importance of carefully choosing words to avoiding negative or money-focused terms that may discourage patients. Mark shows us how to lead patients with effective dialogue and questions, highlighting the significance of emotions in purchasing decisions. He shares his personal journey from a background in psychology to becoming an optician and how his understanding of human behavior influenced his approach to patient interactions. Reflecting on the evolution of the optical industry, they address the challenges posed by managed care and commoditization of eyewear and practical strategies for using positive language to engage patients and enhance their overall experience.
June 14, 2023
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Becca Starks: We have the ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice.
Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Hey, I am Bethany Fishbein. I am the CEO of The Power Practice and Host of The Power Hour Optometry Podcast. And I just want to first congratulate all of the new optometrists graduating this week from the optometry schools across the country. It’s such an exciting time. It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I and my classmates at New England College of Optometry in 1997 graduated. It goes fast. It’s really an exciting time. So congratulations, first of all, and this show is inspired by and dedicated to you and all of the people that you are hoping will hire you. Once you get your licenses and get out there into the world. So I’ve invited a guest, I have Becca Starks, Becca handles Enterprise Accounts and Operations for KMK Careers. And she’s here to help me sort out some of the things that today’s optometry students are looking for, and help educate some of the optometrists who are looking to hire young optometrists about misconceptions they may have or differing perceptions of this graduating class. So, Becca, thanks for doing this your second podcast ever. That’s awesome.
Becca Starks: Yes, thank you for having me. This is exciting.
Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, thank you. It’s an interesting time because we work with mostly established optometric practice owners. So most of the people that I’m speaking to day to day are employers of young optometrists, and they have this vision of what today’s graduates are like, and then I get the opportunity to speak with optometry students and recent grads and they’re not necessarily like that perception at all. So hopefully, you can help us bridge the gap a little bit.
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So, talk about yourself for a minute here. I want you to just talk about KMK and KMK Careers because when I want to data on students, I knew you were the one to go to. And so I want all of my listeners to understand your involvement with young optometrists today.
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. So KMK for those that don’t know KMK’s foundation is the KMK board review, which was started 18 years ago by Dr. Kyle Cheatham. And now fast forward 18 years we are inside of all of the 23 optometry schools nationwide. We have a team of optometrist instructors that traveled to all of the schools and we have a relationship with both third and fourth-year optometry students and 98, This is a big number to remember 98% of optometry students utilize KMK to pass their boards. So essentially we have a relationship with almost every single optometry student nationwide from the board’s perspective. And so we now have a new division of KMK specifically on careers which is just a natural extension of supporting those same students and finding their first career.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re initially talking to these students when they’re students studying for boards. And then they hopefully pass boards and you know, move on and take more boards and pass those and move on. So what are the services that you’re providing for these students once they’ve graduated as doctors?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so it’s really fun. Personally, I am mostly an employee you’re facing so those that are looking for these candidates. However, we have a team of career advisors and all day long, they’re the luckiest ones in the world. They get to speak to these upcoming grads. So right now they are around the clock talking to those that are about to graduate here and a couple of weeks or maybe have graduated just recently. And uncovering what they’re looking for in a practice is really it’s a one-on-one relationship, so it’s totally free to students. They sign up to get a career advisor. They have calls with that career advisor to uncover what are they looking for what type of practice is it specific specialties, just anything that may be the true motivating factor as to why they want to go to a certain practice. And then essentially we play matchmaker so the career advisors speak to students all day long. I speak to employers all day long, and then we come together and get to build a bridge between the two and hopefully connect great candidates with a great opportunity.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Maybe it’ll be the next Netflix show after Indian matchmaking, Jewish matchmaking. It’ll be optometric career matchmaking. And be a celebrity.
Becca Starks: I think some of us would watch that, at least your listeners would probably enjoy that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: My husband and I would watch it so
Becca Starks: same.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So I mean, you’ve got a line of sight into exactly who today’s optometrists or today’s graduating class, today’s brand new optometrists are, can you give some facts and figures of what that class looks like?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so essentially, from a demographic perspective, it’s highly female. The data is showing 70% female and 30% Male.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: 70?
Becca Starks: 70 Percent.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Wow.
Becca Starks: Yes. And there’s information I believe you are going to be able to put in the show notes. But there is a really robust report. I believe it’s lots and lots of pages. I don’t remember how many but there are highlights within that on pages nine and 10 that give a really good but really quick summary of demographics of this class, within gender within race. There’s even financial information about how many needed to have financial aid, that sort of thing, and some really detailed information even about by school breakdown.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are you able to roll through some of the things in there that kind of stood out to you?
Becca Starks: So the biggest thing that stands out to me is female and how as you it shows kind of year over year how that transition has changed from much more female than male as it was in the past. Same thing with race, I believe I don’t remember how many years ago it was but just not too long ago. It was predominantly white for professionals graduating and now that’s shifted to highly other races, whether it’s Asian or black or other races that are included in that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about the financial piece? Because I feel like that’s such a big topic for new doctors. Is this need to pay back student loans? Do you have any stats on the amount of debt that students are graduating with?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so the report itself shows 85% of students are utilizing some type of support financial aid, loans, and the average for a graduate right now graduating is about $200,000 in debt. So definitely it is.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s just from optometry school or that’s including undergrad debt?
Becca Starks: That’s actually a good question. We just get the stat of 200,000 and I assumed it was just optometry school. But that’s a good question.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So young, female, and any change in like age demographic? Or is it typically right out of college a year or two out of college starting into Optometry?
Becca Starks: Yeah, So typically, it is kind of a typical route straight out of undergrad and to optometry school. There is about of the 16-1700 graduates there are about 150 of those that are considered you know, like other avenues whether that would be part-time or returning back in at a later point in time.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay, so out of 1500 you’re talking about? Very typically, right? 1000 young, female, probably non-white doctors.
Becca Starks: Yeah.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: If you had to say this is what’s typical. This is the majority.
Becca Starks: Yeah.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: With debt?
Becca Starks: Yes. A lot of it.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay. So, when you talk to this typical doctor and are getting into the field of matching into a career of their dreams, what are they telling you that they want?
Becca Starks: Yeah. So it’s been interesting to learn that so the things that I came into this thinking people would want my background was actually at LinkedIn for five years before coming on to help launch this division of KMK and I thought it would be very different. I would think pay would exceed everything else. But, interestingly, location is the top deciding factor for these new graduates in determining which practice they want. Obviously, that is the hardest answer because no one can do anything about the location of their practice. But we can touch on this later. Kind of some ideas and tips for those to try to recruit folks into harder locations but definitely the location. Again, before and above pay even this work-life balance coming into play that is much more of a topic. Then I think it has been in years past. Not necessarily meaning, Hey, I want to come in and I want to never work. But this generation is much more just passionate about having that work-life balance of the work to live not live to work mentality. And so location, work-life balance, obviously pay, and structuring pay in a way that is understood to the candidate as well too. So being very upfront about what that pay is so that they know before even applying and putting that in a way that they understand what they actually can make because sometimes it can be hard with percent of production, knowing what that means.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So let’s go into those a little bit more and I want to just go back one to work-life balance because I think that’s probably the biggest misunderstanding between a doc maybe in their 50s and a doc in their 20s. This idea of working to live instead of living to work and it’s respectable and it’s necessary and mental health is important and it’s and life has to work for you. But these older docs, that was not their world. And so when I hear it, it’s complaints. They won’t work weekends, they don’t want to put in 40 hours. They’re asking for a four-day workweek. They’re like it’s coming across as we’re lazy. We’re not dedicated to the practice. We don’t want to be here we’re not going to work as hard as you and it. It creates a disconnect from the start like somebody interviewing, who says I don’t want to work every weekend. All of a sudden has all these judgments thrown on them that they probably don’t deserve. Do you see that with the docs that you’re talking to and you’re matching?
Becca Starks: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it’s the same thing I hear to have. You know, that’s typically the demographic of employers that I’m talking to all day long to have, you know, they came out and maybe cold started or they came out and bought a practice and they’ve been doing it for 20-30 years and like. What?
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Right and they remember, or maybe they’re still working 70 hours a week and they’re there, you know, every day in the practice and their day off there when the cleaning themselves because that’s what the owners do. How do you coach of 50-something and 60-something-year-old practice owners into understanding that it’s not laziness and it’s not to they don’t want to work?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so that is it is a big misconception of the students that it is laziness, and specifically, most students are expecting to work at least one to two Saturdays a month. So it’s not that they’re coming in and saying I only want four-day workweeks, and I’ll never work a weekend. They are expecting a true full work week and one or two Saturdays per month. To your question about how to coach an owner in that situation. I think it’s just taking a step back and looking really high level at your practice as a business and I’ve had this conversation with many owners of I don’t know why we are open Saturdays, honestly, we’ve just always done it and so determined are we doing this because it’s just always been done or when determining this because it is a true business need. And so same thing with later hours or that sort of thing. If it is a true business need 100% voicing that to a candidate that’s a friend and that’s that’s great, but there may be situations where again, it’s just we’re doing this because it’s been done forever. And actually, our patients wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have a late night or we had a late night instead of a Saturday or vice versa.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think docs have like a little bit of that? It’s like that hazy mentality? Like I went through it I put in my time therefore you you need to.
Becca Starks: I think it could be a little of that. Me not being an optometrist. I have to tread lightly because I have not earned my dues. But in the conversations that I’ve had, I think it is a little bit of that at least.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, I worked weekends for 23 years. I’ve never missed it Saturday. I’ve never called out sick. And now I’m going to change my whole practice because this 24-year-old kid doesn’t want to work, like there’s that so what are the students are the new grads thinking about these practice owners, doctors who are in a different demographic from them because there’s got to be misconceptions going that way also.
Becca Starks: Yeah, I don’t get to hear a ton of the misconceptions from the student side. But I think there’s just both sides can teach each other something right like maybe that student can come in and show this business owner who’s been doing this forever, like, wow, I could totally do this differently. And, wow, I’m kind of relieved that you came in and brought up the idea of work-life balance because I as the business owner, really needed that, and wow, my life is different because of it and vice versa. There’s obviously so much that the practice owner can teach and pour into these new grad optometrists. But as far as misconceptions from them, I haven’t heard any to be honest.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I hear that they look at a private practice. They think they’re not going to be paid as much. So they’re thinking that not necessarily that the owner is cheap, but that it’s not. It’s not as profitable, therefore there’s not as much money in it for them. You didn’t mention the mode of practice. You talked about location, work-life balance, and pay. Are students coming out looking for commercial opportunities? Are they looking for private practice or looking for MD offices? I mean, obviously, students are looking for each of those, but what are you seeing most frequently?
Becca Starks: Yeah, great question. So motor practice is very important and private practice remains. Top of the list for I’d say close to 90% of the new grads.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Serious?
Becca Starks: Yeah, because I hear the same thing. I hear a lot from private practice owners that say that almost come to the call with me very nervous, like “Becca, what’s going on? Why might all the new grads want private equity and why do they want retail? And can I really afford to hire them? Because it sounds like they’re throwing all the money in the world with them.” And then it’s interesting because we have that ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice. So there’s just a handful of folks that have said all maybe look at private equity or retail, but the vast majority say I truly, truly, truly want to private practice and there’s even a really good group that says, “Not only do I only one a private practice, but I already know that someday I want to partner slash buy this practice as well.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think though that it’s, it’s like self-selecting a little bit because retail opportunities are so easy to come by? That they might not even consider needing to work with a company like yours? They just need to go on Ziprecruiter, Indeed, and type in optometrists job and the geography they want and they have their choice. Are you talking to them before they’re job-seeking?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so we actually start a process with them a year before they graduate. And so we have them fill out a profile with us it looks just like a LinkedIn profile, but it’s specifically for KMK, and go in and select all of the different types of practices that they’re open to. And so, we have both from the data from what they input on their profile and then they all have a one-on-one call with a career advisor as well. And so that’s where those points come from, both in the data they enter and then the conversations they have with a career advisor.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And is that when a student should be starting their job search is early in fourth year?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so we were really surprised in the timeline as well that a lot of students start having conversations about the fall before they graduate. So this class of 2023 they were starting interviews, October timeframe, and then a lot of them were during their Christmas break, timeframe holiday break, going on visits to practice owners. And then as soon as the New Year transitioned over there were many that were in contract. So definitely, Fall time is like you can feel good. About yourself being ahead of the game, wintertime is still very safe, you still have a lot of opportunity to be reaching out to candidates, and then as we enter into more of the springtime, a lot of I’d say probably half if not more of those that we’re working with are 100% in contract ready to go.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: When you start working with them. Is there any issue with students who are starting the search and still haven’t passed their boards or won’t have the credentials to work when they graduate?
Becca Starks: Yeah, Yep. There is information from ASCO also about passage rates. And it goes into detail even of school by school, but it essentially shows year over year the decrease in passage rates, and I think we’re at about 70% passage rate, right now. 73%. And so there’s a huge population of students that don’t pass typically it’s part one where the struggle is and so there are some students that will even graduate and still have not passed boards. And another misconception there is, “Oh, these students are lazy or they’re not understanding the information, and I don’t want those students because they won’t be good doctors”. And completely not true. Those are students that could either be not very good test takers. These are also the population that came into optometry school right in the heart of COVID. There are some that have just had really rough life events around the time that it is to take boards and so but they are all great people that will be great doctors, they simply just need to pass this test. Many of them have had really great GPAs some of them have other degrees that help them with the practice management side and so it’s just a matter of getting past that one test or many of them.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And how does, how did they navigate that with the job contract like, will an employer sign something with a student who hasn’t yet passed boards?
Becca Starks: Yes, we are running into that actually part one. Board scores were just released this past week. And it was a lot of that there was a lot of celebration and there was a lot of sadness around those that didn’t pass. And the good news is, I don’t know that I’ve come across a single employer partner that we work with that isn’t at least open to the idea of bringing on someone that’s graduated in kind of a super tech role. It’s kind of how we position it to practice under that optometrist owner until they graduate and we even have some that say, “Hey KMK I know that you, as an organization, do great at coaching them and helping them after they fail boards.” I will even invest in that side of the house to ensure that they can pass boards not only to show that, hey, I believe in you and the hardest time in your life student but also that gains them a really loyal employee that again, is going to be a great doctor has just had trouble taking this one test.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Coming in as a super tech though, obviously, they’re coming in at a lower pay scale and they would come in as an optometrist, and they have those student loans. So let’s talk about compensation of obviously it’s going to vary around the country and regionally and how many hours and all of that but what is it that a new OD is looking for as far as the ability to earn money?
Becca Starks: Yeah, good question. So, specifically with this new grad population, the way that I kind of coach, the employer partners that we work with private practice owners is, a lot of times they’ll come into the call and say why pay 16% of production, but with this new grad population, they aren’t able to really wrap their brains around what that is, you could have a $1.5 million, your practice and they still just don’t, they can’t really understand that. And so the recommendation that we give is to at least have some sort of salary and we have information and concrete data on specific areas of the nation. So by all means, if, if we can support you in any way with that, I’m happy to to make sure that you’re competitive, but having some type of salary listed up front is what’s going to entice these new grad population because they can wrap their brains around 140,000. They can’t necessarily wrap their brains around 16% of production. And so totally understand, then obviously the argument private practice owner, I hear you what’s going on in your head is. “Well, I need to motivate them to work hard. Like if I just give them a salary, then what’s the motivation to work hard”, and so there’s been kind of this really nice avenue that we’ve taken with a lot of partners that’s worked well in that advertising a salary a little higher than you probably would have normally, but then decreasing to a really low percent of production, so that there’s some salaries that’s there that’s enticing to a new grad, but a lower percent of production. So for the first year only, so year one higher salary and lower percent of production, and then having that shift for year two and year beyond your two to a lower salary, higher percent of production. And so what that does is again, entices this new grad to apply, and even want to learn more about your practice because there’s a salary, but that little bit of percent of production will get them to realize in their first year of working well. I’m doing the math, and if I would have went on the percent of production, I probably would have made more than my salary. This is making sense this is motivating me to work harder. And then again, you can even have it in the contract that upon year two that shifts to a lower salary that’s guaranteed and a higher percent of production. So as they’ve gotten their feet wet, they’ve learned they’ve been mentored that first year shifting then into percent of production.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re coaching your doctors to do a salary plus a percent of production?
Becca Starks: Yeah, that’s pretty typical.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about benefits and stuff like that is that important? Yes, it is important. Is that something that a brand new grad is going to give enough importance to that it’s going to help them decide one place versus another?
Becca Starks: Yeah, such a good question. So I’ll give both sides just agree very important. I would say the majority of private practice owners that we’re working with are offering some sort of benefits, whatever that might look like. Some are very comprehensive, some are very “Hey, we will pay 50% of your medical and leave it at that.” But now that we are in this lane of there is competition from private equity and from retail. Those are just a no-brainer. In those avenues. And so to remain competitive from that regard. They will get a full package of 401K’s with matching with benefits with PTO, all of those things, if they’re considering a retailer or a private equity opportunity in comparison to your private practice opportunity. And so, again, I think most I talked to very few that say “Hey, I’m just percent of production and I don’t give any days off you just you if you’re here you make money if you’re not, you don’t but you can take whatever days you want type of thing”. I have a handful of those but for the most part, most private practices are offering the salary with percent of production, at least something towards medical, and then most do have a 401K whether there’s a match or not with that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are there other intangible benefits, other things that would make a practice more attractive?
Becca Starks: Yeah. So I think the thing that’s so such a great opportunity with all of the listeners that would have that are trying to hire than our private practice owners that have been doing this for years to a new grad specifically is mentorship. And so those that are willing to do that are excited about that. Well, maybe “Hey, I haven’t really even thought about that. But I’m gonna share over the last 20 years, I really have learned a lot that I could pour into this next upcoming generation”. And so being very vocal with that, even in a job description, or whatever it is that you’re creating, to entice candidates to come your way and some people put a really extensive plan behind, “Hey, we have a weekly meeting, and you get lunch hour with me every week and we will cover XYZ and some it’s kind of informal of just “Hey, I’m going to be with you I’m alongside you. You can call me when you want”, whatever that looks like, or even if you haven’t, some team members that are fairly recent grads, being able to vocalize that to have hey, we’ve got folks that I brought on board as new grads and couple years later looking them go and so the mentorship side is again that intangible free opportunity that I think a lot of people don’t even necessarily recognize they have the ability to give.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Is it mostly clinical mentorship they’re looking for? is it practice ownership? like when you say mentorship, what are they hoping to learn from you?
Becca Starks: Yeah, definitely medical at the top of that, but there are again, those those candidates that just know that they know that they want to be very involved in the practice management, the business side of the house. And so for those candidates that are interested in it, being willing to say “Hey, here’s I’ll show you all of our programs and all of our software and how I design the day and this is how I designed the business side of the house”, and so in those situations for folks that are interested in that side, I think it’s important to have just kind of an open door policy of “I’ll show you all that. I’ll show you that number. So I’ll let you in on this.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So for practice in a particular geographic area, if you can get your salary and benefits close, but they don’t necessarily have to be higher. They just have to be within range and you can kind of check off all the other boxes. Is there a type of practice like heavy medical versus refractive versus specialty that people are looking for?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so definitely looking at highly medical. And then what I would also say is kind of another somewhat intangible, but if practice owners are open to new specialties that maybe you don’t have in your practice right now. But hey, if there’s somebody who comes in and is passionate about whatever it may be, and they want to bring that into my practice, that’s a really enticing thing for a candidate to really see themselves. They’re in the long haul of “Wow, I’m passionate about myopia management and this practice says, by all means bringing that on.” That’s such a great thing to be able to offer to a candidate and so definitely, medical and specialties are really where the candidates are wrapping their brains around of how do I see myself there.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what if you’re in rural Wisconsin, where there’s just not a huge population of optometrists looking to settle? What’s the best way for a practice like that to set themselves up to find somebody to join because so many of those are great opportunities to become part of a community to ultimately partner buy a practice have a really low cost of living like it’s how do they make themselves attractive or show how attractive they are I guess I should say.
Becca Starks: Yeah, and I think that so often because I get the luxury of talking to these practice owners in some of these more rural areas. And every time I’m just like, Wow, if I could just record this and let all of these candidates see this owner care about the type of patients they get to see a lot of times it’s the smaller communities that because there’s not a nearby ophthalmology or another office like those are the most medically focused practices.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Absolutely.
Becca Starks: Yeah. And so, so often I feel better. Oh my gosh, if I could just package this up and get a candidate to truly wrap their head around it. So one of the things that we do on the candidate side is our current advisors do as soon as a student comes in and says, “I only want Miami in New York and LA”, we try to mentor as well and show your kind of cost of living and let’s truly take a look at this and let’s look at your lifestyle and look at
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Miami, LA, how about rural Wisconsin?
Becca Starks: Right? Yep.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And consider Minnesota.
Becca Starks: Exactly. We play that game all day long. Yep. And then to the practice owners, a lot of what I tell them is, they’ll tell me I say they get to brag. So give me your brag book, when they come on as a partner to me, tell me what’s so great about your practice. And then they’re typically ready to end the call and I say, “Okay, based on your area, we also want you to brag on the geographic location just as much as the opportunity and so getting a candidate to truly understand what their life is going to be like, not just when they’re at work with you all day, but once they leave work, and what does this community look like and what can I do there? Is it great for hiking, is it great for the music scene, and the art scene? Is it great to raise a family and maybe I’m not thinking about that right now. But in the next couple of years, I will be.” And so I always say “Somewhere in your job description, however, you want to do it. It’s a post that you’re putting on to kind of an Indeed or an AOA. Having information, just typed information about your geographic area and what makes it so great. And then also, the other added thing you can do is you can always create videos.” Videos are I feel like that’s kind of how we’re all digesting content at this point. And especially this generation of these new grads, and so if you can even do a quick it doesn’t have to be professionally shot but videos of you just speaking informally, almost as if you’re speaking to a candidate who wouldn’t be right in front of you talking about again, envisioning their life there, the more that a practice owner can make a job description or job post about the candidate instead of themselves. The better that that’s going to relay to the candidates have just really getting to understand “Okay, this isn’t what I thought I was thinking Miami, but now I can kind of envision how my life could be in Wisconsin.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s a really strong and valid point. Because when I think about a job ad, it’s all about what we need and what we want. We’re looking for an optometrist to work these hours to do this and when I’m interviewing candidates for Associate optometrist, but really for any position I’m always sensitive to an applicant, who all they’re telling me is what this job is going to do for them. Right. So I’m very critical of it as an employer when they’re like, I’m looking to build my clinical confidence in myopia. I’m looking into, you know, whatever. And I think what are you going to do for me? But in the ad, maybe it should be the other way off, Here’s what I’m going to do for you so that they’re interested and intrigued by the post enough to then come in and want to tell me what they are going to do for me so
Becca Starks: Absolutely
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Cool.
Becca Starks: We even have one it’s a Power Practice member that wrote a personalized it looks just like a letter you would receive from your grandma in the mail and it was so different and so eye-catching and so engaging. It was truly just a personalized letter, Dear Candidate, and then it just spoke really informally like, Hey, I get it. Words are hard, school is hard, but here’s what it would be like living here. Imagine if you could leave work and go out and do this, this, and this and your two hours within this big city so you can go catch a basketball game and be back home at night. And so it was just very, again trying to get that candidate to envision their life not only with that practice but in that geographical location. And so that was an incredible example.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Did it work?
Becca Starks: We’ve gotten some interest. We don’t have anybody signed on yet, but it has enticed interest.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And talked about KMK a little bit again, just before we close. So if a practice owner is looking for an associate, they can reach out to you or how do they go about tapping into this database network matching service that you guys have?
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. I would be the point of contact Becca Starks. And I’m sure you can put my email in the show notes, but it’s just Becca@kmkodcareers.com. And yeah, we typically just do a really informal introductory call and learn about the practice, learn about what they’re looking for. And then go over kind of our offerings. We’ve got two different offerings to choose from, just depending on what the practice owner is looking for. And then yeah, we just go from there. It’s really simple. It’s free to be in agreement with us and having us promote a practice. And so basically, we get that agreement going and then our current adviser starts promoting any of our partners that we’re working with. And then essentially once we have a student that is a great fit, we play the matchmaking game.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I love it. Thank you. I think this is valuable information for new grads to help them understand what they’re going out into and some of the misconceptions they might be facing. But hopefully, we did our part today to try and reduce some of those and really give today’s employers a more real picture of new grads who are looking for jobs. So thank you so much for taking the time to do this and give this service to all of the optometrists out there.
Becca Starks: Absolutely. My pleasure, Bethany. Thank you. So much.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Thank you
Read the Transcription
Mark Hinton: We need to weigh and measure the words that we use with people. We need to give grace to grace. We need to make sure that we get rid of ugly words. We need to lead patients where we want them to go and not ask permission to lead them there.
Bethany Fishbein: Welcome back! I am Bethany Fishbein, CEO of the Power Practice and host of The Power Hour Optometry Podcast. And this is kind of an unintentional part two to last week’s podcast. Last week we talked to Eugene Shatsman from National Strategic Group, who has a background in psychology that he brought into marketing and had a good conversation about the words that you’re using in your marketing and how they make a difference in the results and the outcome of those efforts.
And that conversation led me to think about the experiences that I’ve had with Mark Hinton. And Mark has a similar background. He has a master’s in behavioral psychology, then became an optician. He’s an optician in a working practice with an optometrist partner in North Carolina.
He is also the founder of eYeFacilitate, which is a consulting group, helps practices increase their optical sales, among other things. And he agreed to join me today to talk about how the words you’re using in your practice affect the outcome of the patient’s visits. So, Mark, thank you so much for being here!
Mark Hinton: Well, Dr. Bethany, I am very excited to be with you today and have an extraordinary audience to glean some great little pearls to take away and be able to think about within their own practices.
Bethany Fishbein: We’ve been talking just lately about the power of a single conversation and how sometimes you get that one little thing or that one little pearl that you didn’t go there to get. You were just talking to someone, and it ends up being something that changes how you do something else and can have huge rippling impacts for your business, your personal life. Like conversations count.
Mark Hinton: 100%. Every word we choose counts. And fascinating to me, most people who develop their narratives and their dialogues and their monologues with patients really didn’t think a whole lot about what they wanted that to evolve to. They picked it up along the way. Doctors picked it up in their training. Remember the first time you ever did an exam on a patient? It took an hour.
Bethany Fishbein: It took three.
Mark Hinton: Yeah, there you go. And you’re learning. You’re picking up, you’re memorizing. You’re looking at stylings. Opticians usually pick up how they communicate with the patients from somebody else and always say, when is the last time you really challenged your own dialogues and your own words?
Because when we think about it, the best communication does not take place at the speaker’s ears. It takes place at the speaker’s mouth. It takes place at the listener’s ears. So I’m really critical of the words that I choose to use with a patient in order to help them influence themselves to accept the doctor’s advice.
Bethany Fishbein: Before we get into the words, I’m curious about your background because we were talking before we started recording about your education in psychology. How did you make the jump to take that and then become an optician?
Mark Hinton: When I was a child, I got my first glasses when I was five years old, and I thought they were pretty terrible. And I didn’t really want to be Clark Kent. I wanted to be something else altogether, maybe a superhero. So I used to sit and draw what glasses of the future would look like or what a superhero would wear. I got kind of hooked on that when I was young, just prior to being a teenager, I had pets that outside in cages.
I had an iguana that could spot a budding flower probably 100 yards away. And then I had a warm, furry little guinea pig that couldn’t see an inch in front of its face. So I got really fascinated with vision and sight. And then as time went on, I got really interested in the brain, the human brain, and how people think.
So I did my undergrad psychology, did my master’s in behavioral psychology with a concentration on statistical psychology. And that was a blending more of sociology, where we keep a lot of track of numbers and stats and things. And I got really interested in that. But when it came down to it, when it came to, alright, so what am I going to do with this? Am I going to get a PhD? I didn’t love the research enough at the time.
And coincidentally, about the same time, Hillsborough College was opening their first school of opticianry, and my father in law said, you break your glasses every week, you should probably do this. One thing led to another, I enrolled and I was accepted. And years later, years and years later, the psychology part came in to play when I realized that patients now had choice, when big box stores first opened, and it was fascinating because I’d never had a patient look across the table and say, well, let me think about this, or I’m going to go check out that store that opened that has two pairs for $99.
And all of a sudden I’m 911. What’s going on? And it made me really stop and think about, what are they really hearing? What am I missing? Why do they want to leave and go elsewhere and be inconvenienced? I’ve always made their glasses for them, and that’s the blending of how the two came together.
Bethany Fishbein: What year did you finish school and start practicing?
Mark Hinton: That was before they came up with fire. No, that was back in the 70s. That was late 70s.
Bethany Fishbein: So the patients that you were seeing then and I’ve only heard these things, but the patients that you were seeing then were assuming they were going to buy glasses in the place where they got their exam they were paying cash. I’ve heard the stories from older doctors. Is that really what it was?
Mark Hinton: Oh, it was a joy! Back then, we didn’t have managed vision care plans. We didn’t have smartphones. So we could look everything up and we just truly bought and finished whatever we were doing with that particular individual. And ophthalmology wasn’t dispensing.
So Wednesday afternoons and Friday afternoons, myself and one of my team members would go to the different ophthalmology offices and teach the text how to troubleshoot lenses, how to use a Lensometer, how to read prism, how to use a base curve lens clock. And as a result, they were so happy; they sent us all their refractions. We were filling approximately 175 prescriptions a day. It was crazy!
Bethany Fishbein: It was 75 pairs of glasses a day?
Mark Hinton: Yeah, I had 14 opticians working in my offices at one time, and it was glorious. And then things changed when managed care came along. Things changed when we saw the advent of two pairs for $89. That was the first commoditization of eyewear, and it was the first opportunity for consumers to think, I’ll get my exam here, but I’m going there to get my glasses.
Bethany Fishbein: And was that like the lens crafters? Like just commercial optical started advertising? Do you remember what brought that into the market?
Mark Hinton: Yeah, it wasn’t really lens crafters yet. At that time, I was in Florida, and it was Eckerd optical. So the Eckerd pharmacies opened up to opticals in all of their stores. Then we had the opening of these dental offices that started putting eyewear in, and it just grew from there to the point where then we had Lens Crafters, and then we had the early Lens Crafters, but we had more vision works early on, and then ultimately across the street opened up the Walmart super center. So it was an evolution, but once it took boy, it took pretty quickly.
Bethany Fishbein: It’s so interesting to think about looking at that with a researcher’s mind. Right? It’s so easy to have an emotional reaction. And we talk all the time with doctors who are, oh, no, this is happening to me. Oh, I can’t make money because or, I can’t succeed because and they just feel so passive, like the world is conspiring against their practice.
And so to have that research background, especially in something like statistical psychology, to say, let me step away and kind of analyze this objectively to figure out what’s going on here, why is this message resonating with patients? Why is it working? And why is what I’m doing no longer working? That’s hugely valuable!
Mark Hinton: It is. And for the consumer, they were driven by the idea that you can bring your prescription here and get your glasses for less. So now what happened was it became about money, and it’s still very much about money. And I’m sure that you’re going to get into this, but one of the areas that we really need to think about is changing our words in our offices where we look at our managed vision care plans as insurance, like VSP and IMED. Those types of vision plans, those are memberships.
We don’t call them insurance in our office because they’re not insurance. They don’t sure the patient. They pretty much bought a vision plan to get a savings on the general eye health exam and the glasses or the contact lenses. So we use words like insurance. And frankly, insurance is something everybody buys but they don’t want. They don’t even use it. I mean, if it truly was insurance, we’d look at it differently.
There’d be deductibles, there’d be some catastrophic deductibles, but there aren’t. There’s just copays. The average cost for a VSP or IMED is about $8 a month. So for under $100, I get your $175 exam for $20. And sometimes I’m not even there for the glasses. I just want the exam for less. And then I’m going to go over to Costco or somewhere else to buy my glasses for less insurance coverage, add on out of pocket overage allowance.
Terrible words to use because they’re all money focused. And so then we teach our patients to look at us and go, well, I only want what’s covered or what’s my frame allowance? And it’s interesting because they may be in the office buying a Tom Ford frame, and they want to know what their frame allowance is, but they never ask about other Tom Ford products, other Tom Ford fashion products. They want it or they don’t.
So we’ve commoditized it. We’ve cheapened it with the words that we use. Every word counts. So we got to get rid of the ugly words. And when you said maybe you’ll share the name game and the word game, I’d be happy to share it. You can post it for your readers to use it. But we’ve got to get rid of those words because they don’t entice the patient to want to buy something. I want to give you an example. What’s my frame allowance?
Well, you get up to $150, but if you go over that, you get an additional 20% off. That just leads the consumer to say, well, where are your $150 frames? I’m not going to answer the question. I want to lead to emotion and logic. I want to lead them with how they want to look, not what it’s going to cost. So the patient says, how much do I get towards a frame? You know what, Carol, you have extraordinary savings with your VSP membership.
As soon as we find your favorite frames, the ones that you put on, you look in the mirror and you say, yes, this is how I want to look, then I’m going to subtract the benefit that you have for that, and I’m going to show you what your savings is. What are you hoping to look like with your new frames? What do you want to change up this time, Bethany, six out of ten times. Now they’re interested in how they’re going to look instead of what they’re going to cost. That’s one example of how we change up our words.
Bethany Fishbein: So when you started to realize this and you started to change the words that you were using, is it feeling? Are you testing? Like, how do you get to the knowledge of this work?
Mark Hinton: Such a good question. I went back to the basics of psychology, human behavior. We buy with emotion, and we just buy with logic. How many times have you or any of the listeners, this podcast, walked past a window with no idea what was in that window? And you looked and you saw it, and all of a sudden, your emotion said, I got to have it.
And then logic kicked in, and you figured out how to get it. That was how I started to look at that. I remember 30 years ago sitting across from a patient who came out of the exam room, and he’d been a patient of ours for years. And I said, Mitch, I’m going to explain how your new lenses are advanced over the lenses that you’ve been wearing. And he looked right at me, Bethany, and he said, please don’t, Mark. Just give me what Dr. Mittoos said I need.
That was my moment. That was my moment to realize that I was just overloading with information and I wasn’t asking right questions. I was just filling in the spaces and the gaps, thinking that they wanted a lot of education in optical. They don’t. Optical is not the place to do the educating the exam room is. And I backed off of that, and I thought, wow, I answer questions all day long that the patient didn’t ask, how silly is that? And so I started to work with my doctors at the time in the idea that they’re not buying me, they’re buying you.
And in fact, they don’t even know I own the business. They don’t even know whether I’ll be here next time, but the doctor will be. So we started working together on the idea that our questions need to be better. During pretest, our questions are often not open ended. They’re closed ended loops. Like, ask any man that walks into the exam room, sits down when you walk in, how have your eyes been doing? And he’ll say, fine. What brings you in today?
You guys sent me a notice and said I needed to be here, or my wife told me I needed to be here. So they’re not good questions. But if we flip them to open ended questions, what are you hoping that Dr. Fishbein is going to do to help you see better than you’re seeing? Now, what are your concerns? Long distance? Close up? Your desktop? Nighttime? We’re going to get better answers. And when we get better answers at pretest, they provide targets for the doctor to now be able to prescribe a solution for the patient.
So in my mind, what I realized was he said, just give me what Dr. Mitta said I needed. And my instant thought was, well, he wants what Dr. Mitta told him to get. He doesn’t care about the explanation from me about how much different it is. It was based in time. It was based in I buy my doctor. And we’ve really had optician optometry wrong for a long, long time. Questions.
Do your eyes ever feel dry, scratchy, irritated, wet? No. Better question when during the day do you notice that your eyes feel scratchy, dry, irritated, watery? It’s a better question because the patient feels like they’re included, and other patients have that rather than being singled out. And by human nature, if they feel like we’re fishing for it, they’re going to back off. If I say yes, then they’re going to try and sell me something.
So it led us to realize we don’t ask the patients if they would be interested in something. We ask the patient, would you want to know? And that’s very different. So when it comes to words, it’s really master crafting, those words. So for me, it was really recognizing, listening clearly to what that patient said, just give me what the doctor said I need.
Bethany Fishbein: So let’s take some of those words. And you’ve given a lot of examples, like, already just talking through the different parts of the visit as they’ve come up for you. But just to give a little bit of order here, the interaction with a patient starts before the patient ever comes into the office. Right? So a week ago, about the words on your website and whether book now or schedule an appointment, they’re saying the same thing, but they have different impact.
And, Mark, you see a lot of offices like we do. What are some of the things that you observe before the patient even gets in on that initial phone call that offices are doing typically that you know from your experience that there’s totally a better way?
Mark Hinton: Yeah. ‘Did you want to’ that’s the number one. Did you want to let me go over your insurance and what your benefits are? We recommend that you have the retinal screening when you come to the office. So all of these things that we’re just throwing out there for people to say no or for us to limit ourselves with, let me go over your insurance, that’s limiting. If they don’t ask, we’re not going over it.
And even if they do ask, it’s like, Carol, I would love to be able to answer that for you. We won’t know how to answer that until we know what Dr. Fishbein is prescribing for you during your exam. Then we’re going to maximize your vision, membership benefits to your best advantage so that you’ll feel happy. That’s an example.
Bethany Fishbein: What about when the patient is asking for something that you don’t have, like they say, Are you open Saturdays and you’re not?
Mark Hinton: Yeah, absolutely. So other than Saturday, when is the best time for us to be able to provide you care? So I’m redirecting it and we redirect a lot in psychology. Another example, we redirect immediately to the we always defer back to the exam room in optical. When you were in the exam room today, you’ll recall that the doctor prescribed so it’s redirecting. And usually what it is they’re saying, are you open Saturdays?
And I could say, no, we’re not. And they’ll hang up. But I’m going to keep that open. So are you open Saturdays? Other than Saturdays, what’s another day that you would have available for us to reserve an appointment for you? And more often we get another day. Well, are you open any evenings? We are on Thursdays. Will that be helpful for you?
So that’s an example of how we would redirect and still keep the patient I want to share this. When we answer the phone, we say thank you for choosing Envision Eye Care. This is Mark. May I ask your name? That’s, to the point of picking the right words, also said, thank you for calling. Thank you for choosing this is Mark. May I ask your name? Because we want to personalize it.
Bethany Fishbein: So you say this is Mark. May I ask your name? And I say, Hi, I’m Bethany.
Mark Hinton: Bethany, I’m so happy that you called. How can I help you?
Bethany Fishbein: Got it. And then it’s whatever it is that leads into you had mentioned before the idea of the name game. And this is something that after we had heard of from you, we started doing in our office. And it’s one of those things, right? It’s so obvious that it’s hard to believe this is what you teach people and it makes a difference. But on the receiving end, it makes a difference. Share what it is and how it works. And I’ll share some of the things that impacted in our practice. Super interesting!
Mark Hinton: It’s one of those things we hear one of our past presidents said nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. And in today’s world of medicine, we are pin numbers and dates of birth and we’re Mr. That and Mrs. This. But respectfully, what I should find out is how you want us to know you in the office. And it’s important to us throughout every touch point with a new team member that they’re saying, carol, we’re so happy that you’re in the office today and how’s your experience so far?
And it’s building that we also know, Bethany, that we’re going to ask them for money at the end. So people really there are a couple of things here. When I use the patient’s name, I pull them back to me immediately if they’re drifting. To give you an example, in optical, the patient makes a statement or asks a question that’s a perfect time to connect with their personal name? Well, that’s a really good question, Bethany. I’m glad you asked.
We’ve had other patients that have felt the same way. And so it’s a one to one relationship, not a retailer trying to make a sale. I am going to say this. We don’t care about the money. We don’t we’re not an off for profit, but we don’t care about the money. We care about the process. And the process is the absolute extraordinary customer service every step of the way. Master crafting every word.
To give you another example of Master Crafting, the words I could say, well, what we need you to do is this. I’m going to ask you some questions now, but I need to preface that with making it about the patient. So before we ask any questions in pretest, we look at the patient and say, Cheryl, I want you to have an extraordinary experience today, and I’m going to ask you some questions to help the doctor during the exam so that we don’t miss anything that’s important for you connecting with the patient.
Nothing’s quite as sweet as the patient hearing their own name. Patient’s name could be Patricia, and that’s what it is on her insurance card. But if we call her Patricia when we go to call her in for the exam, she may not answer because she goes by Patty and she has and everybody knows who is Patty. So we really make it a point to connect. We really make it a point to use their preferred name, an outstanding experience, and to be sure that we’re choosing the words that let them know it’s all about them.
Hey, Patty, if we found out during your exam today that you were really an excellent candidate to occasionally wear contact lenses and switch off from your glasses, would you want to know? Not would you be interested?
Bethany Fishbein: I’m sure that I am not the only optometric practice owner. Listening to this with the thought in my head of, okay, great. That all sounds lovely. I cannot imagine my staff member saying that it’s very lovely when you say it. Good job, Mark! Thank you. That sounds very, very nice. But coming from the mouth of a 20 year old pre optometry student who’s a bit of an introvert and doesn’t say much to anyone…
Mark Hinton: Yes.
Bethany Fishbein: How do I get from hearing what you’re saying to letting my staff say something that has that same impact, but sounds like it can come from them? Because I know if he said those words, it would sound like I made him say them.
Mark Hinton: Well, then it’s a matter of, okay, so using that same idea, how would you say it? So the patient felt important.
Bethany Fishbein: And they would say something like I would just ask them. If we asked them everything that they needed us to know today, something like that would be their answer.
Mark Hinton: Yeah. Well, okay, so to take it down a little bit more. We knew that there were a number of contact lens patients that either had never worn a contact lens and it was off their radar, or they tried contact lenses 20 years ago when they were 15, and they failed at it. And we know that contact lenses are advancing by the day, the week, the month. And we knew that there was a category of patients that would want to wear contact lens. So that’s the reason for that particular question.
Another way of saying that might be what sports or activities are you involved in where glasses are a little bit annoying for you? Just another way of finding out the information. So years ago, I had a young optician, and I said, so when the patient says, thank you very much, we do not say, no problem, we give grace to grace. So I said, it’s my pleasure. And I went, oh, my God, you sound like ChickFilA. And I said, thank you for noticing.
And I said, I hear from you that that’s not something that would be comfortable for you to say. And she said, no, it’s like it’s just too space. It’s too overdone. I said, I appreciate that. And I said, I agree with you. I think we learned from each other. How could you acknowledge that person without saying no problem or it’s my pleasure? And she said, for me, I might say happy to help.
And I said, I love it! I’m all in. At least we’re not at least we’re acknowledging and giving grace back to somebody that said thank you. I said, So are you good with happy to help? And she said, yeah, that’s more me. I said perfect. Then say happy to help instead of no problem. And she did.
So there’s an example for you of any of the listeners that might say, that just doesn’t sound like me. Okay, trust me. We need to weigh and measure the words that we use with people. We need to give grace to grace. We need to make sure that we get rid of ugly words. We need to lead patients where we want them to go and not ask permission to lead them there. Does that give you a pretty good example?
Bethany Fishbein: It does. It’s kind of finding that balance between I want you to say this and I know that the words really matter, and at the same time, I don’t want to give you a script because I want you to feel like yourself and I want your personality to come through at work. We hired you for your personality. So if I give you somebody else’s words, I’m taking that away a little bit.
Mark Hinton: Everybody in our office gets our words with the idea that they’re going to develop it with their own words because they don’t know where to start. They keep saying the same thing over and over again. They keep giving the same answers I’m watching capture rates fall through the roof. I’m working with practices that have capture rates today that are 24% because they don’t know the words to say to the patient when the patient says, I just want a copy of my prescription.
Well, guess what? Anybody that works on our team is getting the script, and the script is written so that you can say that script every morning five times in the mirror and every night five times in the mirror. Just say it. I don’t need you to memorize it. I don’t want you to memorize it. I want you to read it. While you’re reading it, I want you to think about what the patient is hearing, not your mouth, not your words coming out of your mouth, because they aren’t working, but what those words on those pages are saying to the patient.
What are they hearing? By the time you do that throughout the week, you have read that 50 times, and by the time you’ve read it 50 times, you have in your words how you’re going to say it, and it’s going to be way better than trying to make something up. Okay, well, just remember, if you need anything, we’re here for you. That is not a good dialogue to get the patient to say in the office when they want their prescription.
Okay, well, did you want me to give you a quote? That’s not what the patient asked for. They asked for their prescription. They think you’re too expensive. It’s not good enough to say, well, you’ve got vision plan benefits. Did you want me to go over those with you? They know that they’ve got vision plan benefits, but they know that their single vision glasses, with their vision plan benefits last time cost them $335, and they already know they can get them at Costco for 119.
So I’ve got to look at it for what it is. I’ve got to approach it for what it is. And I will tell you this. I appreciate what you said. We have listeners on the phone. We have the younger optometrists who are listening. We have some that suffer social anxiety. I get that. But the point comes where you got to recognize you got to change the way you’re saying it.
You got to step out there on that limb, on that branch, and recognize that probably most of the reason you’re not taking that chance is because you’re more fearful about what the patient is going to think than believing in what you have to provide them as their doctor. And belief is a choice, and then having the intention behind it to say, I’m going to do the right thing. And the right thing is sometimes really uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. In psychology, there’s this thing called MUS, which means made up stuff, and we make stuff up in our minds.
And I can tell you that I was so shy that I didn’t speak. Till I was four years old. I know that’s unbelievable, but it’s true. And shyness and anxiety will keep us from being our very best. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you took a chance on yourself? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you took any of those narratives, those monologues, those dialogues, and you made them better?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you recorded yourself and listened back to and went, ugh, I wouldn’t buy from either. You change it. So I am very respectful of the listeners who may say, that’s not me. I can’t say it that way. My question is, okay, but will you allow yourself to stay stuck? Because if you really measured how many patients actually purchased the sunglasses to them that you recommended instead of prescribed, and you found out it was one in ten, you would recognize that’s broken.
You got to fix it. Fix it or stay stuck. And I decided to fix it. I did. My mom decided to fix it. He’s not speaking. He’s super shy. I was afraid of the consequences. I was afraid of the shadow. I had anxiety over it. I understand it. Life’s tough. Get a helmet. And in the meantime, what you do is you begin to think, well, if I wanted to change it, if I really wanted the patients to take my advice, I would give them the facts. The sun damages eyes, and it damages it permanently, and I don’t want that for you.
And then a story. Every week in clinic, I see patients with vision loss. Or every week in clinic, I see patients with that same type of growth on their eyes that’s caused by sun damage, and it’s called a pinguecula. I don’t want that to get bigger. So what I’d like to do is for you and I to make a really good plan together so that we reduce the risk of that getting bigger, or if it’s the case of Druzen, so that we reduce the risk of you having vision loss.
And the way I do that is I prescribe your glasses with filters and treatments that reduce that risk, so we keep your eyes healthy. Does that sound like a good decision for you? That’s such a nice way to have the patient buy into the plan to include sunglasses. It shouldn’t feel anxious. It should feel empathetic. It should feel kind. It should feel caring, and there should be a level of concern behind that.
Bethany Fishbein: I think that’s such an important message for we get called in also and see those super low capture rate offices, and it’s very often not always, but often a younger doctor who is terrified of the optical department. They’re there for the glaucoma, they’re there for the diabetes. They’re there for the Ocular disease, maybe the IPL, maybe the myopia. And that’s something that they kind of have to have but are very uncomfortable. They’ll tell you, right, I’m not a salesperson. I’m very uncomfortable selling.
Mark Hinton: Yeah, you know what? Good point, Bethany, and I’m so glad that you brought that up, because in all of my practices, I work with my doctors to not look at the optical as retail and also to look to the fact if they feel like they’re selling, they’re already contributing to the selling by not prescribing and gaining the patient agreement. If it’s a recommendation, it usually turns into a handoff. That is, this is Mark, my optician. He’s going to help you with your glasses.
Oh, Lord. Now I’m going to have to sell. And that’s going to be a reflection on the doctor, and it usually leads to something like we discussed, we talked about, she might be interested in. When I go to my other doctors, they’re not afraid to tell me what I need. If I need a pacemaker, my doctor is going to say, Mark, your heart is not beating regularly. I’m going to prescribe a pacemaker.
We need to get it working right, and I’m going to go, okay, but if my doctor says, Mark, you might want to think about a pacemaker, I’ll have you talk to my assistant about it. The assistant comes in and says, Mark might be interested in a pacemaker. That’s as silly as saying, Mark might be interested in sunglasses.
So I get it. I get the uncomfortable part of the optical, the clinical oh, baby, that’s my jam. But the optical should not be considered as a retail environment. It’s a pharmacy. It’s a pharmacy for what you want filled for your patient, for the eyewear portion of their health care. Every lens, every lens treatment, every coding that you prescribe for that patient is going to help them gain an advantage or help them avoid a disadvantage.
Forget the frame part. That’s the jam for optical. And if you look at it as the optical pharmacy and you forget thinking about it as the retail aspect, you’re going to feel far more comfortable about the reason behind the why that you’re prescribing it for the patient. And it’s risky when they go elsewhere because they may not get it filled the way you want it filled.
So it is my optical expert is going to fill because the patient saw the advantage or made the decision during the exam to have it filled with the why. Well, to reduce the risk of vision loss over time and the logic so that we reduce the risk of sun damage. So I’m glad you shared that. If we simply look at our optical differently through different colored glasses, if you will, than the way we look at it now, you connect it to the medical eye part of it, and we should be looking at it as that.
If you’ve got a patient that’s developing cataracts, their acuity is going to drop. Should they continue to wear gray sunglasses while they’re developing cataracts? No. You want to now use your medical knowledge to switch them out of a gray sunglass and move them to brown sunglasses, because it’s going to heighten contrast where they’re losing contrast. It’s going to heighten acuity where they’re having acuity loss.
And as I share this, I can imagine that listeners to the podcast would say, well, this is just as important for an early AMD patient, and you would be absolutely right about that. So optical ties into medical.
Bethany Fishbein: Absolutely. And that idea that having that discussion, making optical part of the eye health treatment plan, getting alignment between you, the doctor and the patient on the treatment plan, which includes appropriate eyewear for so many of the things that patients come in with obviously refractive concerns, but also cataract and AMD as well. Having your team understand and the doctor understand that them filling that prescription is just making sure that the patient gets what they need.
Mark Hinton: Yeah. The doctor needs to think of the optician as their optical pharmacist. Their optical pharmacist not going off to Costco’s optical pharmacist, I don’t know. Or Walmart’s optical pharmacist. I don’t know if they were working on the loading doc last week or not. I don’t know if the Pupilometer is 3 mm off in each eye or not. We should be very concerned about patients taking prescriptions and having them filled elsewhere.
Bethany Fishbein: And sometimes they’re going online and they’re their own optical pharmacists.
Mark Hinton: Yeah. And they forget to add AR, and then they wonder why they can’t see out of the glasses.
Bethany Fishbein: Mark, this is so much information. Before we end the episode here, though, I don’t want to let you get away with it. You talked about all the things that you shouldn’t say when somebody asks for a copy of the prescription. What is the thing that you should say?
Mark Hinton: Carol, I hear you, and I want you happy. I would really appreciate it if you would share with us a cost range that we should be respectful of for you so that we could make your glasses. That way, you and I could both feel confident that your glasses are made exactly the way we’re prescribing them for you today without any errors or compromise. Would you permit us to do that for you?
Bethany Fishbein: What percentage of patients say, sure?
Mark Hinton: We have a 97% capture rate in our office, and every day patients ask for their prescription, but the logic in that is, oh, they’re willing to work within my price range, and, oh, they might make a mistake on my glasses. So our percentage is, if we didn’t do that, we already know that we would probably because we’re good at prescribing, we would probably be close to 60% or more, but we’re not.
We’re in the 90s. So you could imagine to give you an example, most practices that I work with that are in the mid to low 40s. They move to 75% within a week using a dialogue like that. But you have to have affordable choices in place. So that means you’ve got to be willing to buy frames at the right pricing. And we use a lot of close outs. We’re thrilled with them. They’re brand new. They’re named Brand. And maybe the power practice has opportunities for patients to be able to buy better.
And then we also have negotiated with our laboratory to use non branded, high quality progressives that are digitally processed direct surface for progressives that cost us little to nothing. And then also buying stock single vision lenses. And we don’t edge any lenses in our office, but we made an agreement with our lab to charge us an Edging charge for our single vision stock lenses that we buy for $10 a set that are Poly AR so that now we can compete with these big box stores.
What does it take? It takes ten minutes to help the patient. My profit is roughly $200. I’m happy. They’re happy. Their circumstances may change in the future to where now they want to buy our IC Berlin or our Phosphorus Bocas. And you do the due diligence. You go out and you mystery shop to find out what they’re charging. On the average, I don’t go for the low end, but on average, what’s the average for a pair of progressives and a pair of single vision at Walmart or Sam’s Club or Costco or America’s Best or Eye Mart Express?
And then you don’t have to be the lowest, but you can be in the range. And we also found that when we asked patients, what cost range should we be respectful of that we can work with? They almost always quoted higher than whatever our bundles were. And that’s what we work with.
Bethany Fishbein: Mark, thank you so much for taking the time and for doing this today. For somebody who wants to talk to you or wants to hear more from you, how does somebody get in touch with you?
Mark Hinton: Mark@eyefacilitate.com. It’s Mark with a K.
Bethany Fishbein: Awesome! And for anyone listening who wants to learn more about what we do, you can reach us at powerpractice.com. Thank you again for listening!