4 tips to get more pediatric patients through your door

August 8, 2018
Attracting and keeping patients takes more than word-of-mouth—and a year-round, multi-communication channel push is required.

Excerpted from page 20 of the July/August 2018 edition of AOA Focus.

Need to get the word out about the top-notch pediatric eye and vision care services your practice can deliver? A 2017 survey by InfantSEE®, a public health program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, may provide some pointers.

InfantSEE asked parents how they learned about the program that provides no-cost initial eye assessments by doctors of optometry to children age 6 months to 12 months. The top three responses were: current patients (48%), family friends (22%) and referrals (10%).

"People trust their friends and social circle and are more apt to follow through with a personal recommendation than one from social media," says Mary Gregory, O.D., who practices at Uptown Eye Care in Monticello, Minnesota.

Jennifer Zolman, O.D., chair of the AOA's InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee, who practices in Charleston, South Carolina, adds, "Patients and their parents are our biggest assets."

Dr. Gregory serves on the committee with Dr. Zolman and both are quick to say that attracting and keeping patients takes more than word-of-mouth-and a year-round, multi-communication channel push is required. Doctors can start by becoming an InfantSEE provider and getting access to several resources. They also will receive a special InfantSEE provider designation in the AOA's Find a Doctor locator that will promote their practice. AOA Marketplace provides useful resources as well.

Use these tips to get more young patients to your practice.

1. Be prepared.

At Dr. Zolman's practice, doctors and staff share informational folders with patients who mention children and grandchildren. The folder contains an InfantSEE pamphlet and a vision simulator card (from the Ohio Optometric Association). "Make sure staff are well-versed on your practice's services," Dr. Zolman says. Whether it's handing out folders or helping contribute to a team managing a practice's social media, "having staff involved is a huge part of it," she says.

2. Be strategic about your social media.

Facebook and Instagram are great places to catch the attention of and educate information-hungry parents, the doctors say. "Had the best time giving sweet little Rosie her first eye exam!" read an Instagram post by Dr. Zolman's practice. "The AOA recommends scheduling your baby's first eye assessment at 6 months to ensure healthy visual development." Using photos of patients, with their approval, makes eye care 'real' to the public," Dr. Zolman says.

Dr. Gregory urges doctors to follow up and track what efforts are producing the most results.

3. Be open to leaving the office and going into the community.

Talk to parent groups, nurses, child care providers and physicians. "Our largest referral source for the program is our local pediatricians," Dr. Gregory says. "They include the information about the program in their well-child visits. This brings into our clinic many new families as well as educates our current patients who are new parents. Once they are in for the infant eye assessment, we make sure we explain why this no-cost assessment is so important to ensuring the proper development of their child. We also let them know that we will send our assessment information back to their clinic, so it is in the child's health record. This shows that we are coordinating care with the pediatrician and that we are part of their children's health care team."

4. Create welcoming, kid-friendly spaces in the office.

"We have a children's space in the waiting room with a colorful wall mural and toys for them to play with," Dr. Gregory says. "We also include toys and children's books in each exam room. I have outlet covers on all electrical outlets in the exam rooms. This shows parents you have thought through having children in your space and are welcoming them. Another aspect to consider in making your patients feel welcome is the greeting and reaction from your staff. Our staff comment on the babies when they are checking in and often start conversations with the parents about their children. This adds to the environment and impression you are creating for your new patients."

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