When it Comes to eCommerce, Patient and Provider Education is Key

By Stephanie Kirschbaum, OD November 09, 2015

How many of you have had patients already with an idea about which online site they will be using to order contact lenses or glasses based on the recommendation of a friend or neighbor? And when asked why, simply said the idea of cheap is appealing to them? I bet I’m not the only one.

Like many of my peers, my preference is not to have patients order glasses or contacts online. We are all well aware of the many reasons why. However, I'm also aware that there are some patients who find online shopping appealing for a number of reasons and it is my job to educate them on the pros and cons so they feel they can make a well-informed decision.

I find it incredibly important for me, as the doctor, to be a part of these conversations in addition to my staff. When it comes to ordering something as precise and refined as prescription glasses, of which I have prescribed, I want to ensure they view their glasses as a medical device first, and fashion statement second.

We are then able to take the time to walk our patients through the types of materials, quality of frame manufacturing and alignment, lens materials and designs and more. This type of education is the best tool to enlighten patients about the different things to take into consideration when thinking about purchasing glasses or contacts online. While we can retain a certain percentage of these patients, some remain adamant. So then what can we do?

One option is to let them do their own research and select the online optical site to order from and cross our fingers it is a horrible experience that drives them back to our practice with open arms, saying, “You were right!” That might be an ideal option for us, but is that the best option for the patient? And who can guarantee they’ll come back to our practice?

The option that I recommend is to do our own research to identify online optical sites that best align with how we run our practice. For me, this would be promoting the doctor as a key component of the experience, compensating the doctor for when they provide services and offering quality service and materials that become an extension of, not competition to, my own dispensary.

Obviously the most ideal way to ensure this is to create our own online optical boutiques. However, this isn’t an easy or viable option for many of us. While there aren’t many online sites out there that align with my full expectations, I have found ones that I will support and recommend as needed. In the interim, simply taking the time to be a part of the conversation, educate and inform my patients who prefer to shop online and provide great customer service will ultimately benefit both of us in the end.

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