Have you ever thought your practice isn’t keeping up with modern digitisation? It can be hard to maintain the pace of change, yet patients are raising their expectations every year — something you can learn more about here. This is true of presbyopes just as much as it is of younger people. In fact, recent Ofcom figures show record numbers of older generations starting to embrace smart and social technology. A quarter of over-75s using tablet computers, and half of baby boomers are using social media to stay in touch. This means they are shopping around and checking out their own health information: our older patients are better informed than ever.
So, what does this mean for the world of optometry? Read on to find out more about what this means for your business, and discover some practical ways to adapt.
An adoption of technology
Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report has revealed a striking growth in older people’s use of technology in the last few years. Baby boomers aged 65 to 74 are increasingly connected, with four in ten using a smartphone — up 11% in a year. There has also been a sharp rise in over-75s using tablets, from 15% to 27%. And the use of smartphones among this age group has nearly doubled.
So, we know older consumers are becoming more tech-savvy, and you will also be aware that optics has a continually changing landscape, especially when it comes to digital. There is more competition, but there are also amazing opportunities in new technology to help you get more new patients through the door. For the early retiree who loves their tablet or mobile phone and the use of online communication tools, a high-tech practice can offer a dual appeal. These time-rich, affluent, and well-informed potential patients are keen to know about the your latest equipment and how it will benefit them. They will relish the chance to see the cell layers of the retina or compare photographs of their eye from eye test to eye test — because it plays to their adoption of technology.
This digital adoption clearly relates to the continuing advancements of technologies both in the optometry industry. We know that cutting-edge equipment is becoming more common-place in high street opticians, for instance, and this gives enormous diagnostic and monitoring power to the optometrist. For example, manual subjective vision testing is being replaced by digital test charts and automated phoropters, and fundus photography has become standard across many practices.
The next big ticket item we see as becoming the norm is optical coherence tomography (OCT). Many independent and multiple practices across the UK have already invested in this piece of kit: changing the way ECPs analyse the retina, optic disc, and anterior segment structures. This is digital data that optometrists can use to convey eye health information to the consumer in a much more visual and accessible way — ideal, then, when trying to meet modern consumer expectations.
Have you thought about the promotional tools that could work best for your practice? Perhaps you have been using the same reliable company to mailshot your local area for years, or maybe you’ve always advertised in a local paper or magazine. These traditional marketing methods have worked well for many years but we now know that even the 55+ age group is getting more and more information online, via mobiles and tablets. So, the time is nigh for every independent optical practice to check out new methods of marketing — otherwise you may run the risk of becoming crowded out by the plethora of online messages.
Other practices are already taking advantage of online promotion via social media, or digital window displays that really catch the eye. New promotional activities offer you an amazing chance to develop your business in new and fresh ways, appealing to younger and older customers alike.
Addressing customer needs
Cast your mind back 10 or 20 years and you’ll know that eye care today has been totally transformed. Patients are becoming aware of these changes too, with major chains’ advertisements highlighting retinal photography and digital dispensing devices.
Taking the digital dispensing device, such as our Visioffice 2, as one example, this comes with a realm of opportunity for eye care professionals to offer a new and extended service to presbyopes. Those in their forties, fifties and beyond are the ones who will receive most benefit from lenses that have been optimised to their head and eye position. Why? Well, take into account the exact frame that they have chosen and the production of a final pair of spectacles with minimal thickness and distortion. This is the demographic who need real continuity of care when it comes to their eyes. And, what better way to facilitate than fitting them with the most suitable lens tailored to their needs.
The theatre of the digital measurement process will appeal to some people, the technology to others, but either way it gives you and your team the chance to explain the benefits and value of a superior lens mapped to a patient's unique Eyecode.
Any presbyope is likely to see the advantages of investing in a good pair of spectacles that they will wear on a daily basis, especially if you compare it to the cost of other items that are important to them. How does the cost of a pair of specs weigh up compared to the golf club membership, your visits to the hairdresser for a cut and colour, or even your daily latte? Remember, this is the demographic that are most likely to have disposable income, so use that knowledge and assumption to your advantage. Discover what motivates your presbyopic patients, and tie the benefits of their new specs into it: a better score for your next round of golf, attractive frames to go with a new hairstyle, or better lens coatings that won’t steam up.
By developing a personal relationship, through offering unique lenses, you are adding to the reasons that your patients will remain with your practice — combatting the 21st century desire to shop around. However much technology advances, the one thing that will never change is patients wanting health care advice from a professional they trust. As people enter presbyopia and are faced with the need to buy specs for the first time such as varifocals, they may be shopping around, they may feel baffled, and they might not know what to look for. It’s your job to help educate them, and a personal consultation in a high-tech environment can put them at ease. It’s even better if you can guide them through the entire process with a seamless system of online booking, reminders, and impressive digital equipment fit for test-runs. Complementing an approach in both the testing room and the dispensing areas really embraces the latest in optical advances, and is something every patient will feel confident by.
At Essilor, we want to show that the modern patient behaves and prioritises very differently from even 10 years ago. Our older patients are becoming technologically aware, too. So much so that they’re willing to invest in smart phones and tablets. And this gives every independent eyecare practitioner the chance to demonstrate how technology advancements have brought eye care and eye wear on in leaps and bounds. By developing the patient’s perception of value, and highlighting the benefits to each individual, this can allow you to develop loyal customers who are willing to increase their spend for their perfect product.
As such, now is the time to consider what technology you could introduce to your practice to take advantage. For more information regarding upgrading your practice, our Bespoke service is something you might want to consider. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more consumer advice on growing your practice, head on over to Optical Industry Advice: our dedicated resource just for you.