How to Successfully Communicate Out-of-Pocket Dry Eye Treatments

Having direct communication with patients about the cost of their treatments will build trust and foster loyalty while bringing in more revenue to your practice.
out of pocket
Photo Credit: fizkes, Pond5 Images

As an independent practitioner with a flourishing dry eye clinic, communication with patients, especially when it comes to the cost of their treatments, is an important part of my job. Many patients require or request dry eye treatments, but those services aren’t always covered by insurance or vision care plans. 

To ensure optimal patient outcomes, I firmly believe in the principles of transparency and effective communication. Trust is a crucial element in any relationship, and my patients wholeheartedly place their trust in me. That’s why, right from the start, I make it a point to inform patients when a specific service or product is not covered as a benefit.

There are three key pillars to delivering a positive experience to your patients. The first is effective communication, which involves providing clear information and addressing patient concerns. The second pillar is personalized care, tailoring treatments to meet individual needs. Lastly, offering a range of options, including flexible payment plans and membership opportunities, can further enhance the patient’s experience. It is important to prioritize patient comfort and avoid pressuring them into making financial sacrifices.

Give Your Patients Time to Think
I continually strive to incorporate new technology and treatments into my practice. Currently, I offer a range of advanced procedures, such as meibography, radiofrequency, intense pulsed light (IPL), low-level light therapy (LLLT), MiBo Thermoflo, TearCare, and ZEST (Zocular Eyelid System Treatment). I am also exploring the addition of BlephEx treatments and cornea sensitivity testing with a corneal esthesiometer to further enhance the quality of care for my patients.

I have structured my office to operate like a championship team, with the doctor as the captain. Setting my staff up for success is always a priority. After going through the customized treatment plan with the patient, I briefly discuss fees and provide our service menu (applicable for all out-of-pocket services). Additionally, I inform the patient about our partnerships with various financial institutions to assist with payment options. 

I then give the patient the opportunity to either schedule their appointment or take some time to think it over. If the patient decides to schedule on the same day, I inform them that a team member will assist them with the process. They can also ask any additional questions about pricing during that time. However, if they need time to consider, we never pressure them into scheduling on the spot. We advise them to take their time and call us back when they are ready. Our aim is to establish trust and ensure that the patient doesn’t feel obligated to make a rushed decision. 

Generating Bills and Offering Payment Plans
When informing patients about the cost of services, we employ a process that also works for procedures that are billed to patients’ medical insurance plans. Using TriZetto, we generate a patient estimate of out-of-pocket costs to collect on the day of service. We inform patients that we will bill the remaining amount, and we emphasize that our estimate is based on their insurance. It’s important for patients to understand that total coverage is not guaranteed. This approach ensures transparency and clarity throughout the billing process.

In terms of payment from the patient side, we offer a variety of payment options, including CareCredit, PatientFi (usually requiring good credit for qualification), ScratchPay, and AfterPay. Additionally, for patients who require extensive treatment due to severe conditions such as ocular rosacea, we have an in-house subscription service. Patients must commit to six months, with a monthly debit of $159, and a one-time enrollment fee of $199. Currently, this program is mainly for patients with severe, long-standing dry eye. I’m in the process of opening another office in 2024, Visionary Dry Eye Institute, and we plan to convert this monthly payment program into a VIP membership. The membership will incorporate maintenance treatments and safe at-home products for better patient management and improved outcomes. 

Some Patients Don’t Invest
While we’ve been fortunate to have many of our patients sign on with us for these out-of-pocket treatments, this isn’t always the case. As a team, we approach each patient individually. We inform patients about the cost of their treatments in advance and offer them the freedom to decide whether or not to start treatment. Our various payment options are designed to accommodate each patient’s unique preferences. 

Consequently, we do have a limited number of dissatisfied patients. Nevertheless, there are occasions when patients decline treatment due to their reluctance to make an investment. We furnish them with a price sheet and explain that the treatment plan is tailored specifically to their needs. However, the choice to proceed with the treatment rests entirely with them. It is important to reiterate to these patients that their condition is chronic and progressive, and eventually, addressing the root cause will be necessary. In some instances, patients may decline treatment initially but return later when they realize that their symptoms have not improved and they are in a better financial situation to invest in their health.

Improving Patients’ Lives and Practice Profitability
Out-of-pocket dry eye services have been immensely helpful in improving the lives of many individuals. Specifically, the introduction of advanced dry eye treatment has proven to be a significant game-changer. Our patients regularly express their gratitude toward me and my team for the positive impact we have made on their lives. 

Moreover, since implementing these services in 2020, they have contributed significantly to the consistent revenue growth of my practice. In light of this success, I am now seeking to expand my reach and assist a larger number of patients who are suffering from dry eye disease. Over the last three years, I have invested nearly $200,000 in diagnostic and treatment services, and I’m now able to move my equipment to my new office, a dedicated medical suite to enhance the provision of dry eye services.

Patients are looking to you for your expertise, and that includes providing them with a price for your services. This will create a very trusting relationship and foster loyalty and confidence in your ability to change their lives.

  • Janelle Davison, OD

    Janelle Davison, OD, is an award-winning optometrist, the owner and CEO of Brilliant Eyes Vision Center in Smyrna, Georgia, and the owner and Clinical Director of Premier Dry Eye Spa & Cosmetic Eyecare. She is also the Chief Visionary Officer at Paradeyem Software, a web-based retail optical solution, and the cofounder of S.C.O.R.E., Inc., a non-profit organization that works to provide tools, skills, and guidance in education, careers, and life of young women of color interest in health care.

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