December 1, 2020
By Steve Vargo, OD, MBA
Myopia management is a fantastic service that brings a high value to many children and can be a lucrative addition to your service offerings. However, there are some challenges to getting parents and children to buy in. These challenges are not unique to myopia management and are quite common when selling or promoting any product or service that consumers (health care consumers in this case) lack familiarity with.
Here are some of the most common objections people have to purchasing products or services they are unfamiliar with. This is by no mean a one-size-fits-all approach, but if you’re struggling with getting patients to say yes to myopia management, experiment with some of these ideas.
I’m Not Curious
“I talk to patients all the time about XYZ service, but they won’t commit.”
I hear this frequently from optometrists attempting to add specialty services such as myopia management. When I inquire about their approach, most optometrists usually tell me how they spend a lot of time educating patients on the benefits of the service.
If you’re leading with information or claims about value and benefits, you’re skipping a critical step: Curiosity.
Curiosity is a precursor to a lot of our decisions, including health care decisions. When people become curious, they become interested in learning more. When we stimulate curiosity in someone, they often respond with questions of their own and a greater willingness to listen and engage with what we’re saying. An effective way to stimulate curiosity is to ask questions that get people wondering about potential solutions to problems. Here are a few examples:
I see your prescription has gotten considerably higher every year. Does this concern you?
I see you play baseball and hockey. What problems might this create for you with sports?
What concerns do you have about your child’s visual function as they get older?
Instead of directing a patient or parent on what to do (which often elicits resistance), you should first pique their curiosity, which will encourage them to start wondering, Should I be concerned about this? How can this doctor help?
When a patient/parent starts asking you questions, you know you’re on the right path.
Once patients become curious about how you can help, they are more open to hearing about solutions. Don’t overcomplicate the message. Doctors pride themselves on the amount of education and information they provide, using many words and terminology unfamiliar to patients. While education is important, it can sometimes be counterproductive if it results in confusion.
In the words of renowned author Robert Cialdini, whose specialty is the power of persuasion, “Confused people don’t buy anything.” Scientists who study consumer behavior have discovered that lack of clarity and certainty often prevents people from purchasing. When we’re confused, we associate this with greater risk.
I propose that your initial myopia management presentation to a patient or parent be delivered in three minutes or less. I know you’re thinking, No way! There’s so much information I need to share! If I don’t fully educate my patients, they won’t have all the information they need!
Don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity to share whatever information you deem necessary, but on the initial presentation include only the most relevant and compelling information necessary. Keep it very simple, then invite the patient to ask questions.
Don’t force people to listen to you; make them want to hear more information. Once the patient commits to the next steps, you or a tech can provide more detail, but initially tighten your message to make a simple but compelling case for change. Don’t go for the “big close” right away; just keep the conversation moving forward.
I Don’t Feel Involved
Today’s consumer wants to be involved in decisions that impact their vision and health. This is especially true of a younger generation accustomed to having choices and options. When treatment plans are dictated to patients, they feel uninvolved. In fairness, when our focus is on the treatment and not the person, this is understandable.
It’s ok to be assertive as a clinician, but we have to balance that with people’s core psychological need to be in control. Studies have shown that when patients do not feel involved with their care, they are more likely to regret their choices and less likely to stick with treatment regimens.
People are wired for resistance. We don’t like being told what to do, and a common reaction is to discredit new information and claims. Human beings are naturally skeptical.
Myopia management is almost always an option, but if you’re pushing too hard for this option you may evoke resistance. It’s typically better to present options and let the patient decide, but instead of dictating care, you become the trusted voice helping guide patients to the best outcome.
Comfort is the enemy of change. Change has a cost, usually in the form of time or money. If we’re relatively comfortable with our current status, we’re less motivated to pay that cost.
For services such as myopia management, doctors often focus on value and benefits, but where that fails you might find more success in focusing on the cost of inaction.
I once read a story about a financial advisor who would gently remind clients every month how much they were losing by keeping money in a savings account versus investments. Over time, hundreds of dollars became thousands. These increasing losses made the clients uncomfortable and more likely to take action.
Making people feel uncomfortable is not always bad if it gets them to make changes that benefit their vision, health or quality of life.
Many of your patients are likely hearing about myopia management for the first time and may be skeptical about what they’re hearing. What’s the best way to overcome skepticism? Proof!
You can make claims all day long, but the decision-making part of the brain doesn’t like taking risks and wants proof before taking action.
Proof always trumps claims, so this is the time to share all the great results you’ve gotten with other patients. You can also share research or industry data, but patients want assurance that you can deliver results.
If you can pique people’s curiosity, deliver a clear and compelling message, give the patient a sense of control over outcomes, create some discomfort that motivates change and overcome skepticism, I think you’ll find greater success with myopia management or any other service you seek to add.
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA serves as an optometric practice management consultant for IDOC. A published author and speaker with more than 15 years of clinical experience, he is now a full-time consultant advising optometrists in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. His latest book, Prescribing Change, is available on Amazon. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.