In today’s retail and health care marketplace, there are many opportunities to influence The Patient Journey and the decision-making process that drives patients’ choices. The goal for ODs is to help prompt both current patients and prospective patients to move forward with the vision care and eyewear that improves their quality of life.

For the majority of patients, the journey is one that’s characterized by exploration and engagement, as noted in a recent CareCredit overview of The Patient Journey. Patients typically explore a range of issues related to their vision care, their eyewear options and the overall cost of the process from exam to fulfillment, and they consider how they want to “experience” their eyecare in the most patient-friendly and simplified setting.

“The whole patient journey is more than just the purchase part of it,” said Randy Baldwin, vice president, Marketing, Specialty Industries and Retail, at CareCredit, a division of Synchrony Financial. “It’s also about how they seek care from across the optometric practice world,” he added, noting that emotion and experience also play key roles in this journey.

This is borne out in consumer research. Surveys show that 62 percent of patients research providers, treatment, products online, many prior to setting their appointment, and 67 percent research the payment options that might be available, according to the CareCredit overview. And even though a visit to an optometrist or optician is often a planned purchase, cost can still be a barrier to patients getting the care they need and the products they want. ODs and opticians can help remove cost as a barrier and attract more patients by adding information about payment options to their website.

As a result, it’s also important for ODs and dispensers to understand payment solutions early on in The Patient Journey and to develop ways to broaden the patient’s perspective on treatment recommendations and the variety of eyewear available. After patients have a clear understanding of their eyecare and eyewear needs, they are more likely to move forward with the purchase part of the journey.

After the comprehensive eyecare examination and the patients move into the dispensary, it’s important for ECPs to make patients aware of their purchasing power and their payment options so that they are more likely to fulfill the practice’s recommendations.

Increasing patients’ immediate purchasing power may help keep prescriptions in-house, and capturing just one additional patient each day at an average out-of-pocket payment of $571 (according to CareCredit averages) would generate more than $12,000 in additional revenue a month.

At the end of The Patient Journey, the practice wants to be in position to have the patient not only as a repeat visitor, but as a strong advocate for the practice. Indeed, patient satisfaction and loyalty are vital to every practice. When patients leave happy, they may be more likely to return, write positive online reviews and refer friends and family, according to the CareCredit overview of today’s health care patient journey. The firm’s research has shown that 92 percent of patients surveyed who used CareCredit to make an eyewear purchase said they are likely to purchase from that practitioner again.

Eyecare practices that have a practical understanding of The Patient Journey and utilize its key elements are in a better position to truly separate themselves from the competition, Baldwin said.