Four Steps To Incorporating Nutraceuticals Into Your Practice

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Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO

Welcome to the first in a series of real-life practical solutions you can use in your practice today. My goal in this column is to take what I’ve learned in the past 25+ years of partnership in a private suburban group practice and distill it down to easy, quick tips that you can incorporate immediately with minimal effort or change in your daily routine.

The first focus is nutraceuticals because of the immediate impact this can have. The nutraceuticals market in the U.S. reached nearly $65 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow to $102 billion by 2025. From baby boomers to millennials and everyone in between, patients want to know about the nutraceutical products that can help them live better, healthier lives. With everything that IECPs know about nutrition and ocular health, nutraceuticals should be part of your presentation about vision and the eyes.

1. Keep it simple. Do you feel the need to tell every glaucoma patient everything you know about glaucoma? Do you go into excruciating, time-consuming detail about myopia or astigmatism? Obviously not. But I have found that doctors struggle with incorporating conversations about nutrition without getting bogged down into a 15-minute conversation.

Try to keep it to four talking points:
■  The product you are recommending
■  What it does
■  Why it is different or better than others
■  How patients can get it
That’s it — the old keep it simple adage applies!

2. Don’t apologize for recommending what is best for your patient. IECPs do not hesitate to recommend antiglare technology or daily disposable contact lenses if they think that product is better for their patients. Why would you feel differently about a supplement that could benefit your patient’s ocular and overall health?

3. Use resources that you already have. Engage your staff to help you. Instruct your technician, for example, that any time a patient complains about dry eye or has a history of macular degeneration or diabetes to place a bottle of your recommended product on the counter in the exam room. Tell staff, “Please do this before you leave the room.” Then, when you walk in, there is the visual signal right in front of you to remind you to discuss nutraceuticals with the patient.

4. Embrace an opt-out versus opt-in philosophy. I learned this one at my local hair salon. As was often the case, my stylist would recommend a hair care product during my hair cut, and typically I did not buy that product. However, one time, the stylist walked me out to the front desk, picked up the product, handed it to the checkout person and said, “This is the product I recommend for Kim.” Guess what? I bought it!

Set up the dynamic that your patient must opt out of the product purchase that you have recommended. You aren’t being pushy; you are just completing the entire transaction from recommendation to handoff, just as we do with our optical patients. At the conclusion of the examination, physically hand the nutraceutical bottle that your technician previously put on your exam room counter to your “checkout” person or to whomever walks the patient to the desk.

Verbally reiterate to the staff member, in front of the patient, that you are recommending that this patient begin to take the product. You have now switched the purchase of that product to an opt-out dynamic; the patient will either purchase the product or have to verbally decline. Much more frequently, IECPs are waiting for the patient to opt in proactively to purchase the product. This subtle difference in approach can have a huge impact. Implement a few of these tips today and watch the results!

Dr. Friedman is a partner in a private practice in Moorestown, New Jersey. She also serves on the HEA National Advisory Board. Look for her Success Made Simple column in each issue of HEA Solutions.

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