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Could a patient loyalty scheme like this work for independent practices? We would like to hear your views on why or why not.
01. Black & Lizars introduced a patient loyalty initiative called the Black Card around 18 months ago
As a large Scottish optical group, we have always been very focused on having the right technology in our practices to make sure that we can look after our patients in the best possible way. However, when we were talking to customers, there were an increasing number of add-on options after the NHS sight test and it had begun to get more and more difficult to make that work on a day-to-day basis without it looking like the eye examination was a shopping list.
As a result, we decided that we wanted to package all of these benefits, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and Optomap, together in a way that allowed us to say to our patients: “We are going to look after you and offer you a complete package in managing your eye care.” This is why we established the Black Card.
02. Since the Black Card was first introduced, we have slowly rolled it out across the group, taking a one-practice-at-a-time approach
Today, while the Black Card is not available in all of our 24 practices, it is available in most. The reason for this is that, due to size, not all our practices have the same level of technology installed. Therefore, some of our smaller stores that do not have OCT, for example, will refer patients to the nearest store that does, if required.
We initially piloted the Black Card in our Giffnock practice in Glasgow. The Giffnock practice was selected as the first store primarily because optometrist Colin Black was practising there and it is one of our flagship stores.
Colin has since retired from practice, but the patients have stayed and moved to other optometrists. The take-up of the Black Card has been particularly high in this practice due to both the value of the offer and high colleague engagement.
"We tend to find that the type of patient who particularly benefits from the offer is one with more complex eye conditions. They appreciate that we take a little longer with them"
03. There are two versions of the Black Card: an eye care scheme and a contact lens scheme.
We have patients in every practice who are on Direct Debit for contact lenses and we have a version of the Black Card that is tailored specifically for them. This scheme includes the same level of technology that our eye care card holders receive, but it gives us the ability to make up a basic pair of spectacles for them annually free of charge.
04. Overall, the take-up of the Black Card has been really positive, with more than 15% of patients in our Fenwick Road practice becoming members.
From our point of view, the main benefits of the Black Card is the clinical service that it gives patients access to.
Their eye examination is inclusive of all of the technology that we have, be it OCT, Optomap or corneal topography – basically, anything that we need to do, we do for those patients at no extra fee. Black Card patients also receive longer appointment times. Because of this, we tend to find that the type of patient who particularly benefits from the offer is one with more complex eye conditions. They appreciate that we take a little longer with them and really like that.
From the patient’s point of view, there are also financial benefits to joining the scheme, with savings on all optical products – their spectacles, a pair of non-prescriptions sunglasses, macular supplements and eye drops. Whatever they are buying, there will be a discount in practice. We also offer breakage cover on their spectacles, as well as discounts on any specialist clinics, such as macular screening or colorimetery.
05. In terms of expanding the Black Card, we are currently looking at adapting the offer for our corporate clients.
There is certainly room to grow and develop the scheme in the future, both in terms of adding benefits and adapting existing benefits for specific patients. As a result, we are always reflecting on and evolving the scheme. We feel there is an opportunity to offer businesses an eye care benefit to employees as this will benefit both health and corporate responsibility.
Due to the size of the company, we are small enough that we can make those changes quite easily, but large enough that we have a support team in place to make it work.
In my role, I make sure that our clinical services are as good as they can be. My aspiration is that we use all the technology and knowledge that we have at our fingertips to treat our patients as well as we possibly can in order to keep them coming back for more.