Leaving Fruits of Young Trees: Connecting with the Land and Community

On a recent Sunday afternoon, my husband and I toured Coastal Roots Farm, a local farm that is unique to our area along the southern California coastline. According to their vision statement they “envision a world in which every community comes together to grow and share healthy food, care for the land, help their neighbors, and strengthen the connections they have with each other.”

Coastal Roots Farm is inspired by ancient Jewish traditions that connect people to community, food, the land, and social justice. They donate 70% of all that is grown to feed those in need in the community and sell the remaining 30% at their local farmstand.

During the tour we learned about the concept of “orlah” which means “leaving fruits of young trees.” Orlah requires waiting to harvest fruit for a tree’s first three years, and donating the harvest in the fourth year. In ancient Judaism, the fourth year’s fruits were considered holy and designated for those who were landless and social or religious servants. Orlah teaches us to care for the trees and allow them to establish deep roots before concentrating on production. It encourages farmers to value trees as more than a means to an end of consumption. The farm recently produced its fourth year of grapes from the vineyard and donated it to a local winery to share in community events. Next year is their fifth year growing and they will cultivate and sell the fruit for the first time.

Especially at this time of year, it is a good reminder of giving back to the earth to nourish the soil, being grateful for the bountiful harvest and sharing with those less fortunate.


Maintaining Traditions and Exploring the Future of Ophthalmology at ASCRS

It has been at least 20 years since I attended my first conference of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ASCRS) and I haven’t missed a single year since.

What makes it so special? The conference attracts physicians and practice administrators from all over the world who attend to learn the latest advancements in ophthalmic diagnostics and treatments, as well as best practices for delivering care to patients. It also gives us a chance to meet informally with our clients from all over the country.

The team at Matt Jensen Marketing is proud to support many of the industry’s leaders in ophthalmology, helping them to spread awareness of new technology, clinical studies and procedures. This year, several members of the MJM staff (including myself, Matt Jensen and Logan Wang) will be presenting at ASCRS and the joint American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA) Conference. Our topics include:

  • Can My Practice Afford Another High-Tech Device?
  • Creating a Winning Culture
  • Measuring What Matters: Create a HIPAA Compliant Patient Satisfaction Survey with Compelling Data
  • Innovating the Patient Experience: Five Ways Private Practices Create Raving Fans

The mission of ASCRS is “to advance the art and science of ophthalmic surgery and the knowledge and skills of ophthalmic surgeons by providing clinical and practice management education and by working with patients, government, and the medical community to promote the delivery and advancement of high-quality eye care.”

Our MJM team is proud to be a part of this organization now and for many years to come.


How Will a CLEAR Review Help You Drive Success?

The CLEAR Review is MJM’s proprietary management optimization curriculum. It is a modular, customizable approach to reviewing your entire operation and improving your practice. What does this mean for you?

  • More patients, and happier patients
  • Engaged staff members who truly enjoy their job
  • A streamlined and understandable process
  • Positive awareness of your practice throughout the community
  • Reporting techniques that will assist you in navigating future changes
  • And, most importantly, a true team approach to the patient experience

The CLEAR Review creates the opportunity for MJM to spend time at the practice and benchmark performance and current standards using our 21-module system. The deliverable of a CLEAR Method Review is a robust write-up that offers feedback and an action plan to enhance patient experiences based on a customized approach.

We believe operational improvements to the patient experience are the most vital opportunity available to practices to improve surgical volumes, increase patient satisfaction, and create an engaged staff.

If you’re ready to take an in depth analysis of your Culture, Logistics, Patient Experience, Awareness in your marketplace and Reporting, the CLEAR Review can maximize opportunities to grow your practice.

How Do We Contribute to Our Community?

In light of recent events, such as devastating hurricanes, social unrest, political divisiveness and a mass shooting incident, I’ve been thinking about  community and what it really means.

There are multiple interpretations of the word community. The Business Dictionary defines it as a:

  1. Self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources.
  2. Cluster of common interests that arise from association.

At a time where the country seems to be at odds, how do we come together as a community to bring order, peace and assistance to those in need?

One solution could be recommitting to a community value system. Values have major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in our lives.

We’ve witnessed examples of great deeds, where groups or individuals have come to the aid of others suffering from tragedies. I’d like to think that each of us can contribute to the overall good of our communities. There is a higher purpose when we can see beyond our own immediate needs to help others.

In the coming months, I hope we will use these incidents of terror and devastation to find ways that we can contribute, share ideas and build a community value system that honors and defends non-negotiable core principles that recognize all individuals and bring us together. I’ve created a list of things that I can do and I hope you will create your list, too.

How I’m Committing to Serving My Community:

  • Making donations and encourage others to donate resources, food and supplies to hurricane victims.
  • Donating time to a charitable organization that helps in disaster relief or community programs.
  • Becoming proactive to support legislative change.
  • Looking for common ideas and shared values—encouraging people to see what brings us together, rather than what divides us.

The Importance of Branding in the Medical Practice

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

Branding in a Medical Context

How does this relate to a medical practice? Our patients today have access to more information than ever before to help them make a decision as to whom they choose for their medical procedure. There are markets and target audiences for everything but it’s your job as a medical practitioner to be crystal clear about the image for which you’re aiming and how that influences everything from services performed to pricing to patient experience.

Maria Ross, in Develop Your Brand Voice, Three Keys to Killer Messaging says, “The goal of the brand-building game is to get prospects to know, like and trust you so that when the need for your product or service arises – when they are most ready to buy – they think of you first.”

According to Laura Lake in What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy?, the objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes user loyalty

To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions.

Branding and Social Media

How does social identity affect your brand? A patient’s first encounter with a physician is often through its online presence. 90% of 18 to 24 year olds surveyed said they would trust medical information shared by others on social media networks. 41% of patients said that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility. 60% of doctors say social media improves quality of care that patients receive. Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.

Creating and establishing a brand takes time and effort. Maria Ross offers:

“Brand is a three-legged stool: It is conveyed visually, verbally and experientially. Visually is the easy part: your logo, your colors, your design, your packaging. Verbally is how you talk, what you say, and which messages you convey. For example, do you lead with price, or do you lead with value? Does your company speak in conservative, authoritarian tones, or are you more playful and whimsical in your copy? Ideally, your visual and verbal promises should align and lead to where the rubber hits the road: experience. In other words, once you’ve promised me the potential customer or client, something verbally and visually, does the experience match that promise?”

A Consistent Brand Builds Trust

Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Look to what you do know about the very essence of your practice and emulate that in a simple statement that can guide your brand in every aspect of your business. Be consistent and use that brand to define the visual image, verbal communication and the patient experience in all encounters.

If you fall short in maintaining the customer promise of your brand at any stage, the relationship and implied trust will be at risk. Instead, create the best possible experience for your patients and establish a long-lasting brand that will work for you.

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Ophthalmic Practice Strategic Drivers for 2016

In an ever-changing healthcare arena, what can we count on to drive business in 2016?

Let’s focus on seven areas we can grow new and returning patient visits to drive revenue. First and foremost we focus on the patient experience to build trust, confidence and evangelists for your brand.

1. Patient experience

Increased focus and development of the premium patient experience for elective surgery/refractive surgery patients.

Hopefully, we all measure patient satisfaction on a regular basis. But is this enough? What do we do to foster continued staff development as it relates to our patient experience? If you haven’t reviewed your patient experience cycle, it’s time to do it. Map each and every patient interaction, from your marketing materials, to the patient’s first call, first visit and each point of contact with your staff. Use this as a means to discuss how to deliver exceptional world-class patient experiences at every stage of the process.

2. Internal referrals

Tactics for generating referrals between various specialties, including eye exams, optical, LASIK, KAMRA and other services.

We should all be tracking referral sources so we know where our patients are coming from. The most valuable and cost effective source is word of mouth referral. Compare year over year reports for referral sources and look for opportunities to develop new relationships and build community awareness. Leverage cross referrals through patient newsletters, blogs and social media to keep services and procedures top of mind

3. Optometric referrals

Ongoing build-out of OD relationship tools.

Using your referral sources reporting, compare year over year revenues coming from optometric and professional referrals. Based on your results, look for opportunities to build relationships, offer continuing education, refresh print materials and communication methods (eg. newsletters; email blasts, etc.) and keep providers up to date on services.

4. Strategic consumer marketing

Updated strategies for ongoing community awareness/marketing communications.

Before embarking on a marketing plan for 2016, make sure you have a clear understanding of your goals and expectations for the year. If you’re looking for a 5% increase in elective procedures, that you expect to come from new procedures or technology, you need to quantify how many new leads that is, to convert to consults and then surgeries. This will help you plan your marketing efforts and target the audience you want to reach.

Once you know your volume goals, refine your message consistent with your brand identity and determine which media is the best combination to communicate your message. Don’t overlook social media, websites, review sites and custom video to help get your services in front of the consumer. Highly targeted campaigns can help reduce your cost per lead. In some markets radio, tv and print can still be highly effective

5. Digital marketing strategy refresh

In 2016, MJM recommends an increased focus and budget for digital initiatives to increase targeted awareness of practice offerings.

It may seem like a foreign language to some, but social media continues to grow and can be similar to word of mouth referral in younger age groups. We also can’t overlook that the 55+ market is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. The added benefit is being able to carefully target, or in some cases retarget, individuals interested in our services. With Google retargeting, you can place ads that will show up when someone who has previously been to your website searches on other topics. You know they are interested in vision care and can keep your message in front of that particular consumer.

Email marketing continues to provide opportunities to send patient newsletters and updates on new products/procedures to our patient base. If you are not currently collecting all patient’s emails and asking their permission to contact them, you should start now.

6. Increased patient word-of-mouth

Create ongoing communication mechanisms with current patients, ODs, and staff that equip them to share practice offerings with others.

In the review generation, there’s not a product or service that can’t be found on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo, Angie’s List or some review site. While many of these charge for their service or make it difficult for patients to leave a review, we recommend everyone have a presence on Google+, Yelp, Facebook and Yahoo. How do you grow reviews on these sites? Patients are often thrilled with the results of their procedures and vision treatments and are happy to share their experience with others. At the post-operative visit, when you have an ecstatic patient, all you need to do is say, “If you’re happy with your results, the greatest compliment you can give is to share your experience with others.”  Then hand them a card with the review sites that you’re on, and explain how they can write a review.

Make sure you have someone dedicated on your staff to report on reviews and be ready to respond if someone does not provide a favorable review. It’s better to know what people are saying about you and give you the chance to respond or correct a problem, than to have negative word of mouth in your marketplace.

7. Follow-up actions for patients who did not schedule

You can only improve on what you measure. It is important to report on conversion of leads to appointments and appointments to surgeries. This can help identify issues within your processes or show what you are doing really well. Once you report on conversion, you can reach out to patients who did not move forward to surgery and help them make an informed decision. The key is uncovering obstacles and seeing how we can eliminate them as a concern. Often data can provide reassurance when fear holds someone back from surgery and financing options can eliminate cost barriers.

If you’re not doing everything you can to build your business in 2016, you’ll likely be affected by reduced reimbursements and fewer elective procedures. Contact MJM to see how we can help partner to manage your way to a successful New Year!

A Contemporary LASIK Patient

Millennials are the key targeted demographic market for the procedure.

Oh, for the good old days when you could track LASIK volumes based on the Consumer Confidence Index and feel pretty secure knowing that the number of procedures would increase or hold stable. Market Scope estimates the 2013 refractive surgery procedural volume—including LASIK, surface ablation, phakic IOLs, and refractive lens exchange—to be 602,000 (counting procedures performed in Mexico and Canada). This represents a 6.6% decline from 2012. The first quarter of this year was affected by winter storms across the Midwest and eastern United States, and although consumers’ confidence is on the rise and the economy is recovering, LASIK volumes are still lagging.

What Influences Refractive Surgery Volume?

What outside factors are affecting the volume of refractive surgery procedures being performed? Is everything relevant being measured? How do current conversion rates compare with those in the past? According to Market Scope, only 45% of survey respondents in the fourth quarter of 2013 were tracking conversions. Of those practices measuring conversion rates, there was a 5% decline in “call-to-consultation” conversions compared with the fourth quarter of 2012 and a 7% decline in consultations to surgery.

Considering that Millennials (individuals born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) are the key targeted demographic market for LASIK, what has changed? Underemployment is an issue, because baby boomers are staying longer in the workforce and Millennials are competing for jobs. Many Millennials delay employment, opting for more education rather than accepting entry-level positions. By the time they enter the job market, they are burdened with student debt and hesitant to increase it by financing elective medical treatments. The choice to have refractive surgery is no longer a decision on how to spend disposable income but rather a decision on how to meet one’s commitments when the economy and one’s employment status may change at any time.

Other Challenges

Advertising strategies have changed due to new online and social media choices. Millennials seem to enjoy customizing their TV and radio preferences by using online options that allow them to watch and listen to content when they want and how they want—with limited commercial interruptions. The marketing arena is in flux, making it challenging to reach consumers and potential patients for elective procedures.

Additionally, Millennials are not motivated by the same factors as their predecessors, Generation Xers and boomers. Culturally, Millennials value technology differently, and how they choose to communicate is different. They also demand transparency. (Do not minimize LASIK’s potential risks, because these patients will do their research and will not trust providers who do not point out risks.) The freedom and convenience of LASIK may not resonate as well with Generation Y as with members of previous generations, and Millennials may need more information to convince them of the procedure’s benefits. A cost analysis of a lifetime of glasses versus LASIK, for example, may help them to see value in the procedure.

Fighting Back

How are refractive practices responding? One is promoting a “LASIK tomorrow” credit from their optical department at the time of the purchase of eyeglasses and contact lenses. It offers the patient a $1,000 credit toward LASIK for up to 3 years after the eyeglass sale as an incentive to save for the procedure at a later date.

Joanna Chmiel, administrator at Kraff Eye Institute in Chicago, is “recommitting” to LASIK and using this opportunity to train staff on communication, the value proposition, and the patient’s experience. All of this has improved conversion rates. “Our practice has always been very committed to laser vision correction,” she says. “Current times require an attitude of recommitting to LASIK, as it is a great procedure! With no disrespect to other ocular procedures and all of the technological developments, including laser cataract surgery, we have strongly maintained our ‘eye on the ball’ in terms of educating patients and prospects on the advantages of LASIK. Many factors in today’s economy are outside of our control, so let’s control what we can!”

Ms. Chmiel says:

  • We can always be a step ahead of the competition by providing a stellar customer experience at all times.
  • We can make a strong effort to maintain and grow comanaging and referral relationships.
  • We can, and need to, truly understand a contemporary LASIK patient and place our message/promote our brand exactly where that patient is looking for it.

According to Ms. Chmiel, all of the aforementioned can only be done by a committed team who lives this vision every day, from staff in the trenches, through management, to the doctors and surgeons.

Practices are also reallocating marketing budgets from radio and TV to website and Internet marketing. Market Scope reported that the average per-procedure advertising spending dropped to $171.73 in Q4 2013 compared to $212.82 in Q3. Surgeons responding to the survey rated Internet search advertisements as the most effective form of advertising. TV and radio followed with social networks close behind. Review sites, the new word-of-mouth referral source, were not listed but are definitely an important tactic in the social network arena.


Current trends suggest that surgeons and their staff must carefully consider whether their practices are positioned to serve the Millennial market in a tailored way. Exuberant testimonials from patients confirm that LASIK is still an offering that resonates with active adults who enjoy the benefits of unencumbered vision.

New technologies (see What Is Next?) may create media buzz, renew the population’s interest in refractive procedures, and increase the market with presbyopic treatments. Relatively flat to moderate growth, however, may be expected for the next 5 years.

View this article as a PDF, here.

Cindy Haskell, COE, is head coach at Spectacle Network, providing national data and usage trends of advanced technology to improve patient outcomes. She helps practices more rapidly adopt those technologies that serve their patients best. She acknowledged no financial interest in the products or companies mentioned herein. Ms. Haskell may be reached at