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Author: Kristian Kiamos

23 July 2021

The Frictionless Patient Journey: How it Benefits Optical Practices

The demand for optical businesses to raise their online profile and offer omnichannel services has increased over time. However, COVID-19 undoubtedly has accelerated that shift. According to data from the Vision Council in April 2021 (1), about 14% of consumers were buying spectacles online and 10% would be willing to book a telehealth eye exam during the pandemic. Part of this group plans to continue using telehealth services as well as ordering glasses and contact lenses online.

Other impressive stats on the digitalization of optical services comes from Fittingbox, a virtual eyewear try-on (VTO) service used 54 million times in 2020, this figure is three times higher than the previous year. 77% of these VTOs were accounted for through optical retailers, and 10% were done for pure internet players or e-commerce-centered companies. In 2021, Fittingbox expects to surpass the 100 million VTOs mark, a 265% jump from the same period in 2020 (2).

These numbers indicate how the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the omnichannel approach to the forefront of the optical industry, moving from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a business necessity. So why would an omnichannel strategy be an ideal fit for an optical business? Ocuco’s OmniChannel Director Andy Chance-Hill explains that “an omnichannel approach involves creating a consistent experience for the patient, across every touchpoint of the optical journey. Creating an omnichannel experience involves finding patients online and bringing them into your store, both virtually and physically (3).”

"Omnichannel integrates digital tools, such as online booking, eCommerce, teleconsultations, virtual try-on with the in-store exams and services and the PMS, creating a frictionless end-to-end service. As the name suggests, it offers a smooth and efficient journey to patients."

In the foreseeable future, practices will leave behind the concept that an eCommerce website is an independent arm of a business, tailored to interact with online customers only. At the same time, the idea that practice management systems (PMS) are solely for instore management is also likely to become redundant.

Synchronicity will be the key to success: the online customer journey steps, such as online booking, VTO, online ordering, will blend with the in-person part of the path, with the likes of eye exams and dispensing. Sooner than you can imagine, your Practice Management System (PMS) will centralize all services in a single backend for a seamless patient experience and optimized practice management.

The frictionless patient journey

Omnichannel integrates digital tools, such as online booking, eCommerce, teleconsultations, virtual try-on with the in-store exams and services and the PMS, creating a frictionless end-to-end service. As the name suggests, it offers a smooth and efficient journey to patients, removing all the roadblocks that might impede a patient from completing the customer journey and alleviates the likelihood of a negative impression along the way (4).

According to Gartner Marketing Research from 2021 (5), “frictionless omnichannel experiences need to go beyond just buying online, in-store pickup and curbside pickup, and enable a truly seamless experience for selling, serving, fulfilling and delivering.”

This ideal service for the optical industry in the future would allow patients to book appointments from a mobile device, pre-fill intake forms prior to arriving in practice, request teleconsultations, review and select frames online in advance of a visit, click and collect and a variety of other services that require a unified collaboration between multiple systems.

The traditional approach offers these services by connecting OmniChannel products to the existing Practice Management System (PMS) using a data exchange interface. This usually works well when the online facing element is a relatively straightforward step, such as booking an appointment. However, as online services increase in scope, the complexity multiplies. Consider, for instance, the relatively simple case of booking appointments online. Ideally, both PMS and online appointment booking systems should be connected in real-time, exchanging information about the appointment and the patient.

Figure 1: Online Appointment Booking

Now imagine you add an eCommerce system and a Patient Portal. Suddenly, you need to keep four systems in sync and an increasing list of data moving back and forth, making the whole process complex and costly. Many businesses view these systems as bottlenecks and prefer to rely on manual processes. However, by choosing to have multiple systems, practices have the burden of maintaining them without an adequate return on investment and reduced efficiency. In addition, these unsynced applications usually offer a problematic patient experience.

Figure 2: Adding OmniChannel Services

Instead of this mix of integrations, we could consider the case for a new generation of Practice Management System (PMS). As digitization and advances in technology and patient behavior continue to shift, there will be a pivot in terms of how we manage these individual systems and the patient journey. The consequence will be an omnichannel native approach. What will this look like? You’ll have to wait and see.

Figure 3: OmniChannel Native System



Kristian Kiamos is Product Director at Ocuco

Kristian leads a team of 12 Product Managers and Product Owners focusing on developing Ocuco’s next-generation product. His responsibilities include stakeholder, portfolio and program management. Kristian graduated from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, in 2005 with an MSc. in Electrical Engineering, joining Ocuco as a Professional Services Engineer later that year. Kristian has held several roles within Ocuco, including a Senior Analyst role during implementation projects for major customers. Kristian speaks five languages fluently.