Home 1 Minute Tips Ensure a Smooth Patient Handoff From the Start

Ensure a Smooth Patient Handoff From the Start

Christine Howard talks about the patient handoff
Christine Howard

Christine Howard is a licensed dispensing optician and optical manager at Eyes On Plainville in Plainville, Massachusetts. She has been in the optical industry for more than 20 years; during that time, she’s found ways to make sure the patient handoff is efficient, starting before the patient even walks in the door.


“A great patient handoff comes down to good teamwork,” Howard says. No matter who is interacting with a patient during their visit, every staff member’s main goal should be to provide excellent care, Howard says. Patients can make an informed decision only when they have been presented with the options.

“Have a discussion with your entire team in advance to identify and discuss practice goals, and then facilitate ways that each department can help reach those goals,” Howard says. For example, if the goal is to increase second pair sales, Howard says it’s not just the opticians who need to know—the front desk associate can initiate that conversation early.

Goals can change with the season or with a shift in patient needs. “Sometimes the goal is to make it through the day,” Howard says with a laugh. Avoid “setting and forgetting” goals and make a plan to revisit them every so often, especially if roadblocks appear or there’s a new addition to the team or product lineup. But don’t focus on too many things at once; Howard recommends working on one or two goals at a time. Including “too many pieces of the puzzle at once” can overwhelm your patients, your team and you.


In this practice, the doctor will walk the patient from the exam room to the optical department with the patient’s prescription in hand. The optometrist will reiterate the conversation with the patient and optician so that everyone is on the same page about what the patient’s needs are. This exchange lets the optician pick up the conversation smoothly. The doctors often will specify the lens brand and repeat why that recommendation is being made. “The doctor will even suggest whether to try an EYEZEN™ + 1 or EYEZEN +2 lens to start,” she says.


Howard sets her team up for success by building relationships with vendor representatives. Her EssilorLuxottica representatives can educate the practice staff about the science behind the lenses, and learning that backstory makes it even easier to dispense to patients. She also gets the team involved in lunch and learn programs to ensure they have the opportunity to ask specific questions and learn about any updates or new products.

Social media helps, too. Howard is involved in various groups with eye care providers nationwide, where they share experiences with products and advice on how to provide the best care possible. “My representatives know the science behind the lenses, and my peers know the real-life results,” she says, noting how that combination of resources provides her a great mix. “Knowledge is power.”


Howard keeps an array of products available because every patient is different. Still, she’s confident in every product the practice offers, such as the Varilux® and Eyezen® brands from EssilorLuxottica. As doctors, opticians and patients see the results with these premium products, that success builds on itself.  “When there’s a product on the market that solves our patients needs, we lean in,” she says. “We are early adapters, and there’s no reason to not support a brand that makes your patient’s lives easier. Our patients are not only getting a great frame, but a great lens,” Howard says.

Listen to Christine Howard talk about ways to improve the patient handoff in this WO Voices podcast. 

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