In his regular blog, Training & Installations Manager Chris Gray shares his opinions from his times out in practice. 

'This time, my focus is somewhat introspective, looking back at the last seven years, and forward to a time after COVID.'

Continue the conversation: Raise Ticket /

Last Update: 1st March 2021

March 2021: The Seven Year Itch

Thanks for taking the time to read my latest blog entry! Google informs me (so it must be true!) that 'The seven-year itch is a popular belief, sometimes quoted as having psychological backing, that happiness in a marriage or long-term relationship declines after around seven years'. My reason for opening with that is this month sees my 7 year anniversary at Optinet, coinciding with the very early rollout of FLEX. I can't believe its been that long already.

That said, far from dividing up the metaphorical CDs (I expect the modern equivalent is de-linking a Spotify account!), both I personally and Optinet as a whole remain as committed to our long-standing sites as we do our new ones. Without even looking at the optical industry or world as a whole, before we even consider the last 12 months or so, the previous 7 years have seen Optinet FLEX grow in stature and reputation, add hundreds of sites across the UK, we have taken over PCS, expanded our Worcestershire offices and doubled our staff. 

As well as our bi-annual updates, which have seen us take in EGOS, XERO, GDPR, Online Appointment Booking and complete rewrites of Contact Lens and Dispense, our commitment to helping you has increased too. The fact you've found this page, in the heart of our portal, is fantastic, as you already know about our YouTube channel, being able to book a training slot online and the hundreds of pages of information here to help you.

All of the above though, all of it, aren't to replace talking to us. Drop me a line at the top of this page if there is something I can do to help. If I can't personally, I will be happy to work with whoever can to get you to where you need to be. So, here's to the next seven. 

Thanks for being part of the journey; there's plenty more to come! Check out the new Business Performance Dashboard below - arriving in FLEX this Spring. Stay healthy. CG

November 2020: The Second Wave

Well, here we go again! Whilst some of my points below pick up on my previous blog entry in July... how long ago that feels... they are still very much relevant. I have created an exclusive video for FLEXpertise readers about the Advanced Recall System in FLEX above. So, I thought it prudent to share some of my previous tips and tricks with you, notably from what we have found worked well previously. Four weeks of lockdown, and 4 tips for you:

1) Modify your diary for longer exam times

Change your appointment setup to give your patients and optom longer slots. See the video above. Remember, even though you may have changed the templates, FLEX won't reflect this change until you rebuild your diary.

2) Pre-Exam in FLEX: triaged information you take over the phone can automatically populate for the optometrist

Save time and contact by pre-populating content already given over the phone or by email. Clinical Users only.

3) Stay in contact with all your patients through Data Mining.

Maximise your patient retention and contact with our powerful searches. Let them know you are still here for them in these difficult times, and recall smarter by contacting patients who you consider a priority. Favourite Search: ST Exam Records section - Patient Overdue by Months (Gold Spenders).

4) Book a Training Slot Online

New for Lockdown 2 (!) is the ability to book training online. Available up to the end of 2020, we are pleased to offer the ability to book a session of up to 2 hours with one of our training team. Through the top of this page, you can also raise a support ticket. Did you know: During the last lockdown, over 80% of our support requests were raised by email / online.

July 2020: The Road Back

The football is coming back (not home, well not this summer anyway!), I've never spoken to my neighbours more and the supermarket trip needs military-grade planning. I'm sure of all these things. What the next few months will hold or what day of the week it is... less so! 

I hope you and your families and colleagues are keeping well. I wanted to talk this time about how FLEX can help you and your practice on the road to recovery. I link to the relevant resources throughout, but if you would like to chat further about any of my 'conversation starters;, our contact methods are at the top of the page.

1) FLEX Remote Licence - for when you're working on the business, not in the business

The ability to use FLEX from outside the practice. Check out my March 2020 blog entry below.

2) Modifying the diary for longer exam times

Change your appointment setup to give your patients and optom longer slots. See the video above.

3) Email receipts; email or text appointment details - save paper and cut down physical contact contact

Link in or make the most of new or existing email functionality.

4) Pre-Exam in FLEX: triage information you take over the phone can automatically populate for the optometrist

Save time and contact by pre-populating content already given.

5) Monthly Payment Plans: build loyalty and guarantee income whilst offering patient incentives.

From direct debit management and reconciliation in FLEX to automatically applied discounts.

6) Stay in contact with all your patients through Data Mining.

Maximise your patient retention and contact with our powerful searches.

7) Carry out a Stock Take on your mobile device - no touching the barcode scanner or printing out reports.

Download our iOS or Android app and get your stock in shape before you re-open.

8) Embrace paperless records - make the most of FLEX Clinical

Remove paper and improve your record-keeping with FLEX Clinical.

9) Consider Online Appointment Booking.

Did you know, over 70% of online bookings via FLEX are raised after 6pm and on Sunday.

10) Raise and track your tickets FLEX support tickets online

Schedule tickets, save time and get help without having to call us.

March 2020: Our Coronavirus Response

As part of the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in due to Coronavirus, I was keen to give you the latest information on our response as a company. Optinet have made the decision to suspend all practice visits and Optinet Academy training days until further notice. If you are one of the many sites who have a training day booked, you will have received an email from me. We continue to function as normal, albeit from home.

Regarding how you can continue to use FLEX away from your practice:

Practices with an RDP Server (Cloud Based)

You can continue to use your FLEX system as normal - it will work on any device with an internet connection.

Remote Licence for FLEX

As of March 2021, we are no longer supporting this option for new remote users, regardless of whether they are new or existing FLEX users. 


We log in to help you by using TeamViewer. We have a corporate licence for this, however you can download this free of charge through - you will need this on your work and home machines.

Various sources suggest licencing restrictions applied by TeamViewer have been lifted at time of writing. Note that this will 'tie up' a machine in your practice when you log in remotely. You will need to leave the main machine in your practice turned on and ensure it does not go to sleep.

Quick Support

Built into Windows 10, if you press the 'Windows' button on your PC and type in 'Quick Support', you can open up a 'Quick Support' session where you can share screens and work collaboratively. However, the intention of this is more for ad-hoc sessions than long term access.

Wishing you and your staff best wishes and good health,

November 2019: Customising Your Recalls

'You Never Contacted Me'. Words which strike fear into a practice owner. From potential lost revenue for the patient who has topped your dispensing analysis for the last decade, to concerns over clinical reasoning and compliance. We take this as seriously as you do, but as with many things in life, prevention is better than cure. Lets share this time together to make sure your system is set up as efficiently as possible whilst maximising your return rate to boot!

Adding a Recall

The recall is added when the Sight Exam and/or Contact Lens Record are saved. There are actually three types of recall in FLEX: Sight Exam, Contact Lens and Additional. Additional recalls are generally for supplementary clinical reasoning. I myself am actually borderline OHT (Thick Corneas, in case you were wondering... my pachymetry readings are available on request!). 

So, my local independent practice in Worcester (a FLEX user, naturally!) can create my recall for 24 months but easily schedule a fields and pressures check in the interim. Practices commonly use these for OCT recalls, and in some cases care plans. The recall Category needs to be chosen, which then links to a recall Schedule.

Recall Category

This is the category chosen at the end of the exam. These are often split by Condition (including Age) - e.g. Under 16, Over 60, Diabetic, Glaucoma, FHG or just good old 'Rem'. However, why not customise these by patient spend too? Using the Patient Spend Indicator (more about that next time), you can see at a glance the percentile the patient resides in. 

If your normal 'Rem1' has a note about spectacles from £69, is a patient who has Designer Progressive Sunglasses necessarily going to relate to this, and the same for the reversal of my example? I always mention in practices, in my normal self-deprecating fashion, that Tesco never send me Clubcard vouchers for shampoo! What do an 8 year old who breaks their specs every three months, a patient who always has a reglazed CR39 every 2 years and 'Lindberg Len' who spends over a thousand pounds every visit have in common? Nothing, except that they are most probably all receiving the same correspondence from you.

Recall Schedule

'What is the best recall schedule to use?' - one of the most common queries I get during training days in practice, away-days at The Optinet Academy and over the phone on the service desk. There is no such thing - it is highly subjective based on your demographics, opinions and experiences, however I would thoroughly encourage you to be multi-modal. People are very transient these days with their contact methods. People often say 'patients have lived at the same address for years, but change their mobile number every month'. Personally, I have had the same mobile number since 2002, email address since 2009 but have lived in three different houses in that time. Below is my personal preference - this reflects how you would set it up in FLEX too.

Step 1 - Recall MethodStep 2 - Choose TemplateStep 3 - Set IntervalStep 4 - Substitution
SMS<template name>Due DateLETTER - First Reminder
LETTER<template name>3 months overdueNONE
TELEPHONEn/a6 months overdueLETTER - Followup Reminder

Recall Setup Literature is in the Portal

Advantages here (versus the most common '3 letters') include:

  • Notable cost savings - SMS start from 5.5p each, whilst letters are at least ten times that.
  • No-one misses out on correspondence if they do not have that contact method thanks to substitutes.
  • Whilst more labour intensive, TELEPHONE reminders can be the best subjective way to liaise with patients.

Cost of 100 letters: Approx £70. Cost of 100 SMS: Approx £5.50; Cost of 100 Email: FREE. Cost of 100 Calls: FREE (plus labour)

Why not use the savings made to add touch-points at 1, 2, 3... 4+ years overdue? From my experience, for every 'bounceback' the lapsed patient contact creates, it can also create a solid dispense. Maybe a patient has been 'elsewhere' in the interim - it is absolutely fine to come back. Many patients think NHS Opticians are like NHS Dentists and they have 'lost their place' - not the case - tell patients its fine to come back and we would love to see you again!

There is plenty more to think of around this area, for example:

  • Use Docmail - save money and time using this third party service to send your letters. FLEX customers benefit from free envelope personalisation and the ability to send postcards. Docmail letters include the practice return address, this is important – you find out what letters are not delivered. Undelivered mail is returned to you quicker, allowing the practice records to be updated and no further ‘wasted’ letters are sent.
  • See also the use of SMS with 24x
  • Use Data Mining to target 'Gold Spenders' who have lapsed - work smarter, not harder. More on this next time.
  • Use Postcode Lookup to prevent 'bounceback' - be assured of data integrity and save time with data entry.
  • Online Appointment Booking - include links to this service in your SMS and Emails, so patients can book in at their own convenience.

With my 'support hat' on, these are the most common reasons for a patient not receiving their reminder:

  • Letter Issues: Invalid address / postcode; Patient moved away.
  • SMS Issues: Incorrect mobile phone number (FLEX validates to be 11 numbers, starting 07, but can't account for mis-entry)
  • Email Issues: Incorrect email address (FLEX validates the @ symbol and a top level domain, eg, but can't account for mis-entry)
  • Issues around mobile phone networks / email spam folders.
  • No recall schedule in the recall category - right now or at the time the exam was saved
  • An appointment was booked with a suppression against it which has wrongly removed their recall.
  • Schedule does not have substitutes to account for contact methods a patient does not have.
  • Rare: Practice internet connectivity issues preventing data being sent - caused by internet service provider / antivirus.

If you see a yellow warning triangle in the top-right corner of FLEX, your timeline needs rebuilding to reflect the change(s) you have made. Raise a ticket using the buttons at the top of the portal to book a call.

Lets chat. Click the links at the top of my blog to raise a ticket, email me, tweet me or book an in-practice training day.