Use the Correct Name For "Free" Lenses
BY JANE J. BEEMAN, COA, NCLC-AC, FCLSA, PRSA
Some practitioners say it's just semantics, but I believe that what you decide to call the inventory of lens blister packs that manufacturers provide to your office at no charge is one of the most important decisions you make for your contact lens practice.
Free, Trial or Sample?
Are they "free" lenses? What can you really get for free? A tiny tube of shampoo glued to the Sunday paper? A second pizza if you buy the first one? What value do you, as a consumer, place on objects marked as "free?"
Patients already find it difficult to understand that contact lenses are prescription medical devices. Offering them "free" lenses only supports their view that contact lenses are low-value commodity products. That's why you should banish the word "free" from your vocabulary!
"Trial" or "sample" lenses sound appealing to consumers. What could be better than trying a product without any commitment? But is this a concept we should reinforce in our patients? Patients need to clearly understand the commitment that they are making when they choose to wear contact lenses. Healthy contact lens wear requires diligent care and a committed patient to achieve long-term success.
If all lenses were the same, then we could give out "samples." Just imagine a large tub of blister packs in your waiting room -- one size, material and wearing schedule fits all. But contact lenses, as well as the patients who wear them, are not all the same. Materials vary, shapes and sizes vary and wearing and replacement times vary.
The Cost of "Free" Lenses
What value do you place on the work you and other members of your office staff must do to select the correct contact lenses to prescribe to patients? Your practice pays someone to take calls, book appointments, evaluate corneal topography, determine refractions, select appropriate products and train patients about proper techniques for lens care and handling. Can you charge patients for these professional services when all they want to do is pick up their "free sample" of contact lenses?
We all know there truly are no "free" samples in business. Every blister pack that is produced incurs a cost, and ultimately that expense passes on to our offices in the cost of boxed prescription lenses. Many suppliers require their customers to "bank" or "earn" individual blister packs based on the number of prescription boxes they purchase or the number of prescriptions they write for the product. Sales representatives maintain detailed reports on the ratio of free vs. purchased goods for each of their accounts. For some large lens manufacturers, the largest annual marketing expense is the cost of producing and shipping "free" individual blister pack lenses.
Use the Appropriate Name
So what should you call that inventory of blister packs in your office? It's simple. Call them "diagnostic lenses" -- lenses that a professional eyecare office may use to determine the treatment needs of patients in their care. Once the practitioner determines those needs, the patient will purchase the selected lenses in the appropriate amount to last for the duration of the prescribed period.
Every person is a consumer and it's our job to turn those consumers into educated patients of our practice.
The past director of professional services for Bausch & Lomb, Jane is now in clinical practice in Rochester, NY, and is a frequent guest speaker at leading academic and professional programs around the world.