contact lens practice pearls
Contact Lens Fees: Setting Them and Feeling Good About It
BY THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO
When a patient asks you how much it'll cost for you to fit them with contact lenses, aren't you tempted to respond with your own question, "How much are you willing to spend?" The trick is to decide on a fee that patients won't hesitate to pay and that you feel adequately rewards your efforts. And if you need further advice when it comes to setting contact lens fees, then read on.
Presenting Your Fees
The two basic approaches to presenting fees to patients are:
1. lump together your services and your materials (global fee)
2. list these two fees separately (itemized fees)
In my office, we prefer to split out the fees, biasing our material fees low and our service fees high. Doing so puts the emphasis where it should be: on our expertise and professional care. But there's something to be said about material fees.
Keep Materials Competitive
As I mentioned above, in my office, we bias our contact lens material fees low so as to fall within a few dollars of the discount shops, but we don't try to beat them at their game. (Their vast resources make that a losing battle.) Instead, our goal is to have patients feel that a few extra dollars for contact lenses purchased through our office is worth the convenience of "one-stop shopping" and the peace of mind that comes with acquiring their contact lenses from someone they know and trust.
We also always encourage direct mailing of products to the patient's home or work and promote dispensing of annual supplies. Manufacturer's rebates on annual supplies have been a great tool in promoting this purchasing behavior.
What's Your Service Worth?
Confused about how to decide what to charge for service fees? First assess the difficulty of the fit. Does anyone else in the area provide this service? The more challenging and unique the case (such as post-surgical or keratoconic fitting), the higher you should set your fee.
How many follow-up visits do you anticipate for each individual patient? What value do you assign to each follow-up visit? Multiply these numbers and then add the cost of one additional visit. (This guards against the common inclination to undervalue your services when setting fees, as well as eases the feeling of being undercompensated when you have to troubleshoot a particular problem over multiple visits.)
Once you've arrived at a preliminary fee, compare it to other, more established fees in your office. For example, a multifocal lens service fee should fall some measure above what you charge to fit a single-vision lens.
Have your staff call competitors to find out what they charge for their contact lens services to give you a sense of where you fit within your community. Plus, your staff will learn about how other offices present their fees.
Before you finalize a fee, perform a gut check. Does the fee feel right? This may strike you as somewhat nebulous, but it's real. You have to be comfortable with the fee you set. Your staff will notice your comfort and they'll pass on this confidence when they communicate costs to patients.
It's All in the Approach
Remember, we're problem solvers. So don't be upset when patients return with complaints associated with wearing their contact lenses. You can make this a win-win situation if you approach it with concern, commitment and a request for adequate compensation.
Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio, and has served as a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.