The Business of Contact Lenses
Making Premium Contact Lenses Profitable
BY CLARKE D. NEWMAN, OD, FAAO
The old truism is that you rob banks because that’s where the money is. Well, where is the money in contact lenses? It is in specialty lenses. Why? The money is there because that market is growing and has greater growth potential, and also because the number of providers delivering that care is not as saturated.
Profitable if Done Right
One of the most important profit engines in specialty contact lens prescribing is that the patients who need them would otherwise drop out of the contact lens market. So, being skilled at specialty lens prescribing not only opens the door for more potential patients, it also keeps you from losing the ones you already have, and that is vital.
One of the quickest ways to profit from contact lenses is to prescribe premium products—if you do it right. If you do it wrong, it can be a costly, frustrating enterprise. The skill required to prescribe premium lenses such as multifocals is greater, so the professional fees that you can charge for specialty contact lenses are greater. Yet, that increased profit can be chewed up quickly in three ways.
First, we typically do not invest in our ability to prescribe these products. Often, we don’t do what it takes to learn how to use these products because we could lose money on the learning curve. What we fail to realize is that the money initially lost is an investment in the future. Drug companies spend a fortune on new products before those products ever bring in a dime. These companies don’t think twice about that because the new products will be profitable in the longrun. We should do the same.
We also neither invest in the trial lenses that we need, nor do we organize our schedules to accommodate these patients—both of which are penny wise and pound foolish.
Second, you don’t charge enough to begin with. Increased fees are justified because of the investment recoupment from learning an advanced skill, the greater time commitment involved, and, yes, the patient demand for those services. As a presbyope myself, I understand the value proposition of clear vision. For presbyopes, clear vision at all distances is harder to achieve, and patients, whether they will admit it or not, understand this fact. They will pay more for a good solution to the problem. They get it, but we often don’t. Embrace the value of the services that you provide, and charge accordingly. It is neither unethical nor does it violate our covenant with our patients.
The third way in which we lose money in specialty lenses is offering the wrong things to the wrong patients. Some patients are not good candidates for multifocal lenses, and we should make peace with that. We should also determine who those patients are before we go down that path.
Diagnose and fix dry eye before trying to prescribe contact lenses. Multifocals require a slight compromise in the quality of the distance image to get to the quantity of vision at near. Any other degradation in the image quality is usually a deal breaker, and dry eye can cause that. It can also cause lens intolerance from a comfort standpoint. Just as a Ferrari engine, as perfect as it is, won’t work without oil, no contact lens will work correctly without a good tear film.
Keys to Success
So become an expert, arm yourself with the right products, charge appropriately, and shoot the right targets—and you will make money in specialty contact lens prescribing. CLS
Dr. Newman has been in private practice in Dallas, Texas since 1986 specializing in vision rehabilitation through contact lenses as well as corneal disease management, optometric medicine and refractive surgery. He is a Diplomate in the AAO and a consultant to B+L and AMO. Contact him at email@example.com.