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SIX STEPS TO KICKSTART YOUR PRACTICE’S PROFITS

A step-by-step guide to help practitioners think outside of the box when it comes to their contact lens business plans.

Contact lenses are a foundation in the eyecare business. For that reason alone, it is important give your contact lens business the attention that it needs and deserves. Consider these six steps to kickstart your contact lens profits.

1. DIG INTO YOUR DATA

It’s important to know where you are before deciding where you want to go. There are many options and ways to get this data, but making data-driven decisions is critical to your practice’s success.

For example, after looking at the numbers, I would argue that selling an annual supply to any patient who wears daily disposable contact lenses is more valuable and profitable compared to many other purchases within your practice. Not only are these patients more compliant with their lens wear, they come back more frequently for your care. If you are not measuring anything, start small; following are a few metrics to understand.

Percentage of Contact Lens Wearers Start by looking into your electronic health record for ways to determine the total percentage of contact lens wearers in your practice. You could do this by pulling the number of contact lens examinations and dividing that by the total of all eye examinations in a given time period.

According to the 2016 Contact Lens Spectrum Reader Profile Survey, about 33% of the respondents’ patients are lens wearers (Nichols, 2017). Respondents also estimate that contact lenses make up about 32% of their gross practice revenue and 27% of their net practice revenue.

Average Production per Contact Lens Patient The total amount of revenue produced per contact lens patient combines the contact lens evaluation or fit fee with any supply of contact lenses. Add all of that revenue up for a given period of time and divide it by the total number of contact lens patients during that time to determine your average production.

This is important for knowing where you are currently. Monitor it closely if you change your fitting habits or contact lens pricing. Track how much of an impact small changes can make to your overall average production per contact lens patient.

Contact Lens Sales per Modality This is the amount of sales or boxes (units) per modality. This is an important number, as compliance rates and average sales may differ per modality. See which modalities work the best in your practice, and strive to grow those categories.

It’s also important to understand trends within the industry. Daily disposable lenses are becoming the work-horse modality for many eyecare professionals (ECPs); they have a higher compliance rate, which will ultimately improve the recall rate. This is a win-win.

Annual Supply Sales This number is calculated by determining the number of annual supply purchases made and dividing that number by the total number of contact lens purchases made over a period of time. This number is critical to understand. We know patients are more compliant when they have their contact lenses, and it takes less staff time to place one order per year per contact lens patient. Additionally, patients can reduce their overall cost after rebates with annual supply sales. If this has not been a focus in the past, look for ways to improve this number within your practice.

Prioritize annual supply sales numbers, and let your staff know that you are tracking that statistic every month. This starts in the examination room and is followed through at the end of the purchase. If your practice has a low production per contact lens patient, this is most likely one of the major culprits. What does your scorecard look like?

2. BUILD THE FOUNDATION

Create the vision for your contact lens business and get everyone in the practice on the same page. Think big. Do you want to be the “go-to” practice and provider for contact lens care? If so, look at ways to get all of the staff on board with discussing contact lenses. Commit to an education office meeting at least once each month, and make contact lenses a consistent focus.

Identify any potential barriers within the practice. Is there an issue with a staff member or with office flow? What is preventing contact lenses from being offered to all appropriate patients? Are you taking a passive or active approach to contact lens fittings within the practice? Those practices that are growing take an active approach in discussing contact lenses with their patients.

Break the habit of filling the same prescription or same brand of contact lens previously worn. There are some patients who don’t want to change, but you should still educate them about newer materials and modalities that may improve their all-day comfort and potentially provide them with better all-day vision. For example, discuss how many new daily disposable lenses have moisture agents embedded in the matrix of the contact lens. This reduces the end-of-day dryness and improves all-day comfort. Additionally, consider utilizing a lens that may provide improved optical correction while patients are on the computer. This may be an aspheric design or a low-add-power multifocal design to help with the accommodative demand throughout the day.

ECPs are able to choose from a wide variety of contact lens materials, designs, and modalities that can improve ocular health and visual clarity. Innovative products and research will continue to drive the market. It is important to stay current with ongoing research. In addition, make sure your patients know that you want to improve their contact lens wearing experience!

Look at the numbers and be smart. Understand which lenses offer greater practice profitability, and lean in that direction (Table 1). If everything is equal and your fitting success with certain lenses is relatively equal, fit the lens that yields a higher profit margin. Additionally, look at the total profit for each lens over a period of time to see how the various lenses contribute to the bottom line (Table 2).

TABLE 1 PROFITABILITY BY LENS REPLACEMENT SCHEDULE
PRACTICE COST RETAIL PROFIT PER ANNUAL SUPPLY
Monthly $25.00 $50.00 $100.00
Two-week $20.00 $35.00 $120.00
Daily $35.00 $65.00 $240.00
TABLE 2 TOTAL PROFIT BY YEAR (YTD UNITS)
AVERAGE PROFIT
UNITS SOLD PER BOX TOTAL PROFIT
Daily 2,000 $30.00 $60,000.00
Two-week 500 $15.00 $7,500.00
Monthly 1,000 $25.00 $25,000.00

3. EVALUATE YOUR CURRENT FEES, AND KNOW HOW TO DISCUSS THEM WITH PATIENTS

Fees are easily compared by consumers and may affect your capture rate with contact lens wearers. It is important to learn how to discuss contact lens fees with patients, but first you have to change your thinking. We have to discuss contact lens fees similarly to our competition, which are the online retailers. Your patients want to be assured that they are paying an appropriate price for their lenses. At the same time, ECPs must counteract messaging from online retailers telling them that they are paying too much. Consider having a price comparison sheet at the front office.

Online retailers also never advertise the “retail price per box,” so why do we keep telling our patients what that per-box cost is? Start telling them the fees or what their cost is after their rebates (after-rebate price) instead (Figure 1). That way, if your patients are going to compare, they are comparing similar things.

Figure 1. An example of how contact lenses are marketed online.

Make sure your point person(s) at the office have the tools to discuss contact lens box prices with the “after-rebate prices” (Table 3). Update the spreadsheet regularly so that it is easy to discuss the “after-rebate price” and the “after-rebate and after-insurance price.”

TABLE 3 DAILY DISPOSABLE LENS PRICE COMPARISON
RETAIL PER BOX SIX MO. SUPPLY ANNUAL SUPPLY REBATE AVG PER BOX AFTER REBATE
$60.00 $240.00 $480.00 $150.00 $41.25
$85.00 $340.00 $680.00 $150.00 $66.25
$95.00 $380.00 $760.00 $150.00 $76.25

4. MAKE IT EASY TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOUR PRACTICE

In general, consumers like the service they get from their ECP. But, most practices lose contact lens orders due to the difficulty or time it takes to order through those practices. You can turn that around by making it easier for your patients. Start by evaluating the steps that it takes for a patient to call and place a contact lens order with you. Then, go online and place the same order. My guess is that you will be surprised how easy it is to make that order online.

Cut Down the Steps Look for ways to cut down the steps for ordering through your office. There are software tools to help identify an incoming caller, and one click will get you into his or her chart. Use technology to help you when a patient calls in looking to order lenses. Imagine the reaction your patients will have to the following: “I see you are wearing daily disposable contact lenses, Mrs. Smith. I also see that you are eligible for contact lens benefits through your insurance, and there is a nice rebate available for these lenses.” Then, the staff can easily and efficiently place the order and ship the contact lenses directly to your patient’s house.

Break Down the Payments Paying for an entire year of contact lenses in one lump sum may seem daunting to your patients. Luckily, there are online ordering tools that link to many websites and even provide ways to have patients break up the payments over the course of a year.

Make Shipping Efficient Offer same-day dispense or direct-ship for all contacts lenses. This is an important step. If you stock contact lenses, the ability to dispense them out of your stock on the same day is nice and always possible. Obviously, however, it is not possible to stock every possible lens needed by your patients; it makes sense to stock two or three preferred lenses.

It is also difficult to keep all parameters on the shelves. So, a high percentage of the time, we end up ordering our patients’ supply. When that happens, patients do not want to drive to the office to pick up their lenses. If you don’t agree with me, just look and see what “basic items” people are ordering online; it’s pretty nice when “stuff” arrives on your doorstep. Therefore, your patients’ contact lens supply, no matter how much they order, needs to be shipped to their homes. In my practice, we automatically charge a shipping fee for all orders of less than a year’s supply and ship all orders directly to their homes.

If you invest some time into ways to improve these transactions in your practice, profits will surely grow.

5. FOCUS ON THE CONTACT LENS EXPERIENCE

Our patients expect good vision. Your practice should focus on providing compliance and exceptional comfort and being prepared to fit everyone. For that to happen, all staff members need to be fully engaged in contact lenses. During the examination process, everyone needs to understand that they are not just performing various procedures at each point. Rather, each step of the encounter with your patients provides an opportunity to educate them about contact lenses.

First Impressions This starts before patients even enter the reception area. Use the initial phone conversation to educate patients on contact lenses and to introduce the opportunity. “Many of our patients wear contact lenses and, if you are a candidate, your doctor can discuss some really cool opportunities.”

Preliminary Testing While describing each test that is being performed, your staff can tie the results back into the topic of contact lenses. For example: “The auto-refractor provides your ECP with precise measurements of your eye and vision so that he or she can provide you the most accurate contact lens prescription.”

The Exam In the examination room, you are the expert. Utilize this opportunity to educate your patients on other potential services that you provide. “You are an excellent candidate for multifocal contact lenses. Have you ever considered them in addition to your progressive addition lenses?”

Many of our patients spend their workdays in front of a computer, so it is critical to discuss the topic of “dry eye and digital eye fatigue.” I always assume that my patients are experiencing some sort of dryness and contact lens discomfort until I’ve been proven otherwise. Actively diagnose and treat any underlying ocular surface disease while focusing on providing high-quality lenses in the chosen modality.

6. LOOK FOR SPECIALIZATION

Specialty contact lens wearers are out there. There is a higher percentage of unsuccessful initial contact lens fits with our patients who require specialty contact lenses. These more difficult-to-fit patients often begin the fitting with a little less faith in the process. New technology allows us to not only involve them in the fitting process, but also to provide better care along the way.

For example, let’s take patients who have an irregular cornea and utilize technology to describe the process and why your follow up is a critical step. This will not only explain why they don’t see well out of their eyeglasses, but why a specialty lens can improve their eyesight by correcting those irregularities.

Additionally, besides providing this group of patients with the eye care that they need, the practice profits will be much higher. In general, there are numerous diagnoses and conditions for which vision plans and medical plans pay better. The reimbursement can be much higher for those who require specialty care, such as scleral lenses and fitting.

Understand your insurance agreements and billing/coding requirements for the condition. They will provide the patients’ allowance depending on the diagnosis or diagnoses. Maximize their vision with specialty lenses, and the word will spread.

A NEW WAY OF THINKING

Contact lenses are critically important to the business of eye care. There are many questions that we as practitioners need to analyze to help our patients have a comfortable contact lens wearing experience and to maintain growth within our practice. Understanding how your practice performs and how you can make it better will make a difference in how fast your contact lens practice grows. CLS

For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #257.