contact lens economics
Overcoming the 50 Cents
Per Box Syndrome
BY GARY GERBER, OD
During the last few months, I've lectured on the benefits of daily disposable contact lenses. The content has included benefits to the patient (convenience, eye health, no lens care) as well as benefits to the practice. Chief among those practice benefits has been profitability of the modality as compared to other modalities like two week wear.
In the lectures I include a compelling and convincing spreadsheet that outlines the actual profitability of single-use disposable lenses for the practice. Virtually no one has questioned the profitability on the spreadsheet. In fact, several doctors have commented, "Gary, you're absolutely correct. The lenses are the best modality for my patients, and the profitability you're showing is correct. But why would I want to fit a contact lens that is so readily available and so easy for patients to purchase outside my practice? After all, my patients will buy their lenses elsewhere just to save 50 cents a box."
Could this thinking be contributing to the industry sources that report only 3 percent of new contact lens fits wear daily disposable lenses?
My retort to these doctors has been simple and straight forward, "Doctor, if your patients aren't getting their contact lenses from you because of a 50-cent difference, it's not because of the 50-cent difference. You have some bigger issues to deal with."
Consumers Want Value
Consumers are consumers, I agree. Whether they're looking for tires or contact lenses, consumers want value. Contact lens practitioners are in the perfect position to give that value to their patients. The question then becomes, what is this "value," and how do we provide it?
In our case, value goes way beyond the lenses in the box. All things being equal, including price, consumers will purchase along the path of least resistance. If you make it easy for patients to do business with your practice and eliminate the hurdles and speed bumps that interfere with sales, you can transition patients from shoppers to loyal practice evangelists. You must effectively demonstrate the value that exists outside the contact lens box.
Is your office clean, your staff friendly, your lens delivery policy patient-friendly, your web site up-to-date ? Are your office hours consumer-friendly, your fees competitive?... The list is a long one, and you must realize that any or all of these factors may contribute to patients going elsewhere to save 50 cents on a box of lenses. Every one of these things contributes to your patients' buying experience and the value not of the contact lenses, but the value they assign to doing business with you vs. someone else.
The tough love reality is that if your patients are leaving because of a 50-cent difference in lens prices, the price of the lenses is not the problem it's everything else related to the sale of the lenses. I'm sorry, but you needed to hear that.
If patients are getting lenses elsewhere, don't blame the lenses or the modality. Take a long hard look in your practice's mirror and fix the real problems that are causing you to lose business.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. He can be reached at 800-867-9303 or
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: May 2001