Article Date: 6/1/2001

contact lens economics

Make Your Contact Lens Practice A Success

BY WALTER D. WEST, OD, FAAO
June 2001

Planning to succeed with contact lenses in your practice is necessary in order to prosper. All too often contact lens practitioners lament the lack of profit in contact lenses and that they spend too much time with contact lens patients. Practitioners are responsible for their own success. It's time we admit that the success and profitability in our contact lens practice is more a function of what we do than what someone else has done in or to the contact lens industry. Success requires that certain details be tended to.

Education

Leaving their formal training, practitioners have merely begun the process of learning and continuing education required to keep them abreast of the ever-changing contact lens industry. Practitioners must be continually aware of new products and their performance relative to others on the market. In addition, practitioners must constantly update their knowledge of the marketplace and consumer wants and needs, then develop strategies for navigating the potential pitfalls that market trends might present.

Marketing

Marketing contact lenses within the practice is an area where most practices fall short. Contact lens manufacturers perform market research that gives them insights into where the market is going. The marketing departments of these companies use this research to produce point-of-purchase material that can positively influence the contact lens patients in your practice and help educate them at the same time. Unfortunately, most of this printed marketing support leaves the optometric practice the same way it got there ­ still wrapped in cellophane. Use this information. Have it available for your patients at all times.

"I Didn't Become a Doctor to Sell Contact Lenses"

Practitioners often feel that their contact lens practices will have limited growth because they don't intend to become salespeople. Well, I suggest you don't. Why not educate your patients about contact lenses and help them understand the advantages that contact lenses offer? Help patients understand why one lens is a better choice than another because of material, water content or optics. Don't sell to your patients. Educate them.

Setting Fees

This area needs more improvement than any other. For many years, the global fee mentality that bundles together services and materials has plagued contact lens practice. Separate professional fees relative to the clinical evaluation of the contact lens patient from the fees for the lenses. This allows unsuccessful contact lens patients to receive refunds for the materials without involving the professional fees. Patients in my practice can return their materials within 30 days and receive a full refund. We explain that the fees for fitting the lenses are not refundable because we cannot undo the services provided.

Secondly, separating these fees moves profitability from materials to services. Make sure you get paid for your time and talent. Never, never give your wisdom away. Then you can set more competitive contact lens prices or not lose anything if a patient purchases materials elsewhere.

Managed Care

Base your decisions regarding managed care plans on the profitability they offer your practice after the value of expertise and cost of chairtime are considered. Avoid plans that do not allow you to receive appropriate professional fees related to examination or contact lens evaluations. Focus on an individual managed care plan's ability to keep you profitable rather than busy. 

Dr. West practices in Brentwood, TN, and lectures nationally and internationally on contact lens and practice management topics.


Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: June 2001