contact lens economics
The Big Picture of Lens
BY GARY GERBER, OD
There's no money in contact lenses." "Why should I sell patients lenses that cost hundreds of dollars and make only a few bucks for myself?" "It ain't like it used to be." Get
together with contact lens fitting colleagues, and you're sure to hear at least one of the above comments. And I agree each of those comments is true. Yet, because this column is about contact lens economics and more precisely contact lens profitability, I also believe that while they are all true, contact lens fitting is still as profitable as ever. Let's look at each comment in more detail and explain this enigma.
"There's No Money in
Principally because of disposable lenses, per lens profit has certainly been on a continual downturn for years. But looking at things in a broader view, my clients who fit a lot of disposable lenses are showing overall greater profits than other practices that don't. Why? Well for one, because of disposable lenses, more patients are wearing contact lenses. And, while the profit on materials may be diminishing, the profit on professional fees is expanding. In general, the profit margin on professional fees is greater than that on products anyway. Also, due to new technology and modalities like daily disposables, multifocal lenses and 30-day silicone
hydrogels, more and more patients are becoming interested in lenses. So while there may not be as much money in lenses as there once was, there are more patients wanting lenses. This increased desire translates to more occasions to charge more profitable professional fees.
"Why Should I Sell Patients Lenses that Cost Hundreds of Dollars and Make Only a Few Bucks for Myself?"
As above, the bigger profit picture is in the fees not the lenses. But beyond that, you should do it because that's what your patients want! Why not give patients modalities that are proven to be healthier and safer, like daily disposables and silicone
hydrogels? What would you want for yourself a lens you have to clean every day or one that you throw away every day? Why would your patients want less?
Client data shows that recall rates are higher with these shorter disposability schedules due to better compliance. Again the real money is in the fees not the products.
"It Ain't Like It Used to Be."
That's true. It's better. Who would have thought we'd ever see a daily disposable bifocal contact lens that works! Or safe 30-day continuous wear contact lenses? Safe and effective
orthokeratology? Would you really rather return to the days of vialed lenses with poor optics and reproducibility, GPC and solution reactions just to make more money on products and less on professional fees?
For sure, we've come a long way in a short time. Contact lens practices that genuinely embrace and take advantage of all of the newer and better technologies that we've recently been besieged with are showing unprecedented practice growth and profitability.
The big picture is one of more patients clamoring for these new contact lenses from a handful of practitioners ready to fit them. Will you be one of them? Or will you be waiting in the wings while your early adopter colleagues reap all the benefits?
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: July 2002