value of a contact lens
Build Lifetime Relationships
A London Business School study shows you can
derive more profit from your contact lens patients if you take the time to earn
have dealt with one complex question for many years: Which patient is more profitable,
one who wears spectacles or one who wears contact lenses?
have varied, and anecdotal evidence and word-of-mouth based on individual experience
has been the basis for fact. With no concrete evidence showing one patient is more
or less valuable to a practice, clinicians have had to find their own way to profitability
through trial and error. Until now.
The results of a study by the
London Business School may surprise you. Read on to learn what the study found and
the simple tactics you can employ to energize your practice.
EXTENSIVE FIELD WORK
In an effort to place a
value on spectacles-only patients, contact lens-only patients and those who wear
both modalities, the European Federation of National Manufacturers (Euromcontact)
contracted with Mark Ritson, PhD, and the London Business School (LBS) to develop
and execute a 2-year clinical study to determine the profitability of a contact
lens patient versus a spectacles patient.
Dr. Ritson and his teams of
native-speaking MBA students visited more than 90 eyecare practitioners in the United
Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. They obtained a wide variety of data
from small, medium and large practices, as well as from independent and chain stores.
Typically, the researchers spent a
half-day at each practice, gathering data on chair time for both patient sets and
interviewing the eyecare practitioners and their employees.
Dr. Ritson and his team then built
their economic model using data collected by a research company from a 43-question
telephone survey that gathered 32,000 data points.
PUT 'THE RUMOR' TO REST
The results from the survey
were enlightening to the researchers and the participants, as the data soundly rebutted
what Dr. Ritson characterized as "The Rumor," a myopic view to which many eyecare
practitioners subscribed, which goes something like: "In the time it takes me to
fit a patient for contact lenses, I could have sold two pairs of spectacles."
Not only did the LBS study put
this perception to rest, it also showed that a contact lens patient will deliver
more "lifetime value" over the course of a 10-year period than a spectacles-only
According to Dr. Ritson, the total
revenue, total costs and net revenue for a spectacles-only patient is static over
the course of a set period. See "Spectacles Net Revenue" for a breakdown. What you
spend on chair time, materials and other spectacles-related costs and what you can
charge remain fairly constant. Not so with a contact lens patient.
As shown in "Contact Lens Net Revenue,"
upfront costs associated with caring for a contact lens patient are higher than
those for a spectacles-only patient. You'll spend more on chair time for fittings,
multiple lens kits and other time-consuming tasks to develop a comfort level with
your contact lens patient.
But once you get to the point where
your patient is comfortable in his lenses and doesn't need extra time, then study
data show you'll derive a steady stream of dependable revenue from a satisfied
contact lens patient as he returns for annual eye exams and to purchase contact
It's up to you to build and nurture
the relationship. The LBS study stresses that successful practitioners are not making
money just selling product, they are making money satisfying patients' individual
If you can build relationships by offering
advice and patient care over many years, you will be successful. Here's how
one OD has built her practice with many of the points discussed in the LBS study
and how it has paid off.
OFFER INFORMATION AND OPTIONS
Kelly Kerksick, OD, a private
practitioner in Columbia, Ill., has seen the contact lens side of her practice grow
exponentially with the introduction of silicone hydrogel lenses coupled with her
patient-centric approach to patient management.
"Currently, my practice comprises
about 40% contact lens patients and 60% spectacles patients," she says. "However,
I'm beginning to see more of an overlap, with spectacles patients moving over to,
or at least trying, contact lenses. About one in every five of my contact lens wearers
also purchase back-up spectacles. We are steadily converting more and more spectacle
wearers to contact lenses. As my practice enters its fourth year, I'm definitely
seeing growth in my contact lens segment, especially with the advent of new silicone
hydrogel lenses. They're a real driving force."
technology alone won't help you or your patient unless you have a mechanism
in place to make everyone aware of contact lens benefits. Many practitioners have
recognized the value of the "Five Zones of Patient Interaction" to streamline the
patient experience and reinforce the value of contact lenses.
The five interaction zones include:
scheduling, reception, pre-exam, exam/consultation room and post-fit. Dr. Kerksick
emphasizes the first two zones, which she believes are the most important.
Dr. Kerksick prescreens all her patients
with a detailed questionnaire that allows for a straightforward discussion of
ocular health. She finds that many patients who are debating whether to switch from
spectacles to contact lenses, as well as those who have dropped out of contact lenses,
are not aware of the advances in contact lens technology and how these new lenses
can have a positive impact on their ocular health.
"I find out whether or not my patient
has contact lenses, is interested in contact lenses, or previously wore contact
lenses," she says. "Then I try to find out the underlying issues that are affecting
her reluctance to try them (or try them again) and work from there. I try to
guide the conversation and explain the advantages that new contact lens technology
Some patients may need to hear this
information more than once. And others may need a little time for the message
to sink in, according to Dr. Kerksick.
"I recently saw a patient who'd stopped
wearing his contact lenses because he said it was too much of a hassle to insert
and remove them every day," she says. "He was adamant that he was not interested
in wearing contact lenses if he had to go through the same aggravation on a daily
basis. I told him we have several new options such as the extended wear ACUVUE®
OASYS™ lenses. He listened and left, but 20 minutes later, he called me and
asked to come back to try contact lenses. We worked him back into the schedule,
and now he's happy with his lenses."
Making patients aware of new technology
and how it can help ocular health is crucial. Dr. Kerksick stresses that communication
is most important, and the earlier the better.
COMMUNICATE A UNIFORM
Communicating the benefits
of new technology is a key component to helping patients maintain ocular health,
according to Dr. Kerksick. For this reason, she is most concerned with how her staff
communicates with patients early on. Here is where effective management of the first
two zones of patient interaction serves her practice well.
"I'm a firm believer that the
most effective communication starts with my staff, not with me," she says. "By the
time patients see me, they've already interacted with my staff on the phone and
at the reception desk. That's why I've trained my staff to ask patients on the phone
if they're coming in for contact lenses.
"Patients also interact with my staff
when filling out paperwork as well as when they meet with my technicians," she says.
"By the time they see me, they should have a clear understanding of what we're going
to do. These interactions also give patients time to formulate questions for me
based on what my staff has told them."
This sort of team atmosphere is not
easy to come by, and Dr. Kerksick works hard to make sure her staff are all on the
same page. "We have no less than two staff meetings a month, usually 'lunch and
learn' with literature and articles for discussion," she says. "I can't run my practice
as a one-woman show, so I depend on my staff to reiterate the message that our new
lens technology can help you as a patient." In Dr. Kerksick's practice, all collateral
material tells the same story: My practice can help you.
believe in a cohesive message, from the time you enter the office to when you go
to the dispensary," she says. "If you continue to drive home a point, eventually
patients will look around and say 'everyone else is getting in on this, so it must
be good. I want to be a part of it as well.' Even my eyeglass cases have contact
lens material around them."
This attention to detail has
led to a practice that's on the upswing.
GIVE YOUR PATIENTS SOMETHING
The buy-in from staff, combined
with the advent of new silicone hydrogel contact lens technology, has contributed
to an increase in sales and growth in Dr. Kerksick's practice.
"I started the transition to
being more staff-focused about a year ago, and they have been a big reason
why my contact lens section is growing," she says. "If your staff is jazzed about
a contact lens, then that contact lens sells."
The growth has led to a reclamation
of some dropouts as well. "If I can make a case that the new silicone hydrogel lenses
can make a significant difference in end-of-day comfort, I know I'll recapture dropouts,"
Dr. Kerksick says. "We can't deny that end-of-day comfort is imperative for successful
and happy contact lens wearers.
"Furthermore, if I can offer a patient
a silicone hydrogel lens that will alleviate his end-of-day discomfort, I've just
made him a happy contact lens wearer. Let's face it; it's the happy contact lens
wearers who become my loyal, return patients."
Dr. Kerksick conveys the benefits of
this technology with a focused discussion.
"I use the 'whiter-brighter' eye talk,"
she says. "I educate my patients and make a convincing case that these silicone
hydrogel lenses are brand new and state-of-the-art. That gets their attention because
its something they've never heard of before. Then I describe the better ocular health,
whiter eye and more comfort at the end of the day because of superior oxygen transmissibility
and greater flexibility. When you explain all of this to a contact lens patient,
more often than not, she is receptive to the benefits."
According to Dr. Kerksick, this internal
marketing often results in more satisfied patients, who in turn tell others.
Being perceived as an innovator
and ahead of the curve has produced positive results in Dr. Kerksick's practice.
She prides herself on her technological savvy and has seen her reputation and practice
grow because of it. She can see the benefits described in the LBS study of building
a loyal contact lens patient base that results in repeat business and referrals.
"If there's a new lens, I want
it in my practice because I want to be out there ahead of everyone else," she says.
"People seem to have a perception perhaps related to some of the articles
I've written that I am the go-to doctor for new technology, and I promote
myself that way."
But in the end, even armed with the
latest contact lens technology, it all comes down to making patients happy.
"If I can make a patient happy, she'll
go to work or tell her friends how great the experience is, and I get four or five
new patients from referrals," Dr. Kerksick says. "I am known as the doctor with
specialty contact lenses, and this reputation differentiates me from other practices.
If a patient is looking for a certain lens, like a bifocal or something he can't
get elsewhere, I'm the doctor to see."
To Dr. Kerksick, there is such a thing
as a typical patient, one who exhibits the litany of complaints that are common
to contact lens patients. "The top complaints for contact lens patients are similar:
They want more comfort, better vision and greater flexibility," she says. "But eyeglasses
only meet their expectations. The right pair of contact lenses surpasses their expectations."
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: June 2006