Lenses as a Loss Leader?
GARY GERBER, OD
When my kids were small, I remember going to
the store for diapers and having to go way in the back of the store to find them.
Usually exhausted after a full day of patients, I recall thinking, "How
inconvenient. They must sell a lot of diapers here. Why put them all the way in
the back? What lousy customer service!" Of course, I also did exactly what the retailer
wanted me to do I usually left with something other than diapers. After all,
I had just seen most of the store's inventory.
While there may not be an obvious and direct physical product
placement correlation for contact lenses, one thing that's important to note is
my repeated trips to the store. I'd guess that on more than half of them I bought
something other than what I went in for. Contact lenses have that same power to
grow your practice, and you should be aware of it and harness it.
Can't Get Rid of Them
While there are certainly some patients you probably wouldn't
mind never seeing again, the facts are that most contact lens patients return for
professional care sooner than either eyeglass patients or those needing no correction.
You've probably already noticed that and industry data support this. What you may
not have noticed are the less obvious additional revenue streams these extra visits
can create for your practice. Beyond obvious things like plano sunglasses and solutions,
more visits to your offices offer more opportunities for larger revenue generators
like professional fees. As modern optometry moves towards more medical care, contact
lenses provide a great tether between practice and patient.
Patients for Life
To implement this concept you only need to change the way you
currently think of patient encounters. Our billing, coding and payment methodology
focuses on one visit at a time. For example, "The contact lens patient I saw today
generated $147 in professional fees." A more profitable approach would be to view
this visit along a lengthy continuum of ongoing visits. "The patient I saw today
will be a patient in my practice for the next 20 years. During that time I will
see him 35 times and anticipate total revenues of $8,000."
This thinking opens up possibilities not available with conventional
thinking. Seeing a patient for a contact lens fit today who has high IOPs and questionable
visual field results now triggers an appointment for a glaucoma work-up in 3 months.
The point here is that a contact lens patient has a higher proclivity to return
for ongoing care because he's already been in the office more often than a non-contact
wearing patient. These patients are accustomed to not having all
of their needs tended to at one visit. And in that expectation is the power to increase
This is not about fitting patients with contact lenses solely
for the purpose of increasing their chances of returning for unnecessary testing.
To the contrary, it's about using contact lenses, when appropriate for the patient,
with the awareness that the lenses can help condition the patient about the need
for ongoing clinical care that is unrelated to his contact lenses.
The proof of this concept is borne out from client files. It's
no accident that the highest netting practices we work with have the highest percentage
of contact lens patients and those practices see that population more frequently
for non-contact lens-related visits. There are certainly some patient age caveats
attached to this concept, but the profit and loss statements of these practices
have repeatedly proven this point.
Dr. Gerber is the president
of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software
solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: September 2006