Contact Lens Economics

What a Difference an Education Makes

contact lens economics

What a Difference an Education Makes

December 2001

One of my staff members recently took up golf. I asked her how her game was going, and she responded that she was going to spend the weekend working on her short game. On Monday morning, I asked her how things had gone and she told me what she had done.

"Dr. West, I figured that I had the wrong sort of putter, so I went to a golf store to find a better one. I picked up a few putters, but I really didn't know what to look for. The salesman finally pointed one out and said something about it being less expensive. He didn't say much else, and I felt dumb because I didn't know what to ask. So I just bought the one he pointed out and went to the golf course, but to tell you the truth, I didn't putt any better. I guess it's just me."

"He didn't talk to you about the difference in brass or alloy heads or the feel of the shaft?" I asked.

"No, he just pointed to one that was a good price. So I bought the cheap one."

We went on about our morning with patients. After lunch, I saw her getting out of her car with a shopping bag in her hand and a grin on her face.

"Spend your lunch shopping?" I asked.

"Yes, sir, spent more than I should have, but it was worth it. I ran over to the mall to buy some eye shadow like my daughter was wearing last weekend."

"That's a big bag just for eye shadow," I said.

"Oh, I didn't even buy that eye shadow. The saleslady told me that with my complexion and skin texture I really needed a different type. Then she showed me their eyebrow pencil. I liked it so much I bought it and the eyeliner and lip liner, too!"

Par for the Course

I hope you know my punch line by now. As I visit with doctors around the country, I am amazed by the golden opportunities that walk into ­ and out of ­ our practices on a daily basis. Patients have selected us, even if from a managed care list, as their eyecare expert and want us to inform them about the available options best suited to their vision needs. In these two examples, which "provider" did the best job of determining my staff member's needs?

Driving the (Contact Lens) Message Home

How do we determine those needs? Call it "lifestyle dispensing," call it "selling up" ­ I call it doing my job. My staff and I have a duty to provide patients with comprehensive information about their diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options, whether they have glaucoma or simple myopia.

The most cost effective way to do this is to utilize your staff. If your staff does not have this level of ability, provide training for them or hire better staff.

Your staff should begin the contact lens message when they speak with a patient on the phone. They should continue that message when the patient enters your office by selecting appropriate brochures for the patient to read while waiting to be ushered to pretesting. For example, when a pre-teen wearing eyeglasses signs in, the parent should be given a brochure about teens and contact lenses. When a mechanic in eyeglasses is being worked up, he should be given brochures about daily disposable lenses for recreational use. All contact lens patients need eyeglasses prescribed for them; appropriate spectacle lens treatment options must be recommended. Too many practitioners and staff treat patients in an either/or fashion ­ contacts OR eyeglasses instead of contacts AND eyeglasses.

Don't be guilty of trying to sell your patients an inexpensive putter instead of truly helping them with their short game.

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