Contact Lens Economics

You Want COntact Lenses with Your Burger?

contact lens economics

You Want Contact Lenses With Your Burger?

January 2001

At first blush, you might not think restaurants and fitting contact lenses have much in common. But consider these two questions, often heard in their respective places:

"Which do you recommend - the chicken or fish?"

"Which do you recommend - the daily or two week disposable?"

In a restaurant, the patron might ask the question after the waiter recites a litany of specials. In a practitioner's office, patients might question the doctor after he/she recites a litany of the contact lenses available.

Order Takers or Prescribers?

Is our charge as contact lens practitioners to provide a menu of lenses to our patients and have them choose the ones they'd like? While we have certainly all had patients who believe they know more about contact lenses than we do, who is the expert? Do we refuse to remove our waiter's apron for fear of rejection? Are we concerned patients may think we are "selling" contact lenses?

We need to learn from the restaurant business. Successful restauranteurs tell you that when patrons visit them, they have already decided to buy. It's rare that a person enters a restaurant, drinks a glass of water and leaves. The restaurant's task at this point is to make sure that the money spent is perceived as being well spent. If not, the patron will not return or refer others.

So it goes in our practices. Patients entering your practice have already decided to purchase contact lens services from you. If not, they wouldn't be there. At this point, we have the same task as the restaurant: to assure our patients have an enjoyable, comfortable, emotionally fulfilling and satisfying optometric experience. If they do, they will tell their friends, and they themselves will return. Part of our mission in helping contact lens patients reach this experience is to instruct them on the best possible way to correct their vision. That is indeed why they are there and have already committed to spend money.

Make a Recommendation

I'm willing to guess there are some of you are reading this thinking, "Yes, we're not waiters. But we are educators. We have a professional obligation to teach our patients about all of the various lens alternatives that are available to them."

I agree. We are educators. I also agree patients should hear about all lens modalities (especially new ones) from us. But part of an educator's responsibility is to educate themselves about the pupil they will instruct. My 5-year-old son's teacher knows what reading and writing material is appropriate for my son. She may offer him two or three carefully chosen books and say, "I think you'll like this one the best." Guess which one he chooses?

We must doctor and teach simultaneously. Accordingly, we should say to a patient, "You can wear either two-week or daily disposable lenses. I recommend you choose the dailies because..."

You should always offer your absolute best clinical recommendation first. That's your job. Do not underestimate the power of one human recommending something to another. Virtually every decision we make in life is influenced to some degree by another person. Once you complete your clinical testing and assessment, at that moment you, and no one else on earth but you, knows more about what's best for your patient.

If you don't use this approach, don't be surprised if one day you find yourself asking, "Shall I bring out the contact lenses with your entree´ or appetizer?" 

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