contact lens economics
Use Staff to Increase Contact Lens Profitability
BY WALTER D. WEST, OD, FAAO
If you want to enhance profits from the contact lens portion of your practice, ask yourself if you use your staff to their best abilities in this area. Staff increase revenues through patient education, as well as decrease your cost of goods. Increased profits are found through both avenues.
Staff is crucial to the quality of education the patient receives. As staff collect patient data through the history of present illness (reason for visit), review of symptoms, family and social history, they have the opportunity to uncover areas of non-compliance.
Non-compliance can cost the patient contact lens success as well as cost your practice. Suppose you prescribed daily disposables for a patient, but he decides to stretch the wearing schedule to one month. Likely, the patient was initially instructed to use the lenses once and throw them away. Possibly, proper lens disinfection and storage were not discussed. The patient decides to store the pair of lenses in non-preserved saline every night and develops conjunctivitis. He suffers discomfort and must wear spectacles for a time. The practice just lost revenue from contact lens sales. Plus, an unhappy patient is an unhappy patient regardless of who is at fault. Staff tend to interact with contact lens patients more regularly than the doctor and should provide ongoing education and re-emphasize care instructions.
A benefit of gas permeable lenses is their durability. Some GP patients maintain the same pair of lenses for years. Staff should inspect the patient's lenses for scratches and warpage during pre-examination data gathering. Patients who view their scratched GP lenses through a loupe rarely complain about purchasing a new pair. Even if the lenses are easily restored through polishing, staff should encourage patients to purchase a spare pair, particularly for specialty designs such as bitorics or bifocals. The practice benefits through the sale of an additional pair of lenses, and the patient benefits from the reassurance of having a spare pair on hand.
Patients are also reassured when the staff educates them about back-up eyeglasses. Virtually all contact lens patients should have back-up eyeglasses, and your office can reap the financial reward. The same is true of plano sunglasses: patients should be educated about proper sun protection for their eyes, and your office should provide them with sunglasses to wear over their contact lenses. Staff emphasizing their importance is key to patients purchasing them from you.
Staff can also ask patients about family members who may be interested in contact lenses and schedule them for evaluation. Many parents think their 13-year-old child is too young or their 50-year-old spouse is too old. It is up to you and your staff to educate them otherwise.
Staff can help lower your cost of goods. Many offices dispense from inventory, which has several advantages. If patients leave their annual exam with a year's supply of lenses, it takes them out of the shopping loop for a year (plus patients who shop lenses may transfer their care as well). Bulk inventory purchases save money through lower unit costs, and it saves staff time and shipping costs associated with numerous small orders. However, over-stocking your inventory or stocking it improperly translates to dollars sitting on the shelf instead of in the bank. Make sure your staff knows how to manage the inventory through efficient restocking and moving the product to patients. Selling a three-month supply of lenses rather than a year's supply is a huge financial mistake for your practice in terms of cash flow and overhead staff costs.
Dr. West practices in Brentwood, TN, and lectures nationally and internationally on contact lens and practice management topics.