contact lens economics
Are You a Tortoise Or a Hare?
BY GARY GERBER, OD
There's no question that in previous columns I have been quite bullish about the future of contact lenses and their profitability. I have tried to realign the thinking of those who continually say, "There's no money in contact lenses" or, "Selling eyeglasses is faster and easier." Admittedly, for as much as I've written and lectured on contact lens profitability, I still encounter many skeptics. So because my mission isn't yet complete, I'll try a different approach.
You all recall the story of the tortoise and the hare. Through diligence and perseverance, the tortoise won the race against his speedy contender the hare. In the eyecare world, this fable defines two main personality categories that influence how practitioners build their practices.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Tortoise practitioners are systematic, slow, steady and forward-looking practice builders. They view patients not as "12 exams today," but as 12 revenue generators (and their associated referrals) over large units of time. For this reason, Tortoises are more apt to promote and recommend contact lenses -- not as an alternative to eyeglasses, but as an adjunct to them.
Like their storybook equivalents, Tortoise practitioners invest the time necessary to culti vate long-standing patient relationships, and they realize that contact lenses -- more so than eyeglasses -- are often the glue that cements these relationships.
Does the Quick Sale Pay Off?
The Tortoises' Hare counterparts attempt to haphazardly and arbitrarily grow their practices in the flash of a lightening bolt. Hare practitioners aren't bad business decision makers. Rather, their personalities lean toward profit happening in the moment. For this reason they see eyeglass sales as a less circuitous route toward financial rewards.
Perceiving eyeglasses as easier and more profitable, Hares think, "The patient is here today and willing to spend money today, so let's close the deal today." I certainly can't argue with that -- except to point out that the Hares' obsession with today often fogs their vision of tomorrow's potential earnings.
Industry sources report that the typical eyeglass patient has an eye examination about every 24 months. Contact lens wearers receive the same level of service about every 18 months. Given the higher income for contact lens professional fees compared to spectacles, and given the time value of money, you can readily see why Tortoises continually recommend contact lenses.
Make Your Service Count
Hares contend that once you fit a patient with lenses he will vanish into Internet obscurity. As I've written before, if your patients leave your practice to save 50 cents on a box of lenses, then you have bigger fish to fry. You are using the Internet as an excuse to avoid more systemic practice building.
Tortoises use cutting-edge technology such as www.patient wire.com to abolish patients' proclivity to buy lenses from alternative on-line dispensers. They offer patients new advancements in technology (such as orthokeratology, daily disposable and continuous wear) and condition them to expect something new at each visit. This gives the Tortoises' patients more reason to want to return for professional care.
Which One Are You?
The Tortoise or the Hare -- determined or hasty -- contact lenses and eyeglasses or just eye- glasses -- which one are you?
My clients and I remain proud Tortoises.
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 DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.