More Options for Patients, More Revenue for Your Practice
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Most things in life aren't black or white. Remembering that gray is a color can help you boost your contact lens practice by increasing your referral base as well as your revenues.
And Instead of Or
Most appointment calls to our practices include, "Will you be coming to our office for glasses or contact lenses?" If the patient answers "contact lenses," then a few days later we'll invariably discuss "back-up" eyeglasses at the close of the appointment.
However, if we set the stage differently from the first call by asking, "Will you be coming to our office for glasses or for contact lenses and glasses?" then the patient immediately considers that contact lenses and glasses aren't an 'either or' proposition, but rather a combination approach to vision correction. A la carte practices transition into complete dinner offices in which practitioners no longer relegate eyeglasses as something to have "just in case of an emergency," but put them on equal footing with contact lenses. Of course, the opposite is true for patients requesting eyeglasses. Discussing contact lenses together with eyeglasses not in addition to them will ultimately increase the number of lenses you prescribe.
Similarly, most of us consider contact lenses to be a full-time method of correction for most of our patients. The exception may be daily disposable lenses which, by the way, do work for full time wear. However, just as we routinely discuss "lifestyle dispensing" with eyeglasses, we can do the same with contact lenses. Even though patients can use lenses other than daily disposables as a part-time correction, we rarely discuss this option.
Many Instead of One
After trying 81 brands of soft lenses and 17 GP designs, the patient you're fitting likes the vision with Brand X lenses but prefers the comfort of Brand Y, which of course, has less vision than Brand X. Because you can't find another lens that offers the best vision and comfort, instead of pulling the plug, fit both! Provided both len-ses are physiologically safe for the patient, let him know that when he requires a bit more acuity, he should use X. If he wants to wear the lenses for longer time periods and can safely compromise acuity, he should use Y. Of course, you should put him on a list with other marginally successful patients and call him when you have a more comprehensive solution.
Lifestyle dispensing of contact lenses makes sense for athletes, and patients with certain occupations. As in our example, if your patient really has his heart set on blue eyes, but his blue lenses aren't as sharp as his green ones, dispense both. Beyond the obvious bottom line advantages for your practice, you'll succeed in providing an answer that rivals the compromising alternative.
Our clients using these creative dispensing alternatives are seeing referrals from other practices and hearing, "Why didn't my other doctor tell me that?"
Backing ourselves into corners with presbyopes who are trying to decide between monovision, multifocal lenses or distance contact lenses with reading glasses is a common example of this. After many patients report successes with one modality and failure in another, we may be tempted not to fit the patient. Instead, explain the limitations of each modality (before fitting them instead of after) and dispense more than one modality.
Changing Your Mindset
Don't be that "other doctor." Think gray. Think "and" instead of "or" and think many instead of one. Collectively, these mindset changes will help you grow your contact lens practice.
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.