the business of contact lenses
A Simple Equation to Fit More Contact Lenses
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Why don't more of your patients wear contact lenses or, more specifically, at least try contact lenses? You've already heard most of the reasons. "I could never wear lenses. My eyes are so sensitive I can't even use eye drops!" Or my personal favorite, "My cousin tried contact lenses and couldn't see with them, so I won't be able to wear them either."
In these and similar cases, the monetary risk of being fit with lenses isn't the sole impediment to patients proceeding. Rather, it's a combination of the perceived risk and attached emotion of trying and failing; committing time to something for no personal gain; and finally, the actual financial risk of failing. If we could reduce or eliminate these risks, more patients would be willing to try lenses — and given the plethora of available lenses, most would likely succeed.
Finding a Balance
If you've been reading my column for awhile, you know I'm very bottom-line profit focused. For that reason, I don't like to give services or goods away for free unless they ultimately add to the bottom line.
Balancing lowered patient risk in the name of increasing profits for example, offering a money back guarantee) isn't easy. If you consider this strategy, remember that as you reduce risk, you can — and have to — safely increase your fees.
By looking at extreme ends of the scale, let's consider two examples of how you can use this concept.
First, let's say that you have decided to eliminate any risk for patients wanting to try contact lenses. You've gone absolutely crazy and told the patient, "I'll fit you with contact lenses and you can try them for six months — totally free. That's right, your examination is free. Your fitting is free. The lenses are free. I'll send an assistant to your house every morning to watch you put the lenses on or to put them on for you. The solutions are free, too, and while we're at it, here are the keys to my new car, in case you're tired of your old one."
Yes, this is an extreme example. However, should the patient say, "Sure, doc — sounds like a plan!" you would ultimately have to charge $60,000 (remember the car?) to make this profitable.
On the other end of the spectrum, a more conservative practitioner might say, "I'll give you the first right trial disposable lens for free. After that, you have to pay for everything — including the left trial lens and the solutions I use in the office to rinse your lenses. I mean everything." In this case, with higher patient risk, you can afford to decrease fees below $60,000 and remain profitable.
Temporarily suspending that our first example falls under the "if it's too good to be true" department, most patients would be willing to try contact lenses with a more conservative strategy that still reduces risk. For this reason, it behooves savvy practitioners attempting to reduce patient risk to make sure their fees are set correspondingly high. Why? Because with that much of a reduction of risk the chances of patients trying lenses are very high. And if you're able to collect a higher fee, why not do so?
Reduced Risk, More Profit
Where's the best place for your practice on this continuum? That's a personal decision. The point of this article is to help you make your choice with the knowledge that as you reduce the risk, but not necessarily the price, the proclivity of patients to at least try contact lenses increases. As that tendency to become a wearer increases, so too does your practice's chances of becoming more profitable. CLS
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.