The Business of Contact Lenses

It's Time for Some Diagnostic Lens Spring Cleaning

The Business of Contact Lenses

It's Time for Some Diagnostic Lens Spring Cleaning

By Clarke D. Newman, OD, FAAO

When I built my current office eight years ago, I designed it myself. Soup to nuts, I put pen to paper on every design element from the front desk to the back office. One of the things I did was to design a very elaborate built-in storage cabinet to hold the myriad diagnostic lens sets that I already had and anticipated that I would have in the future.

This cabinet has 30 drawers in six banks with shelves above and floor-to-ceiling cabinets beside it, all covered with doors to provide a clean, organized appearance. In total, this cabinet provides more than 650 square feet in which to store my diagnostic lenses. I thought I was good to go for the rest of my career.

I ran out of space in a year.

In my last column, I spoke about the moral imperative of not fixing things that are not broken. I stand by that. However, from the Department of Unintended Consequences, because of my philosophy I now have patients wearing an incredibly large array of hydrogel and GP lens designs. For the soft lens patients, I want to keep diagnostic lenses around to effect efficient changes. For my GP patients, I need to keep every diagnostic set I ever had on hand for the same reason.

The last thing I am in my personal life is a pack rat. Yet, I can't seem to part with any of my diagnostic sets. I think I have this unconscious need to please every company in the industry, and if I discard one of their diagnostic sets, it is like telling them that I don't love them anymore.

I ask you, is that any way to run a business?

Start Weeding

Gary Gerber, OD, would say, “Are you kidding me—of course not!” As most of you know, I share this column with Gary, who is quite a bit better at practice management and magic than I am. I'm taller, but that doesn't count for much.

Of course, he would be right. One of the elements of managing a contact lens practice properly is weeding the garden. Sometimes, the biggest barrier to this endeavor has an OD degree hanging on the wall. It is certainly easy to discard diagnostic sets when the companies discontinue a lens design. Having the intestinal fortitude to pull the plug on a lens design yourself—well, that's different. You have to balance the desire to provide the wide variety of contact lenses that your patients need with the need to keep your diagnostic lens inventories at a manageable level.

Planning ahead is a key to getting your diagnostic lens inventories back in line. Decide which lenses you simply cannot live without, which lenses you really want to keep, those you sort of like, those lenses that are okay, and those you really don't like. Then eliminate the bottom two categories. You don't want to prescribe lenses that you think are just okay, right?

Now, if only I can get myself to follow my own advice. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham once posited that the inability of a philosopher to live up to his philosophy does not invalidate the philosophy. So, even though I have every intention of decreasing my diagnostic lens inventory, if I fail to do so, you should still clean out your trial lenses. CLS

Dr. Newman has been in private practice in Dallas, Texas since 1986 specializing in vision rehabilitation through contact lenses as well as corneal disease management, optometric medicine and refractive surgery. He is also a consultant or advisor to B+L and Inspire Pharmaceuticals. You can reach him at