The Business of Contact Lenses

Facing and Embracing Challenges is a Practice Builder

The Business of Contact Lenses

Facing and Embracing Challenges is a Practice Builder

By Gary Gerber, OD

Would you break out in a cold sweat if your next patient was a motivated presbyope with keratoconus who insisted on being fit with contact lenses? Or how about having a key staff member say, “Unless you double my take home pay, I'm leaving in an hour.”

There are clinical and business challenges that can seem insurmountable. Yet, if you reflexively respond to the first challenge by saying, “Sorry, you can't wear contact lenses,” or to the second with, “Go ahead and leave,” then you run the risk of your practice stagnating and eventually hitting a plateau. You're probably thinking, “What? You're saying I have to fit impossible cases and acquiesce to unreasonable staff demands or I run the risk of financial ruin?”

Well sort of. Here's the point and what both cases have in common. Instead of responding to these challenges by thinking, “We can't do that,” change your thinking to, “How can we do that?” If you aren't willing to constantly challenge your clinical and business building skills, you will indeed eventually plateau.

Seeking Out Tougher Cases

Clinically, taking on progressively tougher cases forces you to stay “on top of your game.” That means you'll be forced to be aware of new products and technologies. Once you learn about a new lens or device, you'll be more inclined to try it with the appropriate patients. Instead of shying away from cases that are new to you or those you might have customarily referred out, raise your clinical bar in small increments and challenge yourself.

Of course, it's never in anyone's best interest to do things that you don't have the skill or knowledge to do. But that doesn't mean that you should stop trying to gather that knowledge.

Change Your Thinking

From a practice growth perspective, you need to constantly tweak and experiment and keep looking for new horizons.

In the case of the staff member's request, what would happen if you turn it around and say, “I'd be happy to give you that increase. Show me how we can increase our percentage of patients who purchase a yearly supply of contact lenses from 42 percent to 65 percent and I'll do it.” The numbers are immaterial. The point is to avoid defensive responses that will ultimately inhibit growth, which in time will limit revenues and ultimately the level of care that your patients receive.

To the previous points, it is often a good idea to actually seek out more challenging clinical and practice growing projects. For example, if you've never fit an infant or young child with contact lenses but would like to, set a goal today that says something like, “By January 2012, I will have fit at least five patients younger than age 4 with contact lenses.”

For practice building, your challenge might be, “Next summer, I'm going to take three consecutive weeks off and I'm not going to suffer any loss in revenue.”

Laying out these two goals will mean you will have to start planning now. For the pediatric contact lenses you will need to start clinical training and acquire any requisite technology. In the second example, if you want to take three weeks off, you will have to have a great system in place to ensure that your practice revenues are sustainable without your constant input and oversight—and you will have about nine months to do it.

Keep Challenging Yourself

Keep raising the bar and challenging yourself. Ultimately, it will ensure that your patients receive the best care and that your practice continues to grow. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at