The Business of Contact Lenses
Limiting the Number of Vendors in Your Practice
BY GARY GERBER, OD
How much easier would practicing be if every patient who needed eyeglasses got the exact same pair? And I do mean exactly the same—the same prescription and the same frame. While this scenario is of course nonsensical, the reasons why it would make your life easier are very real.
First, you and your staff would be the quintessential experts in this particular style of eyeglasses. You’d know all the nuances of the frame, know all the physics behind the optics of the lenses and the chemistry that supports the photochromic anti-reflective (AR) lenses. There would be no question you couldn’t answer. This degree of confidence would mean that the number of prescriptions leaving your practice would be close to zero.
Imagining Only One Brand
Because you display only one style of frames in your optical department, and see more than one patient per day, you’d have multiple set-ups of this same pair of glasses in your inventory. You’d receive preferential pricing and treatment from the frame and lens companies. Your orders would be expedited, warranties would be beefier, and if the frame changed, your practice would be first in line for the new version.
Keeping track of inventory would be easier, and as a result, you’d have less shrinkage. This would add to your profit margins.
Think how ridiculous this scenario would be for contact lenses! Imagine one contact lens style fitting patients in both eyes. The same prescription, base curve, diameter, material, and modality—every patient, every time.
Boring? Probably. But it certainly would make your life easier for all the reasons already listed. Namely, you’d be an expert in that lens, would have a very trim yet effective inventory, and get preferential treatment from the contact lens manufacturer. So while this scenario is not feasible or realistic, the benefits would be tangible and genuine. Is there a hybrid model that brings some of these benefits and gets us closer to this “one lens fits all” concept?
Reducing Your Vendor Base
The next best thing to “one lens fits all” is “one company fits your practice.” At the moment, no single company has lenses that will fit all of your patients. But, there are those whose portfolios are deeper in scope and diversity compared to others. Again, attempting to fit all of your patients in one brand of lens is currently impossible. However, attempting to fit most of them may be.
Employing this concept, practitioners willing to give most of their lens business to one company should expect to become experts in its most commonly used products. This isn’t solely from repetition and rote memory, but from a wealth of experience.
As a practical matter, with all the trial sets required from multiple companies, concentrating with only one vendor frees up space for fewer trial sets and ensures that they will always be stocked. This eliminates the embarrassing statement, “I wish I had this lens with a -1.25D cylinder × 180, but I used the last one yesterday.” With a commitment to work more closely with one company, trial lenses should be easier and more plentiful to come by, making fitting speedier and therefore, more profitable.
With most patients in one particular brand, you’re more likely to be at the top of the list when new products are released and, if you’re so inclined, more likely to be chosen for new product tests and trials. Finally, with enough volume of business, you may get preferential pricing.
You can’t fit every patient in one company’s lenses. But if you could, the benefits to your practice would be significant. 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 www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.