My grandfather practiced optometry for 50 years, and, during his lifetime, he saw the commercialization of contact lenses. Many of us can recall the days when fees for services in the contact lens world didn’t exist. Instead, eyecare practitioners were making their money from the sale of the contact lenses themselves.
With the internet providing access to new companies that offer low-priced contact lenses, not to mention patients’ proximity to local brick and mortar discount retail stores, many practitioners may be losing money. If you consider contact lenses to be a loss leader in your practice, you and your patients are missing an incredible opportunity.
A loss leader is something that you sell to consumers in an effort to attract them to your practice.
A loss leader is a product or service that you sell to consumers in an effort to attract them to your practice. Perhaps you do not market your contact lens services, but you provide them because you know that your patients will want them.
Practices that present contact lenses as a loss leader often care little about their profit in the contact lens arena. From my personal experience, these practitioners may have cared at one time, but have come to the conclusion that there is no money to be made in contact lenses. Seeing contact lenses as a loss leader has two major symptoms: 1) I cannot compete on price with other outlets on the contact lenses themselves; and 2) My patients will not pay me for professional fees related to my contact lens services.
Can You Compete?
In the digital age, your services to your patients through the sale of contact lenses will rarely compete box price to box price. If your lenses are $5 to $10 a box more than what a patient can find on a search engine, you will find that an increasing percentage of patients will gravitate toward a less expensive option. As such, we have lowered our prices and present the cost of lenses after patients’ insurance and manufacturers’ rebates are applied.
But our initial price per box needed to be competitive with what patients would find in other places. We realized that the total profit of keeping 100% of the contact lens sales in our office at a marginal profit per encounter was far higher compared to a larger profit from a smaller percentage of our patients. Working with our distributor to set up online shopping, subscription services, and rebate programs has been the greatest asset to our contact lens practice.
Fees for Service
This is a service-based profession, and contact lenses carry an increasingly important service aspect. Our patients constantly need to be warned about the risks of lens wear and monitored for proper fit and vision. This is a service, and services carry a price. In my grandfather’s day, that price was paid through the sale of the lenses; in our day, that price is paid through a service fee.
Our fees have continued to increase over the years to keep up with inflation and the expertise that they carry. Our patients ask about them, but rarely complain once they realize the reason for the additional fee.
By using a service fee that coincides with the level of time and care that you give your patients, along with increasing the number of patients who purchase lenses from your office, you can make contact lenses an exciting and meaningful profit center in your office again. CLS