Article

CONTACT LENS PRACTICE PEARLS

“LET IT GO”: GET PAID FOR SERVICE

Awise philosopher named Princess Elsa* once said: “Let it go, let it go, Can’t hold it back anymore.” Based on this advice, I like to look at my contact lens practice and see what is holding me back and what I need to let go of.

Looking Back

Let’s back up. My grandfather started his optometric career in the early days of contact lenses and saw an explosion of contact lens innovation. During that time, his business model didn’t change; he charged patients for the materials, and that was all that he needed to do. Because 100% of his patients purchased their lenses from him, there really was no need for a separate lens fitting charge. As our industry was changing, my grandfather was looking at retirement. So, he never had to shift his business model to be competitive with online contact lens sales or large box retailers.

Present and Future

I have found that many practitioners are holding onto the business model of our grandfathers—or at least a slight modification of it. Most have not “let it go” when it comes to the revenue generated from the sale of lenses. I am aghast to hear about the amount that practitioners are charging for their services. Their rationale: “With the amount that I make on the lenses and the services combined, it is fair.”

According to Nichols and Fisher (2019), practitioners estimate that nearly 36% of their patients purchase contact lenses from a source other than their practice—2% from another practice, 22% from online retailers, and 12% from third-party retailers (Figure 1). As third-party and online retailers improve their efficiencies, their costs will continue to go down; in turn, patients will then decide whether to purchase their contact lenses from their practitioners or from a lower-cost alternative source. It’s a race to the bottom, and it is a scary ride when we begin to lose revenue. However, practitioners’ schooling covered eye care, health, and vision enhancements, not the retailing of lenses.

Figure 1. 2018 estimates of contact lens purchase locations (reprinted from Nichols and Fisher, 2019).

Last year, I increased my contact lens fees. This was not an easy thing because I believe that I already charge more than many of my competitors do. However, I also lowered the cost of my in-office contact lens products by nearly the same amount. This way, patients get a lower cost on the products that they buy from me but pay a higher price for the services that I am providing.

The dollars turn out to be about the same, but the perception shifts. Now patients see that much of their expense is going toward the services and expertise that the practice provides. At the same time, patients get a deal on their contact lenses.

If you are holding onto your revenue from the sale of contact lenses, I believe that many practitioners will continue to see more of their business leave. It’s time to “let it go” so that it’s not holding you back from being perceived as an experienced specialty service provider. Flip your revenue streams when it comes to the growth of your contact lens sales and the perceptions of patients. CLS

*Note: I am the daddy of three little girls if you didn’t know.

For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #285.