Save Your Practice Time – And Money
Help boost your practice's bottom line by staying on top of inventory and making the best use of Internet resources.
Is your eyecare practice tightening its belt? You can play a key role in saving money and improving the bottom line. In particular, you can make small changes to your inventory practices and get information from the Internet to make a huge impact. Here's how:
The key to inventory management is always to have what you need and never let supplies gather dust and end up in the trash. It's about ordering different product categories together, such as contact lenses, solutions and cases, or dilating drops and fluorescein strips so you can help save on shipping costs. And if you use supplies in high volume, you can order them in bulk to reduce costs even more.
|"My staff uses two forms of online training through our Vision Source group and CooperVision. … The staff receives the essential tools we want them to have, such as learning some of the technical jargon and the processes we use to fit patients. … They learn, and we save time and money."
— John L. Schachet, OD
"I don't keep much inventory for contact lenses – just a couple of lens types that we use the most," explains John L. Schachet, OD, of Eyecare Consultants – Vision Source in Englewood, Colo. "Our five doctors all have preferences, so we stock a couple of the most popular lenses that we dispense, and, of course, our diagnostic lenses."
Once you've accumulated inventory, the challenge is to ensure that it gets used in a timely manner to prevent it from expiring on the shelf. One way to avoid waste is to ensure that the older products are always kept in front of the newer supplies so the older products are sold first. In addition, keeping inventory low saves the practice money and valuable space.
|"There are different buying groups that offer ways to get lower per-box rates. Sometimes it's an end-of-quarter special, or we may purchase a bank of contact lenses — for example, 100 boxes of a specific lens — and pay a lower price per box up front. When my staff places an order, the lenses come out of that prepaid bank."
— Jason R. Miller, OD, MBA
By controlling costs on contact lenses, practices can save money and pass that savings along to patients. Jason R. Miller, OD, MBA, partner at EyeCare Professionals of Powell in Powell, Ohio, says that he meets this goal in several ways. First, he shops around for the best prices when it's time to buy lenses. "There are different buying groups that offer ways to get lower per-box rates," he explains. "Sometimes it's an end-of-quarter special, or we may purchase a bank of contact lenses – for example, 100 boxes of a specific lens – and pay a lower price per box up front. When my staff places an order, the lenses come out of that prepaid bank." This allows his staff to set competitive prices for each box of contact lenses, based on the distributor's reports about current retail and online market prices.
Another way to save your practice money is to order contact lenses online through the manufacturer or distributor instead of spending time ordering them by phone. The lenses will get shipped directly to patients, with no additional cost to the practice.
"Rather than spending time on the phone, repeating my name, address and so on, I can multitask and even answer the phone while I'm ordering online," says Launa Kind, who's in charge of ordering contact lenses and other related supplies at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. "It's so much faster, and I can order all the supplies and trial lenses at once, which means I can combine shipping charges instead of paying a fee for a single box here and there."
"We've been ordering everything online for about 6 years, and we continue to do more as the Web sites become more sophisticated," Dr. Schachet says.
Advances in technology enable Ms. Kind to scan barcodes on empty blister packs of CooperVision trial lenses, which alerts CooperVision to send her a new lens for the diagnostic fitting set.
Use Web Training
Instead of spending money on transportation, gas and hotel accommodations to attend offsite training, consider doing most, if not all of your staff training, online in the office. Many optometric training programs are available online – and often they're free. So, forget the gas and hotel bill. You can spend an hour online earning continuing education credits or technician certification.
"My staff uses two forms of online training through our Vision Source group and CooperVision," Dr. Schachet explains. "Vision Source training modules teach my staff how to treat patients with the attitude that they're the primary reason we exist and that it's the patient who pays their salaries, not me. The CooperVision training program – which is mandatory for all of our new employees – offers modules to help staff understand what goes on in a contact lens practice, even if they're already certified technicians. The staff receives the essential tools we want them to have, such as learning some of the technical jargon and the processes we use to fit patients and provide the proper instruction for contact lens care. They learn, and we save time and money."
|At MyCooperVision (coopervision.com), more than 28,000 eyecare practitioners use convenient and secure online ordering, including trial lenses and access to account information like shipment tracking, invoice lookup, payment history and product bank balances.|
Perhaps you're already using some – or all – of these cost-saving measures in your eyecare practice. If not, now is a good time to start. If you and your staff members can save money for the practice, you'll be doing your part to increase the bottom line now and throughout the new year. ■