Optometric Management Tip # 319   -   Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Optical Remakes

I recently returned to my office after a vacation and among all the mail and messages left for me by our office manager was a file labeled optical remakes. My office uses a special optical order form when we remake or replace eyeglasses at no charge. The form is on pink paper and has three copies so we can track the frequency and cost of remakes. Some of these optical jobs are covered under a warranty program, some are due to our own errors in prescribing, measuring or fitting, and some are due to breakage or damage of materials by our staff. Remakes are always approved by a doctor or a manager before they are ordered.

The optical remake file is nothing unusual; reviewing it from time to time is part of my normal duties. In this instance, based on the stack of pink slips, I assumed at first glance the file was for the year 2007. It turned out it was just for January! Houston, we have a problem. OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but the number of no charge remakes was higher than I would like, so I investigated the reason for each job.

Basic overview

In assessing the remake problem, I realize that my practice dispenses a high number of eyeglasses, so even with a low remake percentage; I will have a high absolute number. It's tempting for me to try to quote some percentage that might be considered normal, but it would be a disservice because the definition of the remake policy varies so much from one practice to another. It's hard to compare apples to apples in an expense category like remakes.

I also realize that my practice has a culture that places a high value on total patient satisfaction. While I strongly believe in that philosophy and it's the main reason my practice does well, that philosophy also promotes more frequent remakes. As a business person, I want to reduce remakes but not reduce the excellent customer service that often requires a remake. I want to stop what I consider unnecessary and preventable remakes.

Reasons for remakes

Let's examine some of the factors that cause an eyeglass prescription to have to be remade or reordered at no charge.

Of all the reasons cited above, there are two that I feel are the easiest to attack: optician error and optician damage. I would like to reduce the remakes from the other categories as well, but I feel these two are the most amenable to change.

Remakes from the warranty category result in the largest number by far in my practice and those should really be viewed separately from all the others. Warranty remakes generally have the cost covered by the supplier of the product, so while there was no charge to the patient for the order, there is no lab cost either. We should not overlook the labor cost, however. An established practice that does a great deal of warranty work will incur a significant expense in the time needed by employees to process the orders and re-deliver the products. If a warranty remake is not covered by a supplier and must be covered by the practice (such as with in-office labs), that's based on a business policy decision that the practice owner decided was in his best interest.

How to reduce remakes

It's very important to reduce the number of no charge optical orders for two major reasons: 1) the lab expense is significant and cuts into the practice net income and 2) many of the remakes are caused by errors which even if corrected create an inconvenience for the patient.

I think the best way to reduce remakes due to optician error or damage is through staff training. This should be an ongoing effort in every practice, but in reality it usually gets dropped by the wayside. I'm going to rededicate my efforts in this area and design a program of weekly staff in-service meetings. I'll write more next week on how to plan and produce staff training sessions that will improve your services and reduce your remake cost.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management