Optometric Management Tip # 331   -   Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The Contact Lens Evaluation Fee

Since last week's tip covered pricing of eyeglass services and products, let's continue that theme with a look at contact lens fees. Show me ten eye care practitioners (ECPs) and I'll show you ten different ways to structure contact lens fees. The names and definitions of services along with the prices can vary greatly. Some ECPs charge separately for every service while others prefer to bundle services and products into a package. Those differences are fine; we certainly don't have to all follow the same fee system and many different approaches can be successful. But many fee systems that I see are priced too low and the practice is missing out on much needed profitability.

The actual fees and prices that are selected will depend on the mode of practice and the price sensitivity of the patient base. If your practice marketing strategy is based on low price, you may have to keep fitting fees and product pricing very low and in line with large corporate retailers. ECPs in private practice have much more flexibility in pricing if they build a reputation for great customer service, advanced technology and a high level of clinical expertise. In that situation, I think ECPs can take control of fees and contact lens practice can return to one of the most lucrative specialties we can offer.

Contact Lens Evaluation Fee

Charging a professional fee, in addition to a basic eye exam fee to cover the additional procedures needed to evaluate an existing contact lens fit, has become extremely common. This fee applies when no change is needed to the contact lens prescription, but the prescription is renewed for one year (typically). Here are a few considerations:

Contact lens evaluation fees can be a source of patient misunderstanding and dissatisfaction if not handled well. I strongly recommend that the fee be quoted in advance over the phone. My staff quickly brings up the patient's file on the office computer system while speaking to the patient by phone. If the caller is a new patient, the receptionist asks if he currently wears contacts. Once it's known that the patient wears contacts, the fee for the CL evaluation is quoted in addition to the exam fee. If there are any questions about what is included in a CL evaluation or why it's needed, the staff handles it then. The fee is hardly ever questioned in my practice when presented in advance. This is strongly preferred to a confrontation at the front desk after the exam.

We'll cover more on contact lens fees next week.

Best wishes for continued success,

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