Optometric Management Tip # 38   -   Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Need more patients? Look within and look at Low Vision.

It seems to me that one of the biggest problems facing optometric practices today is lack of patient volume. We could solve so many problems if we just had enough demand for our services (at usual fees). Of course, building volume through managed vision care plans is generally not a good strategy, because the low fees and required discounts severely limit the profit potential on each patient seen. Most practices need to increase the number of private pay patients, or patients who use plans that pay near normal fees – like Medicare.

There are many facets to the challenge of increasing patient volume – and I’ll cover more of them in weeks to come, but a basic way is to look within the patient base you already have. What new service could you provide that would be largely private pay or full reimbursement? These are optometric sub-specialties – and there are many to choose from – including sports vision, computer vision, pediatric eye care, advanced contact lens services, dry eye therapy… and low vision. Let’s look at low vision as one example.

I believe every optometrist has the basic training to begin a low vision practice – we all know optics and refraction and the visual system very well, and that is what it takes to get started. Of course, any new low vision practitioner should take CE courses in the field and further their skills, but the important thing is get started! In addition to your knowledge of optics, you need patience. Low vision care is at a slower pace than routine optometric care. Here are some basic things to consider in opening a new low vision practice:

You can follow the above strategy with any specialty area – but the key is to do it. Develop something - make something happen - invest in your practice. The excitement is contagious from you to your staff to your patients.

Best wishes for continued success,

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