Optometric Management Tip # 434   -   Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Optometrists with Little Interest in Optical

Eye care professionals in other countries may have a hard time understanding this, but optometrists in the United States are increasingly disinterested in optical dispensing.  It would be reasonable to think that optometrists' primary interest would be in all things optical, but American ODs are very focused on medical eye care and in my experience, they often delegate all aspects of optical dispensing.  I think that is a big mistake.  In my view, it's smart to delegate the dispensing work; but not the management.

I admit I'm painting with a broad brush here, but it seems to me that many older ODs have grown bored with refraction and optical dispensing and they spend most of their effort on ocular disease and billing and coding.  Younger ODs have not received nearly as much optical training as their senior colleagues, so they feel slightly inadequate in optical dispensing.  We should be concerned because there are plenty of other folks in the business world who will be happy to take optical off our hands if we are not interested.

In this article, I will encourage optometrists to embrace optical for one major reason: greater net income.  You may not be drawn to optical dispensing as an optometrist, but at least be drawn to it as the CEO of your practice.  If you currently delegate the management of your optical dispensary, I encourage you to review all aspects of your operations.  This is nothing against your optician or optical manager, but by simply digging into it yourself, I'm sure you'll find things you would do differently and you'll find ways to make a lot more money in the process.

Areas to dig into
Here are some factors I believe the optometrist should be knowledgeable about.

How to learn about optical
First, understand that as an optometrist, you already know much more about optical dispensing than you realize.  With your education and experience, the basics will come back to you quickly and the new developments will be easily understood.

My best advice for understanding optical is to meet with sales reps in the field.  This can occur in your office by appointment, or a crash course can be had by attending a major conference like Vision Expo, SECO, AOA or AAO and visiting the booths in the exhibit hall.  Talk to reps from lens manufacturers, frame companies and wholesale optical labs.  Listen to them explain their newest products and then ask questions if there is some aspect that is not clear.  No question will appear dumb.  These optical experts would like to attract your business and they will be happy to discuss their products.

Armed with knowledge, you'll be in a great position to work with your optical manager to revamp your policies, update your offerings, change your price strategy and work with new suppliers.  Very exciting stuff!

Best wishes for continued success,

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