Optometric Management Tip # 470   -   Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Increasing Your Profitability with Vision Plans, Part 3

Thanks to the many readers who sent comments to me about parts one and two in this series on vision plans.  There is no question that there are many diverse opinions about how to manage these programs in practice.  Your comments will provide great topics for future Management Tip of the Week articles.

In this issue, I'd like to cover four more aspects of maximizing your profitability with vision plans.

Non-covered services
If a large percentage of your patient base is made up of vision plan members, then non-covered services (and products) are extremely important and you should develop a plan to maximize usage of them.  Review this list and see if you can add or improve these services in your practice. 

Maximizing patient demand
This is one factor that vision plans generally do very well and it is the main reason most ECPs join the networks.  Vision plans can quickly bring patients to your office just by being on the provider list, but you can attract even more patients with the following tips.

Contact lens services
Some ECPs tend to take contact lenses for granted.  We fit contacts if the patient asks for them and we provide ongoing care for current wearers, but we are fairly passive about it.  I think that approach is missing out on a huge opportunity, especially if your practice is a strong user of vision plans.  Contact lens fees for both services and products are generally almost fully collectable under vision plan rules.  You may want to re-read that previous sentence because you can't say that about many eye care services and products.  Most vision plans require a minor discount of 10 to 15% off usual fees, but after that the plan pays an allowance and the patient pays the balance.  That makes contact lenses extremely attractive in my book.

I think most ECPs should raise their contact lens professional fees and leave their product prices fairly low and competitive.  After that, realize that enthusiasm sells and if you simply recommend contact lenses to more people, even if they don't ask about them, you'll fit more.  Start by having lots of your patients try on a free trial pair in your office at no fee.  Just try them on and have your technician check with the patient and see if a fitting exam is desired.

In-office optical lab
Reducing your cost of goods is a great way to increase profits when the prices are fixed by vision plans.  One of the best ways to reduce cost of goods is to operate your own in-office lens finishing lab.  Of course this is only effective with plans that allow you to use your own lab, but many do and even VSP, which historically required the use of a contract network lab, now has a program that pays you to do the lab work.  With the advanced technology of lens edgers today, it's very easy to train anyone who knows how to use a lensometer to cut and edge perfect lenses.  Arrange for a demo of a new edger in your office or compare several brands at the next major eye care conference.  And check out the prices of lens uncuts to see how much you can save on your lab bill.

Best wishes for continued success,

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