Optometric Management Tip # 80 - Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Streamline contact lens procedures to improve profitability
Would you like your contact lens practice to be more profitable, but you feel like you can't raise fees at this time? With today's competitive pressure on contact lens materials, there is little room for increasing lens prices or material mark-ups. Sure, we're all familiar with the concept of keeping materials low, and raising the professional fitting/evaluation fee component, but many practices have already done this to the maximum that the marketplace will bear. The profitability of the contact lens practice may still lag behind other areas of practice.
If you don't want to raise fees, another alternative is to make your practice more efficient. I think many doctors are still following procedures and standards they learned in school or the early days of practice, but contact lenses have changed drastically since then. There are many good ways to decrease chair time and increase delegation and in contact lens practice, which is really has the same effect as raising fees.
Start by analyzing each step in your contact lens fitting, ordering, dispensing and follow-up care process. Here are some key questions to consider:
Look for ways to delegate more and decrease chair time, and you will be pleased with the economic aspects of contact lens practice.
- Can you fit and dispense lenses on the same day as a routine eye exam with no advance notice? If not - why not? Is your usual procedure to always reappoint for CL fitting? Many doctors think this impresses patients and drives home the point that there are lots of special tests needed to fit lenses. I think this is a little outdated and patients are more impressed if I make the fitting process easy and fast for them. It appears automated and high-tech. Of course, there are occasionally advanced cases that will require another visit, but simple cases can be streamlined and save me valuable time. I still charge the usual fitting fee in addition to the exam fee, and lenses are also charged at the outset. Patients are fine with it.
- Do you have enough staff available to assist you with the fitting process? Huge efficiency is gained if a technician can insert and remove trial lenses, take acuity and do an auto-refraction over the lenses. Staff is also needed to train patients on insertion and removal and lens care - although this is not the big chore it used to be. Is it worth the payroll cost to have staff available for this? I find that it is, because there are many other tasks the techs perform in other areas of the practice.
- Do you have a large enough inventory of all lens types so you can dispense the same day as the fitting? Ordering lenses takes more time and then requires another patient visit to dispense the lenses. Inventory also makes problem solving easier and faster at follow-up visits.
- Don't require more follow-up visits then you really need for medical reasons. Patients are not impressed with redundant visits and they actually can drive them away from the practice. Many patients seek alternate replacement lens sources because they want to avoid what they perceive as unnecessary exam visits.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management