Article Submission Guidelines for Practice Management, EHR, Glaucoma, and Managed Care

Exclusive Date: April 30, 2014

Dispensing Annual Supplies of Contact Lenses

 Sponsor: DAILIES® AquaComfort Plus® Toric

We all know that selling an annual supply of contact lenses is a good thing when we see patients for their annual exam, but most practices still do a rather poor job of this. I’m trying a new approach that is causing more patients to opt for the full year purchase.

Benefits of annual supplies
Just to review, there are several great reasons why we should make an effort to encourage patients to purchase a full year supply of contacts.

  • We take the patient out of the market for a year.
  • We get the use of the cash sooner.
  • Patients tend to use their vision plan at the time of their eye exam to help them with the cost of their initial lens order, but many go online to buy the second six month supply at a lower price.
  • Staff time is greatly reduced by not having to handle the second six-month order.
  • Most contact lens companies offer free shipping to the patient’s home or office with a yearly supply.
  • Most contact lens companies offer larger rebates with an annual supply.

After studying these issues in my practice, I’m convinced that I need to do more to greatly encourage the annual supply purchase at the time of the exam.

A new larger incentive
Doctors have a strong advantage over online vendors and big box stores and when it comes to retaining the contact lens sale because the patient has an abundance of trust for the practice. The patient would actually like to buy his contacts from your office. But price does become a major factor when the decision is ultimately made about how many boxes to buy.

I have always offered a 10% discount off our usual contact lens prices when the patient buys a full annual supply, but I decided I wanted to increase that incentive to convert more patients. To facilitate that without losing profit, I raised my contact lens prices about 15%. I typically kept our prices very close to the major online contact lens vendors. We are still close enough to retain the vast majority of the CL prescriptions, but this price allows us to now offer 20% off on an annual supply.

We also are well equipped to present the manufacturer rebates in addition to our own discount. The dollar amounts of these rebates are quite significant. We total up the dollars saved for the patient if they go with the full year supply and it is too much to resist!

Staff training
It is important to get staff members on board with the importance of selling yearly supplies. Talk about it at staff meetings and have staff members practice how to present the lens order. Here are some ideas we have had success with:

  • Don’t ask the patient “how many boxes do you want?” Just assume he wants a full year supply.
  • The technician can say “The doctor has approved you for a full year supply of lenses.”
  • “Ordering a full year supply is by far your best buy. You will save $170 off the regular price!”

Consider spiffs
Paying the staff a small monetary bonus for each full year supply really elevates this project and will increase the percentage of annual sales. I like each technician to keep her own scorecard in her pocket and she simply records the date and patient’s last name. This self-scoring keeps motivation high as the reward keeps growing. We can spot check a few names to confirm the annual sale, but basically we just count them up and pay the bonus.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week