Fast turn-around is still the biggest advantage to
having your own in-office lab, say your colleagues.
Your Need for Speed
MICHELLE BOYLES, Managing Editor
Having an in-house optical lab has many advantages, but the doctors we spoke with say the speed with which they can produce lenses is at the top of the list. Here, we’ll review the benefits of installing or upgrading your in-office lab.
“The biggest advantage [of installing an in-office lab] is the timeframe in which we get jobs done,” says Jason West, O.D., of Fort Worth, Texas. “We were getting tired of the labs having to re-do jobs and taking multiple weeks to get something back to us. Our patients were even more tired of waiting.” Dr. Gavin Cohen in Atlanta agrees. “It [installing an in-office lab] helps with patient and customer service, service being the key word in this increasingly competitive market,” he says. And, how patients perceive your office is key to retaining them, adds Dr. West. “The timeliness of job completion combined with the perception of a finishing lab is making a huge difference in word-of-mouth referrals,” he says.
The latest generation of lab equipment is also very userfriendly, with many automatic functions (see “The Latest in Lab Equipment,” pages 86 and 88). “[The edger’s] quick set keys allow us to create a program for a specific material with edge treatments,” says Dr. West. And automated drilling equipment allows you to produce rimless eye wear with the ability to repeat the job, he adds. “By using state-of-the-art lab equipment, eye glasses can be made very fast, very accurate and with little error or spoilage,” says Harvey Ohriner, O.D., of Las Vegas. The newer equipment also allows faster training time for lab technicians, he adds. Equipment training, however, is key to getting the most out of your in-office lab upgrades, according to Dr. Cohen. “It’s very important to have good customer service and training from the [equipment manufacturer], particularly in the first year,” he says.
Adding even one piece of equipment to your lab can make a big difference in your costs. “The ability to control costs, product, quality and speed of service are part of the equation that keep our sales strong,” says Dr. Ohriner. Dr. Cohen says his lab definitely saves him in lab fees. His advice: “Determine your exact costs with regard to peripheral lab fees (including drill mounting, rimless edging, etc.). Most of the time, with just a small volume of lens sales, the lease payments will be more economical,” he says. Dr. West says his office’s edger has allowed his practice to offer a discount on pediatric jobs.
“The cost of uncut material is so much less that we have begun to offer a discount on pediatric lenses and still put more in the bank than before,” he says. “Since we have started doing this, we have captured many more patients that were walking to the chains for a perceived lower cost.” And, of course, patient retention is the life-blood of any O.D.’s practice. Dr. Ohriner sums it up best: “The more things the O.D. can do on-site to provide better service builds the practice and retains loyal patients.”
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007