o.d. to o.d.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor
At What Price Recalls?
We all recognize that recalls burden manufacturers, patients and optometrists. How should O.D.s face this challenge?
We all recognize that it’s possible for any product to face a recall. Perhaps in no other industry do recalls have a greater and more direct effect on the consumer than in health care. In the automobile industry, for example, manufacturers “pony-up” for the new parts and in addition, they compensate the dealer that installs the new part or makes the required inspection. The consumer is out time and aggravation but no dollars come out of pocket. The dealer earns a fee for inspecting or replacing the defective part. Ultimately, the manufacturer covers the cost, however, it can recoup its costs by increasing the prices of its newer models.
The medical model
The situation is a little different in medicine. If a patient is on a particular medication and that medication is taken off the market or recalled, the patient can in most cases use a different medication from a different pharmaceutical manufacturer. Usually the patient will be required to see the physician who will prescribe the new medication and of course, the physician will be paid for the visit. Once again, the patient is out some time and aggravation but in addition, they pay whatever costs are associated with the office visit.
The optometry model
Let’s take a look at a contact lens recall at the trade level. First, optometrists return lenses from their practices’ inventories. The manufacturer faces costs associated with returns and managing its inventory of affected lots. It may also lose some of the loyalty of its direct customers. The optometric practice must pay (in dollars and manpower) to retrieve the lenses, package them and ship them back to the manufacturer. Frustration often follows. The patient was prescribed “the best lens,” a message reinforced by the O.D., but the lens is now unavailable. The patient may be angered. Additionally, the practice must schedule an office visit to evaluate another brand. If the optometrist doesn’t charge for the visit, which is likely, the practice loses production time and income. Regardless of these efforts, the patient has been inconvenienced. His confidence in the doctor may be shaken.
Because recalls happen, optometrists must review their approach to contact lenses. Here are some suggested guidelines. First, optometrists must charge for their expertise, including all visits. Simply put, free visits devalue our service. Next, optometrists must never “give away” lenses. In the case of a recall, consider the consequences of giving away samples or diagnostic lenses. The patient will run out of lenses in a month. If he returns, he may expect another free visit and free lenses. If the patient doesn’t return, we can assume he has:
• become non-compliant with his lens-wearing regimen
• received new lenses elsewhere
• dropped out of contact lenses. By prescribing and providing a regular supply of lenses, the practice does its best to ensure that the patient is compliant and healthy while remaining loyal to the practice. Finally, as part of a complete approach to contact lens care, the optometrist should prescribe a specific contact lens solution. In following this approach, the practice shifts the focus of their patients’ attention away from the brand of contact lenses and instead, emphasizes the value of delivering professional optometric care. It’s that care that ultimately leads to healthy eyes, clear vision and satisfied patients.
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007