Article Date: 4/1/2010

Medical Optometry Vs. Eyeglasses
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Medical Optometry Vs. Eyeglasses

Are you investing the least in the area of your practice that returns the most?


With all the chatter and press about board certification, inclusion in medical plans, Medicare fee cuts and the like, I want to categorically state that I am not anti-full scope optometry or anti-medical optometry or anti-whatever else you'd like to call it. What I am is pro-making money. After all, as a practice-building consultant, that's what our company does — we make sure doctors are maximally profitable. For that reason, I think it's time to take a few steps back and reflect on a few hard data points.

Show me the money

First, in the overwhelming majority of practices, revenues from medical eye care amount to less than 10% of all practice revenues and in reality, probably range between 5% and 7%. For all the talk we devote to this topic, let's not forget how most of us generate most of our revenues — or how most of us do not generate our revenues (i.e., not from medical eye care).

If you're reading this and thinking, “But that's not my practice. I do a lot of medical billing”— I'm not saying you don't. I'm saying the percentage of revenue it generates is typically dwarfed by a part of our business we are constantly neglecting — the selling of eyeglasses.

Next, while this is not a hard data point per se, I can't think of anyone else who knows more about correcting vision problems with eyeglasses than optometrists. We are good at it. In fact, we are great at it, and no one else can say that. We own that position in the eyecare world. While to some, medical conditions might be sexier and intellectually more challenging than refraction, the truth is, no one is as good at fixing blurry vision as we are — and again, the selling of eyewear is how most of us make most of our money.

Paying huge dividends

So, what's the point here beyond the fact that I may have just summarily insulted 95% of my colleagues? Simple — if you want to make more money, sell more glasses. Instead of putting countless hours into a part of your business that historically returns so little to the bottom line, get really good at the aspect that can instantaneously pay off huge dividends with barely any extra work or expense.

That means:

1. Try. Get in the game, and make your optical area one that your patients enjoy. Make sure it's clean, well stocked and properly displayed. Make sure signage is in line with your practice branding and core values. Think of your favorite store and what it is that gives it that special panache? Does your optical look clean and inviting or dusty and cluttered? Is it worthy of your skill and expertise?

2. Get educated. Learn about merchandising, inventorying, buying and selling. Get your staff re-energized and re-acquainted with this vital profit center.

It's not anti-medical care

Finally, I'm not saying DON'T participate in medical eye care. Rather, recognize that for all the time and expense you've invested in treating your next glaucoma patient, in both education and technology, that this patient usually needs glasses too. And the person best suited to prescribe those glasses is you. Start to marry the medical side of your practice to the vision care side, and instead of dismissing your next uveitis patient after their eye is white and quiet, tell him that it's now time to update his glasses and to find a frame that's more fashionable than his current ones. Be proud of your medical diagnostic skills, and don't be embarrassed by your optical ones. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010