Article Date: 3/1/2012

Is a Dispensing Device Worth Your Dollars?
spectacles

Is a Dispensing Device Worth Your Dollars?

If you want to foster patient satisfaction and your bottom line, the answer is yes.

Lindsey Getz, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Dispensing today’s premium lens products relies heavily on ultra-precise fitting and measurement abilities in the dispensary. The latest dispensing devices can help achieve these criteria. (See “Dispensing Tools: an Overview,” page 26.) Therefore, for many who have chosen to purchase such devices, the end result has been improved patient satisfaction and enhanced efficiency, in terms of reducing time-consuming and costly errors. Further, some say these devices have boosted their bottom line, as they aid in the promotion of premium products.

Here, eyecare practitioners and optical professionals discuss these benefits.

Enhanced accuracy

Steve Klein, O.D., of TVC Optometry in San Diego, Calif., says the accuracy and consistency of his digital dispensing device challenges that of his opticians’.

“We have quite a few opticians, and they’re all very good,” he explains. “But we took a pair of glasses and had each of them [the opticians] independently get measurements on a test patient using traditional technology, electronic gadgets and then the new spectacle system. Six different opticians, the same patient and the same glasses were used. I am almost embarrassed to admit what a difference there was among the opticians using the old technology.”

Frances L. Scholz, L.D.O., and optical manager at Southside Eyecare & Optical, in Anchorage, Alaska, says the accuracy factor of the dispensing tool she uses has increased patient satisfaction with the overall exam experience and their eyewear.

“The patient feels that by my taking more exact measurements, they’re ultimately getting a better product,” she explains. “Patients really react to the measurements because most of them have never had anything like it done before. They perceive a lot of value, therefore increasing their overall satisfaction with the exam and with the product.”

This enhanced accuracy has also translated to a reduction in the number of re-dos and errors, leading to an increase in efficiency, says Dr. Klein.

“There’s nothing more inefficient than having a patient by 1mm off on a measurement and not understanding or knowing what’s causing the patient’s symptoms,” he says. “You have to go back and figure out whether it was the choice of lens or the prescription that was off. By removing that facet of the equation, it [the device] increases efficiency dramatically.”

A dispensing aid

Dr. Klein says implementing a digital dispensing device has also benefitted his practice, in that it has created “consistency” in his high-tech practice, and this consistency has enabled an increase in premium product sales.

“When a patient finishes a high-tech exam and then receives a low-tech measurement in the dispensary, I think that creates a sense of inconsistency,” he says. “But by utilizing this fitting technology, we can now offer that same high-tech experience in the dispensary.”

Joel Wolf, an optician at Village Opticians, an independent dispensary in Whiting, NJ, adds “I felt that if I was going to sell digital lenses and charge a premium price for them, I needed to justify the cost, and using the manual measurements didn’t justify the expense.”

Eric M. White, O.D., who practices in San Diego, Calif. agrees with Dr. Klein and Mr. Wolf.

“If you’re recommending something like a digital progressive with AR, photochromic lens and high index, you’re talking about a lot of money. After a high-tech exam, you take the patient to the dispensary to measure the lenses, and your optician pulls out a pen and goes ‘dot dot.’ Well that doesn’t really add up to the value of the overall experience,” he explains. “And the patient may feel it doesn’t add up to it being worth the cost they’ll be paying for the product…”

Since adding his dispensing device, however, Dr. White says it’s been “easier” to dispense a high-end product because the patient now feels he’s getting his money’s worth.

“… The patient sees us taking a little extra time to make sure they are getting the absolute perfect measurement for the most advanced eyewear available,” he explains. “Patients are more apt to spend their money if they see the worth of their money spent.”

Dr. White adds that his dispensing device has also facilitated the distribution of high-end products, in that it acts as a demonstration unit, essentially backing up the eyewear recommendations he makes.

After the exam, Dr. White says he leads the patient to his dispensary and introduces the patient to the digital dispensing device.

“In 30 seconds, the patient gets an education on [how he’ll see in the lenses] and what AR does. Then, I hand the patient over to the optician, again repeating what I recommend. At this point, the patient has already heard the recommendation three times,” he explains. “I feel they become much more apt to get a product prescribed by the doctor.”

Dr. White says he believes prescribing in the exam chair is a crucial step on which many eyecare practitioners miss out.

“… If the doctor never suggests the product, and it’s first brought up by the optician, the patient may feel the optician is up-selling, and that it’s not truly needed,” he explains. “An eye doctor recommendation backed by the support of [a digital dispensing device] has been a winning combination for me.”

Dispensing Tools: an Overview
■ A handful of dispensing tools have become available, threatening the reign of the PD ruler, pupillometer and, of course, the black Sharpie as the go-to tools in the optical dispensary. These tools acquire measurements by taking into account the patient’s natural posture, head and eye movement, and some allow the patient to clearly see themselves in an array of frame designs.

The Panorameter Kit, from Shamir Insight.

The Panorameter Kit (Shamir Insight), for instance, is comprised of two hand-held plastic tools designed for the ideal fit of the company’s Autograph II lenses. One tool measures vertex distance, and the other determines panoramic angle and pantoscopic tilt. The kit reportedly takes less than two minutes, maximum, to learn how to operate.
The other currently available tools are digital dispensing devices. That is, they are comprised of a digital and/or video camera, a plastic clip-on device with camera-sensor markers for the patient-selected frame(s), and they have image acquisition and measurement software. Currently, four such devices are available: The iTerminal (Carl Zeiss Vision), OptiCentration Kiosk (Optikam), Smart Centration Diamond System (A.B.S) and the VisiOffice (Essilor). The OptiCentration Kiosk and the Smart Centration Diamond System allow for a variety of premium lens choices and add-ons. As is the case with the Panorameter Kit, the i.Terminal and the VisiOffice devices are designed for their manufacturer’s own products: the Zeiss free-form progressive lenses and Varilux Ipseo/Eyecode lenses, respectively. Also, these two devices enable the operator to add proprietary tints.

The i-Terminal, from Carl Zeiss Vision

In terms of staff training, it’s relative to each dispensing tool with companies providing instruction that ranges from one hour to one week. While the latest dispensing tools can require a large upfront investment (one device costs roughly $9,000 for the desktop model and $10,000 for the floor model), and they can take a bit longer than the traditional measurement methods — typically a few more minutes — those using these tools say the selling of premium products they’ve been able to accomplish with them easily makes up for both the initial expense and extra time.



The OptiCentration Kiosk, from Optikam.

“I put it [the device] in last March, and I immediately saw the benefit. I know last year was the best year in the history of the practice. My AR is 80%, my photochromic is 40%, and my digital progressive is 90%,” explains Eric M. White, O.D., who practices in San Diego, Calif. and uses a device designed to dispense a specific premium lens brand.
Joel Wolf, an optician at Village Opticians, an independent dispensary in Whiting, N.J., has been using a non-proprietary digital dispensing device. He says his sales in personalized progressive and digital lenses has also “definitely increased.”

The Smart Centration Diamond System, from A.B.S.

High-Definition vision
The dispensing tools mentioned above, along with premium lenses, were designed to provide patients with vision that is sharper than conventional ophthalmic lenses, or with “high-definition” (HD) vision. These HD lens options include both digitally- surfaced and wavefront lenses.
Digitally surfaced, or free-form, lenses can provide precise vision correction, some as accurate as 0.01D intervals. This category of lenses, including both single vision and progressive designs, are available from vendors including Carl Zeiss Vision, Essilor of America, Hoya Vision Care, Seiko Optical Products of America, Shamir Insight, Signet Armorlite and VMAX.
Wavefront lenses correct both vision and the patient’s higher-order aberrations. Ophthonix, maker of iZon lenses, and Carl Zeiss Vision offer systems that include both lenses and computerized measuring devices that provide wavefront analysis.

The VisiOffice, from Essilor

Rajeev K. Raghu, O.D., F.A.A.O., of The Eye Center at Jackson, in Jackson, NJ, says his digital dispensing device has acted as a dispensing aid in that it provides learning tools, such as a lifestyle lens assessment to educate his staff, and the ability to show the patient wearing various frame styles and e-mail pictures to their friends.

Ami Ranani, O.D., of Somers Eye Center, in Somers, N.Y. agrees. “Patients who are very near-sighted and have lots of astigmatism have told me how much they appreciate being able to clearly see themselves in the frames they’ve chosen,” he says.

In a nutshell

Mr. Wolf provides three reasons you should invest in a dispensing device: (1) They provide more accurate measurements than the traditional measurement devices, (2) they address the new type of progressive lenses, and (3) they promote the patient perception that you’re up to date on the latest technology, and can, therefore, provide the best eyewear.

“If they [patients] come in and see your dispensary looking antiquated and that you’re using antiquated tools compared with what the commercial dispensaries are using — and they’ve been advertising these devices lately — it’s going to have a negative effect on your business,” he explains. “Some people will obviously come back because they like you and your personal service, but others aren’t going to get their eyewear from you because they think you don’t keep up with current technology. If you want to be able to compete, you need a dispensing device.” OM

Lindsey Getz is a Philadelphia-area-based freelance writer, who has written for several consumer and trade magazines. She is also a former editor of Eyecare Business magazine (a sister publication of Optometric Management). E-mail her at lindsey.getz@yahoo.com, or send comments to optometricmanagement@gmail.com.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: March 2012, page(s): 24 - 26 28