Article Date: 10/1/2012

contact lens management
contact lens management

Dispense More Contact Lenses

These five steps have enabled me to capture a high rate of successful sales.

Gina M. Wesley, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.

Contact lens (CL) dispensing in my practice was rife with confusion. Confusion by staff, patients and with managed care plans regarding insurance coverage for individual patients and specific CLs, available rebates, practice discounts, etc.

In concluding this confusion was playing a role in patients walking with their prescriptions — a confused staff translates to an incompetent one in patients' eyes — my staff and I decided to create specific steps to provide clarity.

Many of you are thinking: “This is impossible. There are just too many variables in terms of CLs and managed care plans.” Providing this clarity is not only possible, but also profitable. Since implementing the following five steps, my practice has actually doubled its annual supply of CL dispensing.

1. Create a CL worksheet.

We created (and revised several times) a CL pricing sheet (see below), so patients could actually see a breakdown of the total cost. Also, my staff educates patients that my practice provides free shipping to their home or place of work — a very attractive patient service.

Currently, my opticians write the information on paper, though I am looking into having the sheet transferred to a tablet as a workable spreadsheet with built-in calculations for less work and chance of staff error. Our plan is to then show the patient the tablet worksheet, and print it for the patient if he/she desires to take it home and mull it over. In addition to decreasing staff error, we believe patients would be impressed by this electronic presentation, which would translate to them placing a greater value on purchasing their lenses with us vs. other places.

2. Make staff aware of your “core” CLs.

My staff is aware of the several “core” CLs I prescribe. So, they are all well-versed in the price per particular box, the number of boxes needed for an annual supply, rebate information, etc. (That said, as I realize staff can come and go, my CL technician has created a pricing sheet with ALL the CLs I could possibly prescribe for reference.) Often times, I have written notes in the patients' records that indicate my possible plan before the patient has even arrived for the exam. Any changes thereafter are easy to make. Having this knowledge coupled with the patient's record has expedited the time it would otherwise take my opticians to fill out the aforementioned sheet for patients.

3. Educate patients about the pricing sheet during the exam.

While in the exam room, I tell the patient that the optician will provide him/her with CL pricing information for a year's supply, which compares his/her old lens to the newest fit and/or multiple appropriate CL types. Letting the patient know this educates him/her that the practice is organized, competent and values the patient's time and hard-earned dollars. These impressions can and have easily lead to CL dispensing. Also, delivering this information halts any purchase questions the patient may ask me, enabling me to maintain my role as practitioner.

4. Hand-off the patient to the optician.

At the end of the exam, I page the optician to the exam room, explain to the optician, in front of the patient, that I've gone through the CL options/changes with the patient, and I let the patient know that the optician can further explain any pricing questions. I've found that personally handing the patient to the optician reinforces the importance of what I've recommended to him/her, increasing the likelihood of a sale. (See “Following Up,” below.)

Following Up
Obviously, a 100% capture rate does not exist. But keep in mind that you can still capture a CL sale from some of the patients who opt not to purchase their lenses with you on the day of their exam. How so? The answer is by following-up.
I accomplish this through my EHR, which allows me to send “tasks” to my staff that remind them to contact patients who have yet to make a decision. Further, the EHR allows my staff and I to track within this task function each attempt and/or result of communication. Once the communication chain is completed (with hopefully the end result an order), this history is saved within the patients' notes, and my staff and I can access this information. This way, there is no discrepancy in what has been communicated to the patient if ever re-visited. In addition, following up has helped us tremendously in catching those patients who fell through the cracks or called to order months later, having extended their old prescription much too long.

5. Offer a “CL guarantee.”

Have your optician educate the patient that if he/she purchases their lenses from your practice and follows your prescription for both lens care and replacement, you'll guarantee he/she will have their needed CLs, and that if the patient is in any way dissatisfied with their CLs you will refund or credit the purchase. Let the patient know this means you'll replace defective CLs, provide CLs if the patient is running short just prior to their next exam — we pull from our trials, if needed — and swap the old prescription for the new prescription all free-of-charge, should the prescription change mid-year. The latter happens from time-to-time, but our CL reps are great with giving us credit for some of our open boxes. We've found that it's worth it to save the sale, especially for those young wearers whose parents are worried the prescription will change. Our “CL guarantee” is effective, as it often trumps the guarantees of other CL sellers.

Success

I believe these steps have been successful in increasing our CL sale capture rate because they reveal the value of buying lenses at our practice vs. another practice, a brick-and-mortar retailer or an online retailer.

If you want to stand out from the competition, I invite you to give these steps a try in your practice as well. OM

DR. WESLEY PRACTICES AT COMPLETE EYE CARE OF MEDINA, WHICH SHE OPENED IN 2008. SHE WAS HONORED WITH MINNESOTA’S YOUNG OPTOMETRIST OF THE YEAR IN 2011 AND ENJOYS THE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT ASPECTS OF PRACTICING OPTOMETRY. E-MAIL HER AT DR WESLEY@CECOFMEDINA.COM, OR SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: October 2012, page(s): 62 63