Article Date: 1/1/2013

Create a Contact Lens Niche

Creating a Specialty Contact Lens Niche

Take these steps to increase your specialty contact lens business this year.

Melissa Barnett, O.D., F.A.A.O., F.S.L.S., SACRAMENTO, CALIF.

While the perception is that specialty contact lenses are time consuming, they also have the potential to be a significant moneymaker for your practice. Since specialty contact lenses are unique, they require higher fees for contact lens fitting materials. Also, once you become familiar with your favorite lenses, there should not be an increase in doctor time at all.

In addition to the benefits for your practice, learning how to fit specialty contact lenses can change your patient’s life. For instance, fit a keratoconic patient in a specialty lens, and now he/she is able to function at work and while driving. Provide the presbyopic patient with specialty lenses, and he/she is thrilled to be spectacle-free. (See “The Importance of ABN, page 58.)

Here, I discuss how, specifically, you can create a specialty contact lens niche.

Attend a continuing education meeting.

Numerous meetings exist that incorporate specialty contact lenses. Pick a local one, or travel to a new destination to get the basics in fitting a new lens design. Attend lectures by different speakers to get a variety of opinions. Speak with your colleagues at the meeting and determine their opinions about the lens. Make sure to visit the exhibit hall to see and handle the contact lenses directly from each company. Most large meetings have courses about contact lenses.


A scleral lens, such as the one above on a patient with keratoconus, can grow your practice.

There are also specific meetings for contact lenses, such as the Global Specialty Lens Symposium held in January in Las Vegas, the Bronstein Cornea and Contact Lens Seminar held in January in Arizona or the Minnesota Contact Lens Society Meeting held in September in Las Vegas. The American Optometric Association has a complete list of meetings on their website. The meetings are also advertised in optometric journals.

Meet with CL company representatives.

The consultants who work for contact lens companies are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. Getting your own personal experience with the contact lens is extremely important to determine whether the lens is a good fit for your practice.

Call or e-mail the representative from the contact lens company to set up a time for a wet lab in your office. Make a list of patients who you think are good candidates for the contact lens, and have them present on a specific day when the consultant is there. That way, the consultant can teach you how to fit the lenses with the patient in your chair. Consider scheduling this in the late afternoon or evening and serve refreshments for a fun and exciting atmosphere.

If you prefer, many companies offer online webinars on how to fit the new lens design, or you can visit another practitioner to learn how to fit the lenses.

Offer a variety of lenses.

If you fit a lot of scleral lenses, have fitting sets that contain a few different diameters. Also, have multiple brands of soft toric and soft multifocals in your office. Have your go-to lens for the dry eye patient, the patient who has trouble handling contact lenses, the post-surgical irregular cornea patient, etc.

The Importance of ABN
Make sure that patients are informed in advance of the cost of specialty contact lenses. Have them sign an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) and contact lens waiver form prior to the start of the fitting. Collect fees for the contact lens fitting and materials prior to ordering any contact lenses.

In addition, make sure to have your favorite daily disposable single vision, toric and multifocal lenses, small diameter GP single vision and multifocal lenses, hybrid and hybrid multifocal lenses and prosthetic lenses.

Think outside the box.

Once you have your favorite lenses, be creative. For example, consider multifocal or monovision for your irregular cornea patients. Not only do they provide good distance vision, but they can also eliminate the need for reading glasses. These are the happiest patients and will send their friends and family to you. To provide the best vision, try a sphere or toric design in one eye and a multifocal in the other. Also, consider fitting hybrid and soft daily disposable multifocal lenses or multiple pairs of contact lenses depending on the patient’s needs. Ask about visual needs at work and their hobbies to determine the best options for each patient.

Market the service.

Meet with practitioners who do not fit specialty contact lenses to get referrals. If you would like to fit irregular cornea patients, meet with local ophthalmologists or corneal specialists. Call or e-mail the person you would like to meet or their staff person. Set up a time to speak via phone or for an in-person meeting to discuss how your contact lenses can benefit their patients and practice.

Another option is to add your name to specialty organizations, such as the National Keratoconus Foundation ( or the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation ( You can also become a fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society, which lists your name on their website.

Another way to grow your practice is to contact your state optometric society regarding media opportunities. They are able to provide resources to work with different types of media, including news publications, radio and television to provide you exposure. Alternatively, you can contact local news publications and offer to write an article about specialty contact lenses. Use your website and social media to inform your community about your services and lenses.

The story of a happy patient that you have fit with specialty contact lenses is the best way to elucidate the benefits of specialty contact lenses.

Stay current.

This is an exciting time for specialty contact lenses. We have new contact lenses being developed all the time. Also, because technology is constantly evolving, a new contact lens may be ideal for a patient since their last examination. By reading publications, you can stay up to date on the most contemporary lenses. These sites are a wealth of knowledge and tools for teaching contact lens practitioners how to fit all designs of scleral contact lenses. (See “Specialty CL Resources,” below.)

Also, when a new specialty contact lens is released, try the lens in your practice. Your experience with the lens is crucial to see whether it will benefit you and your patients.

Specialty CL Resources

American Academy of Optometry Section on Cornea,
Contact Lenses and Refractive Technology
AOA Contact Lens and Cornea section
Association of Contact Lens Educators
Contact Lens Today
Orthokeratology Academy of America
Permeable Lens Institute
Scleral Lens Education Society

The rewards

“I estimate that the 10% of my contact lens patients who are in specialty contact lenses bring in at least four to ten times more in revenue per-patient than my standard contact lens patients,” says Richard Baker, O.D., F.A.A.O. “The level of revenue per specialty contact lens patient varies greatly depending on the complexity of the case. At the high end of the per-patient revenue ladder would be a postsurgical keratoconus patient who I might see over the course of three or four months generating at least $1,200 more in revenue. That compares to the typical upto-$ 200 per-patient revenue generated from standard contact lens patients.”1

Once you become an expert in specialty contact lenses and incorporate them into your practice, you will experience the satisfaction of changing someone’s life while also growing your practice. OM

1. Baker, Richard. Review of Optometric Business. Make Specialty Contact Lenses a Profit-Maker with the Right Manufacturer. October 18, 2012. (Accessed December 17, 2012)

images Dr. Barnett is a principal optometrist at the University of California, Davis, Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, where she performs primary and medical eye examinations and fits contact lenses, including specialty contact lenses, in addition to teaching optics and contact lenses to ophthalmology residents. E-mail her at, or send comments to

Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: January 2013, page(s): 57 58 59