Article Date: 3/1/2013

Business Strategies

Re-Energizing the Optical

The clock is ticking on this critical part of your practice.



There’s one huge problem with medical eye care: Too many people talk about it. I’m not saying it’s not important or we shouldn’t continue to expand our skills and scope. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t do so at the expense of optical eye care. Perhaps the terminology itself (“I do a lot of medical in my practice”) might be part of the problem. Let’s leave that discussion for another day. For now, let’s talk about how we can re-energize the optical part (or whatever you choose to call it) of our practices.

The clock is ticking…

While I’m never one to scare doctors into action, it’s appropriate here. There’s a reason we don’t see (at least for now) “medical eye care” chains and do see optical chains. Simply, the optical side of our industry, managed properly, is hugely profitable and there’s a lot of it to be sold. The hard demographic facts remain that there are fewer sick eyes than eyes that can be made to see better with glasses. The Internet is taking a bigger share of your optical patients — What can you do about it?

Embracing retail

First, commit to treating the optical side of your practice as the retail business that it is. Don’t run or be embarrassed. Embrace and nurture it! Go outside eye care and learn about marketing and merchandising of premium products. (You don’t sell premium products? Ask your patients if they think that’s the case.) What is it about an Apple store that makes it look like an Apple store and makes it so appealing? What is it about your least favorite store that makes it so?

The number one flaw of the optical: too much inventory.

Optimizing inventory

Next, realize the cost of your inventory and properly vs. improperly managing it. In my experience, the number one flaw in doctors’ optical inventory is that they have too much. Think of your last shopping experience. Regardless of what you bought, did you really need a choice of 1,000 pairs of pants, big screen TV’s, cans of soup, light bulbs or anything else? Then why do we overwhelm and confuse patients with hundreds and sometimes thousands of frames?

Buy smart. Learn the story behind every frame in your practice and tell that story when you show that frame to the patient. Which leads to the next point …

Taking charge of selection

Take charge and lead the process of the frame selection. Even with a minimalistic inventory of only 100 frames, astute frame sellers take charge of the sales and education process. Having patients browse or wander around your optical is setting yourself up for confusion and reduced sales. Again – put yourself in a situation where you’re confronted with choosing one (three would be nice, but for now, let’s just say one) item out of 900 possibilities. Wouldn’t you want some guidance?

A deserving practice

If you don’t like the optical part of optometry, hire someone into your practice who does. Your practice and your patients deserve it. To wear as a badge of honor, “I don’t know what goes on in my optical — I let my opticians and staff take care of that” is to ignore about 60% of the revenue in most practices. And if you’re one of those doctors who “does a lot of medical,” good for you. I challenge you to make sure all of your medical patients have a great pair of up-to-date glasses that you are proud to have them wear. That way, you’ll be happy to say, “I do a lot of optical” with the same zeal. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: March 2013, page(s): 88