Article Date: 1/1/2001

Online Ordering Habits of O.D.s

We took a sneak peek at what you and your colleagues are ordering online. See what we found out.
Bob Kronemyer, Contributing Editor

Although contact lenses have been the staple of online ordering by optometrists, spectacle lens orders are becoming a growing segment because of reduced error and quicker turnaround time.

I've interviewed key people from different e-commerce companies to find out how this trend has affected the way you and your colleagues are placing orders online. We'll also take a look at how many of you are actually participating in this mode of purchasing products.


E-Dr. (, based in Jacksonville, Fla., has been offering online ordering since August 1998.

A Glimpse at Eyefinity and VSP

One of Eyefinity's major customers is Vision Service Plan (VSP). "We're also the exclusive site for VSP transactions," Beth Smith, vice president of e-commerce and chief technology officer, points out. "Previously, VSP has championed the Internet among O.D.s." The Web site's eClaim service provides offices with the ability to file claims with over 800 payers. For offices already filing claims online, "it adds a great deal of convenience to use the same destination to conduct many other business transactions online, including product orders," says Smith.

According to an Eyefinity spokesperson, the number of O.D.s who file their claims with VSP electronically through the company's Web site varies from month to month. On average, however, approximately 12,000 optometrists regularly submit their claims online.

As of January 1 this year, VSP began charging O.D.s $2 for paper claims, so the number of O.D.s filing online should increase to the full 15,000 members, commented the spokesperson.


In April 2000, Eyefinity ( began operations.

"We're more of a pipeline to enable commerce to occur among existing entities," says Beth Smith, vice president of e-commerce and chief technology officer. "We're not trying to disintermediate existing product suppliers or labs in the optical space. We're trying to provide the means for them to connect and create more efficiencies in their operations."

First Insight

In October 2000, First Insight ( first started selling spectacle lenses online. Its Web site is totally integrated into the ordering systems of 83 lab locations nationwide.

"We're basically integrating the doctor with his vendor," explains Nitin Rai, president and CEO of First Insight. "We don't price the order. The pricing is between the doctor and the vendor. We simply allow the doctor a more efficient way of ordering from his vendors."

Optical Auctions

Optical Auctions, (, started in 1998, is the ophthalmic version of e-Bay.

VisionWeb trends

Pending Web site VisionWeb in Austin, Texas, is an industry alliance between lens manufacturer and lab owner Essilor of America and Johnson & Johnson. VisionWeb will be an open and neutral site with secure financing.

"We've already raised tens of millions of dollars," notes Dennis Upah, VisionWeb president and CEO. "We'll have direct interfaces into the inventory of the manufacturers, which will enable us to be far more efficient than other Web sites."

"We're actively talking to virtually all other industry players to join us as equity participants in this venture," Upah confides.

Each equity partner has also committed to specific volume, content and sales/marketing support, as well as a term of exclusivity with the Web site.

The only way to go

All told, many of you are ordering your products, mostly contact lenses and spectacle lenses, from online services. However, many of you are leaving yourselves out. And the reasons underlying that fact are numerous. See this month's Cybercare column by author Richard Hom, O.D., F.A.A.O., to find out what's holding some of you back. You may even discover a reason to try online ordering.

And if things continue the way they have been, it may be the only way to order products in the future.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2001