Learn how to save money when dispensing trial contact lenses.
BY T. POWERS GRIFFIN, JR., O.D.
Trial lenses help us evaluate fit and vision, and they allow prospective wearers to experience contact lenses without committing themselves too fast. That's invaluable in a practice such as ours, where nearly 60% of our patients wear contact lenses.
But patients who feel they're getting something for nothing can misuse trial lenses -- particularly colored contact lenses.
In our two-location practice, we take steps to ensure trial lenses are appropriately distributed. Maybe our ideas can help you, too.
Cut down on trial lens abuse
- routinely using trial lenses to evaluate fit and vision. I gauge the initial fit, but because some problems don't show up for hours or even days, I ask the patient to return a week later.
- stressing that this is a short-term trial and that the patient shouldn't wear the lens beyond that week. This period also gives a new contact lens patient time to determine whether contact lenses are appropriate for her lifestyle.
- providing one trial pair of clear lenses in the appropriate prescription to patients who are interested in colored lenses. I then provide plano trial colored lenses. Providing colored trial lenses in plano simplifies stocking and reduces the storage space needed for disposable colored contact lenses. If a patient wants to try more than one color, I give her only one lens in each color -- not two pairs.
Let's face it. If you give a patient four pairs of colored lenses in the right prescription, you shouldn't be too surprised if you never hear from her again. Over-sampling and patient abuse of trial lenses results in lost practice revenue, particularly with colored contact lenses.
A LOOK INSIDE
DR. GRIFFIN'S PRACTICE:
Location(s): San Clemente and
Years in practice: 23, but practice is 43 years old, started by his father
Contact lens fits per month: 25
Number of staff: 12
Percentage of revenue from contact lenses: about 40%
Do you use direct-from-manufacturer contact lens delivery? Yes
Percent of practice based on contact lens
patients: 50% to 60%
How often do you see your contact lens
patients? Annually, once they're in their final fit.
Free trials once weren't a cost-efficient option for toric lenses. But now that disposable torics are available, trial lenses are persuasive tools. Indeed, we can attribute the market growth in soft toric lenses, at least in part, to the widespread availability of free trials. All six major manufacturers of soft torics offer trial sets. CIBA Vision alone has distributed more than 16,000 trial sets of soft torics.
Soft toric trial lenses are particularly persuasive for low astigmats who have compromised acuity for the sake of convenience. They can also help new wearers or drop-outs overcome their hesitancy. Plus, trial toric lenses can help you evaluate the fit.
Of course, occasions arise when a patient is in dire need of a lens and a trial lens will fit the bill. Our policy is flexible so that we can accommodate these patients. Handing trial lenses to someone who's leaving for vacation is obviously worthwhile -- it generates goodwill. But such generosity with trial lenses should be the exception, not the rule. We've found that patients respect our policy and appreciate that we don't treat contact lenses as just another commodity.
We think our judicious use of free trials contributes to our success. Overuse of trials doesn't help patients or the practice.
DR. GRIFFIN IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN LAGUNA NIGUEL AND SAN CLEMENTE, CALIF., IN A FOUR-O.D. PRACTICE. HIS PARTNERS INCLUDE HIS TWO BROTHERS.
STUDY REVEALS MISUSE OF DISPOSAL TRIAL CONTACT
Despite efforts by contact lens manufacturers to stem the tide of fraudulent re-sale and misuse of free trial disposable contact lenses, the issue continues to be a major industry problem, affecting the profitability of both manufacturers and practitioners.
Here are the facts, according to a study by CIBA Vision, which recently examined industry data to analyze the scope of the problem:
- Manufacturers shipped 65 million free trial lenses to practitioners in the United States during the year ending March 2001, excluding single-use lenses. At normal patient pricing, the retail value of these lenses is estimated to be at least $225 million.
- 3.7 million patients were either fitted with disposable or planned replacement soft lenses for the first time, or refitted with a different lens brand during the last
- Based on these data, 18 trial lenses were used for every disposable lens new fit/refit (excluding single-use lenses) during the past year, or three six-packs per fit.
Even as the growth rate in disposable new fits has eased over the past 4 years, the ratio of trial lenses to saleable lenses shipped by manufacturers hasn't changed at all.
Trial lenses are one of the largest marketing expense items for contact lens manufacturers. The amount spent for them is estimated to be approximately the same as is spent for media advertising.
CIBA Vision's solution to trial lens abuse is to imprint the word "demo" on the periphery of the color zone of its plano cosmetic trial lenses. This doesn't interfere with the intended use of the lenses to aid in color selection, but it does make it impossible for anyone to sell the lenses or use them as giveaways.
Optometric Management, Issue: October 2001