As optometry expands it's scope, will
some traditional areas decline?
BY NEIL B. GAILMARD, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor
I remember my Ophthalmic Optics lab course in optometry school. It seems ancient now, but we had to cut and edge 10 pairs of lenses, mostly glass. Only one pair could be made on the new automatic edger and one pair had to be made completely on the hand-edging wheel. I remember scoring the lens shape into the surface of a glass blank and "crimping" or chipping the excess glass away before it could be placed into the edger. How prehistoric when compared to today's technology.
Optometry students today don't learn much about how glasses are made. It doesn't quite fit into the modern curriculum. And while I never thought O.D.s should actually do lab work themselves, I do think having an in-office lab is a smart strategy for virtually every practice that dispenses eyewear. I encourage O.D.s to learn about in-office lens fabrication and to invest in it.
Reasons for not owning a lab
I know many doctors want nothing to do with lab work. We may have to agree to disagree, but I have not found any of the following factors to be a problem:
- Some vision plans don't allow you to use in-office labs
- Doctor has little background in lens fabrication
- No time to implement
- No space
- Staff hassles
- Startup cost
To me, the only thing worse than being responsible for the lab work in my practice is having someone else be responsible for it. Errors, defects, quality control breakdowns, back-orders, slow service . . . optometrists experience these problems daily with eyeglass orders.
When an outside lab makes a job with an error, your office gets stuck in the middle. You don't want to dispense glasses that aren't high quality and you don't want to reject them and endure more delays.
Errors do happen at in-office labs too, of course, but a re-make there only takes about 20 minutes and we can move it to the head of the line. When my practice reputation is involved, I don't like being dependent on others.
Maintaining control over the product is the biggest benefit I see in owning an in-office lab. I want to control the quality of the lenses, which includes many factors beyond the Rx, such as thickness, edge bevel, symmetry, snugness-in-the-frame, surface quality, tint accuracy, etc. I want to control the speed of delivery, which is extremely important to consumers today. I even want to control the cost of the materials to the best of my ability.
Dr. Sheldon Kreda's cover story this month is a good place to begin to learn more about in-office lens labs.
Post your comments online in the OM Forum at
I've been a fan of Bob
Levoy, O.D., for the past 25 years. Even before I knew Bob personally, he inspired me through his books, journal articles, lectures and audio tapes. He is an expert in practice building and market research. While many readers know Bob well for his expertise in optometric practice management, some may not because in recent years he has been working extensively as a consultant in other professions, such as dentistry and veterinary medicine. Optometry has missed him, but I'm glad to say he's back, with more keen insight than ever. OM is proud to announce that Bob will write a monthly column on the challenges of staffing starting with this issue. He's also written a new book, published by
Butterworth-Heinemann, titled 201 Secrets of a High Performance Optometric Practice. Welcome, Bob!
Optometric Management, Issue: July 2002