Article Date: 6/1/2003

Is There a Silver Lining in the Mail?
Here's where you might connect with mail-order contact lens dispensers.

A mail-order contact lens dispenser might be the last company you'd expect to help optometrists. But it happens.

Patient referrals

Glenda Secor, O.D., explains that patients are scheduling eye exams because of the recent agreement between Vistakon and 1-800 Contacts. Under the agreement, 1-800 will not ship Acuvue lenses to any patient whose eyecare practitioner (ECP) reports a prescription invalid or expired. (See details in the January 2003 issue of Optometric Management, page 16.)

"Where we've denied prescriptions, patients have come back to our office for examinations," says Dr. Secor.

At the exam, Dr. Secor says she educates the patient on the importance of annual eye exams. "I assure patients that I'm putting them in the best lens possible," she says. "I can't do that by talking to them over the phone or by seeing them every three to five years."

Under the agreement, 1-800 won't substitute Acuvue lenses with another brand. "Every other brand of lens could be substituted at the whim of the dispenser," she says. "It's a scary situation."

You might argue that this agreement is limited because it addresses only one manufacturer's lenses sold through one dispenser. Excellent point! Dr. Secor and other optometrists say that all contact lens dispensers should follow the same guidelines set by the Vistakon/1-800 agreement for all lenses they carry.

Dr. Secor says, "We have the patient's best interests in mind and we're lost if dispensers don't follow the prescriptions."

Could ECPs save mail order?

If you look at contact lens dispensing from a mail-order company's perspective, then you face a significant logistics problem: Your order-taking process is too sluggish.

With typical retail mail order, automated order processing takes seconds. With contact lenses, the process grinds to a halt as the dispenser waits hours for prescription verification, which may ultimately result in rejected orders.

Imagine how efficient the process becomes with instant prescription verification. This could be achieved with a costly electronic system that connects the dispenser and the ECP. Or it could be done easily if the ECP were to order contact lenses for the patient through the mail-order company. Verification is assured as soon as the order is placed. For this, mail-order companies would owe ECPs a huge debt.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2003